This list will destroy your happiness
A sucker list for boiler room fraud containing 50,000 names has been found. So what is boiler room fraud, and how do you protect yourself?
Earlier this month, the FSA, the financial regulator, confirmed the discovery of a so-called sucker list, containing the contact details of a whopping 50,000 Brits. What’s more, it reckons that the list is still in use by boiler room fraudsters.
If you're on this list, you need to be on your guard this Christmas. Or you could find yourself having a very unhappy holiday indeed.
To protect yourself, you need to know exactly how to spot a boiler room fraud - and how you can make sure you don’t end up on a sucker list in the future.
Boiler room frauds
Boiler room frauds have been around forever – the concept has even been turned into a Hollywood movie – but people are still caught out by them.
Here’s how it works. You’ll receive a call from a pushy salesperson offering to sell you some fantastic shares offering an amazing return on your money. You’ll be promised everything from special discounts to super secret stock tips to glossy free research reports. However, in reality the shares are either so worthless they are nigh on impossible to sell, or even worse, don’t even exist!
You’ll be encouraged to keep your ‘investment’ secret in order to ensure you get the maximum return on your cash. Of course, once the scammer has extracted the cash from you, everything all goes pretty quiet and you’ll struggle to get back into contact with them.
The latest list
The latest discovery is of a master list of potential victims – known as a sucker list – containing the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 49,387 people across the UK. The bulk of the names are found in London, though there are also a high proportion of potential victims found in Scotland and the South East. Worryingly, the FSA reckons the list will have been circulated among different boiler room scammers, and is likely to still be in use by some of them.
2010 – the year of the sucker list?
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Sadly this is not the first time that such a list has been uncovered this year, though it’s certainly the largest. In fact, this is the fourth separate sucker list that has fallen into the possession of the FSA this year alone. So far the regulator has had to write to around 95,000 people this year to warn them of their appearance on sucker lists.
The FSA says it receives around 4,000 calls a year from people contacted by boiler room scams, of which a quarter have actually been caught out by the scams. And it’s not small change they are losing – they tend to lose about £20,000 each. However, the regulator reckons it only hears about a tenth of all the scams, estimating that boiler room frauds are worth around £200m a year in the UK, a frankly staggering amount.
If you believe you’ve been caught out by a boiler room scam, be sure to contact the FSA’s customer contact centre on 0845 606 1234. Sadly as the transaction won’t be covered by something like the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, your chances of ever seeing your cash again are pretty slim. However, you should keep hold of any of the communication you’ve received from the fraudsters and pass it on to the police and FSA, as it may help the authorities, or at least help prevent other people from getting ripped off in the same way.
So how do you go about protecting yourself from falling prey to a boiler room fraud?
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Firstly, if you receive a call from someone out of the blue offering to sell you shares, alarm bells should immediately go off. Where have they got your details from? Why are they offering you this brilliant deal, and not somebody else? Personally, as soon as they mention that they are selling shares, I’d just hang up.
If you do decide to humour the salesperson, be sure to check the FSA register to ensure they are actually authorised to be selling shares. It’s also worth ringing the company back using the details on the FSA register to verify they are who they say they are!
You can also do a bit of further background by checking things like their Companies House registration.
Finally, it can’t hurt to live by the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!