Looks familiar: fake Axa brochure, left, and fake Fidelity brochure
Get email updates with the day’s biggest stories
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWe use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
If I had to guess, I’d say the crooks behind a fake AXA investment fraud that I exposed earlier this year are the same people who are also passing themselves off as Fidelity International.
In April I told how an NHS worker lost her retirement savings of £100,000 when she paid for what she thought were savings bonds with AXA, and the cash disappeared into the hands of online scammers.
The fake brochure she was sent was almost identical to one that I’ve now seen being used by a clone Fidelity fraud.
This time the victim, 59-year-old Jane Smith from Peterborough, Cambs, lost £20,000.
Illness has forced Jane to retire early and she needed to save the money to pay a tax demand which is due next year.
“I wanted to invest in a one-year bond, so I searched online,” she said.
“One of Google ’s top results was for Fidelity, a financial company I had heard of and was confident of using.
“I made an email enquiry and was phoned a couple of days later.”
As with the AXA scam, the Fidelity fraudsters sounded professional and, far from being pushy, made Jane go through what seemed like money laundering checks, just as a genuine investment company would do.
“Thank you for your patience while our team carried out the necessary verification checks,” read one email received by Jane (pictured below).
She wasn’t to know that the crooks had stolen the details of a genuine employee from LinkedIn, and that while the messages used the real web address for Fidelity, the phone number and email addresses [email protected] and [email protected] went straight to the fraudsters.
Perhaps the only issue that might have struck a more experienced investor as odd was that instead of sending the money directly to Fidelity, she was asked to send it via Central FX, an international payments firm that was also used in the AXA fraud.
The first indication that something was wrong came when Jane was phoned out of the blue seven months later by a business she’d never heard of, which said she’d been the victim of a scam and all her money had been stolen.
The “very persistent” caller from Equity Partners Group claimed he could recover her investment and get her compensation in return for a £2,500 payment.
Now thoroughly suspicious, Jane refused and contacted her bank, Barclays.
“After hours on the phone they raised a case number and I, at Barclays’ request, contacted Action Fraud – that was a waste of time, they can do nothing,” she said.
“All I have received from Barclays is messages roughly weekly saying they are looking into it and it is taking longer than usual.
“Now I’ve got a text saying they aim to pick it up in 58 days.
“I am at my wits’ end, the stress of it all is unbearable.”
Last year victims lost £78million to clone investment scams like this.
Banks are supposed to refund customers under a code called the Contingent Reimbursement Model, unless the victim has been negligent, for instance by ignoring warnings before transferring money.
I contacted Barclays and I’m delighted to say that Jane has now been refunded.
“Following an investigation of this case, it is evident that our customer has been the victim of a sophisticated investment scam, despite performing the necessary checks before making any payments,” said a Barclays spokesman.
"We encourage everyone to stay vigilant to scams and take steps to satisfy themselves that the person or business they are investing through is legitimate and who they think it is.
"We’d urge customers to check whether the company is genuinely FCA regulated and seek impartial financial advice first before making any payments.”
When Jane heard the good news she said she “cried with relief there and then, I just wish this to not happen to anyone else, ever again.
"Thank you so much, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off me."
Central FX, which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, has not responded to my questions about its role as a conduit for the scam money.
Searching online for the Equity Partners Group website equitypartnersgroupuk.co.uk now brings up the message: “This domain has been suspended on request from the Financial Conduct Authority.”