Beware the invasion of the scam clones
These scammers come armed with official FSA registration numbers, but a little digging shows they aren't who they claim to be...
You wait ages for a clone, and then like buses, they all arrive at once. So suddenly the Scam Magnet is spoilt for choice.
Last week, I wrote about Jack Sutton, who called from “Worldwide Risk Consultants” whose name and Financial Services Authority registration number were stolen from a legitimate German firm involved in re-insurance.
The ink on my notes from my Sutton conversation was hardly dry, when a Ms Kerry Duffain phoned from Weizmann & Young (W&Y) saying she was based in London. She assured me she was FSA registered - “to put my mind at rest” - and she gave me her FSA number.
All Duffain wanted, so she said, was to check my email so she could send some basic material on her firm. Then, by way of conversation, she tried to sound out my investment portfolio and plans. All boiler rooms – and the background noise was unmistakably a set-up to push phoney stocks – do this.
But the FSA number, designed to make me confident, was a new twist. So I looked it up - anyone can do this on the FSA website. And yes, the number related to a Kerry Duffain.
One snag. The FSA-registered Kerry Duffain is a senior person at highly successful London hedge fund group Bluecrest which has no relationship whatsoever to W&Y. The real Duffain, a victim of identity theft, was aware of the impersonation and had notified the authorities.
The website Weizmannyoung.com has its registration identity hidden. The London address it gives is a maildrop while its “performance tables” are phoney and its cliam to be “one of the UK's leading alternative investment consultancies” is pure garbage. It also claims to be authorised in Switzerland and although the Swiss authorities do not seem to be aware of this, they have blacklisted a similarly named Weizmann Commodities.
Duffain sent a “company profile”. The English is tortured, using “principals” for “principles”. It adds: “Above all else, we value the relationships and trust we build.” Keep that word “trust” in mind.
Three days later, W&Y called again. This time it was “Margaret Johnson” giving an FSA number. She informed me Duffain is “no longer part of our team”. I expressed my concern and asked why.
“She had to go back to the country to look after her mother,” was the response. Somehow, this did not sound like someone supposedly based in London.
She said: “I'm waiting for the green light on two bond and one silver mining company recommendations.” She then made an appointment for the “senior analyst” to call.
Back to the FSA register where I found Margaret Mary Johnson with the number quoted. But this Margaret Johnson has not worked in financial services since 2002. Either she has ceased employment or is involved in some other field.
The false Johnson sent me material on bonds with German car maker BMW and Belgium-based brewer Ansheuser-Busch (AB) which owns Stella Artois, Becks and Boddington among other brands. She included material to show that W&Y can arrange a one-year fixed rate bond at 9.75% with no charges and no Stamp Duty. The English is poor - “Bon Objetive” rather than Bond Objective, for example. There was also a 237 page BMW document dating from 2007.
I can find no evidence of this AB bond or of the BMW bond, also recommended.
The next day, bang on time (a boiler room first!), the clone Johnson called and transferred me to “senior research analyst” Joseph Freeman.
“Freeman” said I should opt for the AB bond – he said it is free trading with a 2024 final date, a far cry from the one-year fixed rate. I was offered this opportunity as “part of a new client drive”. I asked about the outdated BMW document.
He then turned aggressive. “Don't expect me to tell you that. Do you know how to read or know anyone who knows how to read? I think you are a sad person who just wants someone to talk to.”
I then remonstrated: “No, I'm really interested, Joseph, if that's your real name.”
He then used foul language and terminated the call.
So this was yet another clone. A Joseph Edward Freeman was registered with the FSA as a trainee for Renaissance Capital (a futures and spread betting firm) for a brief time in 2007-08. The real Freeman, who has no connection to W&Y, no longer works in financial services.
The FSA, which warns against clone firms, has been made aware of this.
More from this blog: Watch out for this boiler room scam | You could lose your shirt in this hotel venture | Give disaster fund scamsters the cold shoulder | The under-performing shares scam | The work-from-home scam in my inbox | My invitation to invest in Bulgarian land! | My friend's scam flat share I got called up by a scammer! | Watch out for this landbanking scam | The fine line between a scam and mis-selling | A fast way to make a fortune? | The car hire scam you must not fall for | Inside the mind of a scam victim | Inside the mind of a scammer | These shameless scammers targeted a vicar | My text message from a scammer | The global warming scam that will cost you £7,500 |The tax refund scam in your inbox | My friend’s cry for help was a scam | The property scam you must not fall for | Exclusive: One reader's £4,760 property scam | My letter from an Australian scammer | The email scam you must not fall for | The sneaky postal service scam | The prize scam that says prize sucker | The new scam on your doorstep | The scam the Government uses to rob your children | Sell your car for £1,000 more than it’s worth |Watch out: These 'bargains' are scams! |My email from a psychic scammer | The gambling tips scammer | The scammer who visited me | My phonecall with a sharedealing scammer | The oldest scam in the book | My phonecall from a wine investment scammer | How I was targeted by a property scammer | My phonecall from a scammer | Nine things you need to know about scams
Award-winning scams expert Tony Levene explains why he's writing a blog about scams and why he is The Scam Magnet!