The scam I was wrong about
It seemed that scammers, sensing the game was up with carbon credits, had moved on to rare earth element scams. I was wrong - carbon credit scamming is still alive and well.
It's apology time – always tough for a journalist. On several occasions recently, I've written that carbon credits were yesterday's scam and that those behind the highly profitable (for them) sales of supposedly green investments had moved seamlessly on to rare earth elements.
So investors would no longer be cold called by dodgy salesmen flogging wasting assets they had bought for around 7p to the unsuspecting or just plain trusting at £7 a pop, with the promise they would double or treble in value in super quick time.
Instead, they would be cold called by dodgy salesmen flogging metals that were impossible to value but which would double or treble in value.
I was wrong
I now realise I was wrong.
There are literally scores of UK companies still pushing carbon credits, promising“”high returns” with “no experience needed”. Last year, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) listed 13 carbon scam firms on its warning website. In 2012, there have been a further 13 added to the roll of shame – and I would not be surprised if a further 30 to 40 will soon join them, if they don't disappear first.
All have similar websites, often just one page, offering a “free” guide providing you hand over your landline, mobile and email details.
I tried one this week, entering a real email but changing the phone number on purpose. I soon received a number of anguished emails from the firm saying it could not help me towards this “stupendous” investment due to an error in my contact numbers.
But could I be wrong for a second time? Back in mid-summer, a now defunct investment website featured a warning on carbon credits – more than a year after Lovemoney readers were first told to steer very clear of this scam. Responses included “I earned a lot” and “I made big money”. Many were scathing about the alert story, often criticising the FSA for its warnings as well as the writer for being so stupid not to see a fantastic opportunity.
Someone called Sam1234 wrote: “This article is ridiculous i have made 21% in carbon and i have had a pay out.” Besides Sam1234 not knowing how to use the shift key to get a capital I, despite requests from other site users he failed to name the firm that “advised him”. In all likelihood, he was working for a carbon credit scam.
But there is a possibility – admittedly in the 100-1 area – that someone other than the firm flogging this stuff has made money. And if there is, the FSA wants to hear from you. It also wants to hear from those who have lost.
Building a picture of carbon credit investments
It has just put a survey on its website. Questions include age, the firm involved and how much has been lost or – just possible – gained.
This is not intended for those who were simply cold called and put the phone down or who never sent money, but for investors with a real financial stake in carbon credits. The FSA says the average for those who take up the offer is £10,000.
Some 18 months after its first warning on these credits, the FSA has yet to find a single investor with a real profit, although it is possible that some have been sent statements to show they are ahead. Sadly they are almost certainly nonsense.
The watchdog wants a clearer picture of the UK carbon credits. The more responses it gets to the survey, the more significant this exercise becomes.
Jonathan Phelan, head of unauthorised business at the FSA, told Lovemoney: "We continue to have deep misgivings about carbon credits and have yet to see any convincing evidence that investors can make money from investing in them. We are very interested to hear from anybody that has invested in carbon credits to understand how the market is working for them, how they were sold the investment, and whether or not it has actually made them any money."
The survey itself says: “We are concerned that callers promoting investments in carbon credits are using dubious, high-pressure sales tactics and targeting vulnerable consumers. To find out how the market is working for investors, we would like you to tell us about your investment in carbon credits. We will use the information you provide to help us learn more about the benefits and risks of investing in the carbon credit market.
"All personal information will be fully protected in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and will be kept strictly confidential. We will only contact you again if we require further information but may not be able to discuss any investigations further with you.”