Disabled man lost £50k after falling for 'fake' shares investment scam
Jeffrey Taylor, 43, has spent the past 13 years trying to get his life back on track after being swindled out of his savings by crooks who rang him promising an easy win on his investments.
He even took out loans and maxed out various credit cards – pushing himself into debt – to provide cash to finance the investments after being pressured by fraudsters.
This resulted in him developing a number of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, and he was registered as disabled and signed off work in the year following the scam.
It comes as an investigation by The Sun has revealed that a British gang is conning UK pensioners out of millions of pounds.
The fraudsters are swiping people's details from the shareholder registers of the companies they invest in, such as Sainsbury’s, before pressuring them to invest in bogus artwork.
How to spot investment scams
Typically they contact would-be victims out of the blue, by phone or email. They present their proposal as the chance of a lifetime.
Scammers tend to insist you commit to the investment and transfer money to them immediately. They do not want you to have some thinking time or to discuss the proposal with someone else who could think it’s a con.
Fraudsters often state they need to know immediately as the opportunity is so good that it is being snapped up and you will miss out if you don’t get on board there and then.
If you're unsure if an investment is legitimate, check the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register for companies that are able to operate in the UK.
If you suspect that you have given money to a scammer, contact your bank immediately. Ask them to put a freeze on any money that has not left your account.
Report the scammer to the FCA using its online form.
Finally, contact Action Fraud which will be able to offer advice on what next steps you can take.
Only this week the Financial Conduct Authority (known as the Financial Services Authority when Jeff first reported the scam) issued a warning about crooks using social media to lure victims into handing over their cash for investment and cryptocurrency scams.
'I was left with no money and thousands of pounds worth of debt'
“It’s been horrendous," said Jeffrey. "I was on a debt management plan for about a year, then shortly after this there was the financial crash, which coincided with me no longer working.
"I had no money to make even token repayments, and no assets, so in the end the banks couldn't pursue me for the money as I had no assets anyway and all the debts were written off.
"In the last few years the defaults on my credit file have dropped off one by one and I now have a much cleaner credit report, but no savings to speak of.
"I still have the share certificates from the investments, but they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
"They are tucked away in a drawer. Who knows, something magical might one day happen and they become worth selling, but for now they are worthless.”
Jeffrey first fell for the scam after taking a cold call from what he believed to be an investment firm in Switzerland.
The caller said they had been passed Jeffrey’s details after he completed a lifestyle survey and said they were "delighted" to offer him the opportunity to invest in American shares.
Jeffrey was so impressed with the sales patter that he agreed to send the company $2,000 (£1,550).
The investment firm even couriered over the application forms, which Jeffrey then took to the bank to arrange the transfer.
But this proved to be just the first of several increasingly persuasive invitations to buy more shares, which left Jeffrey feeling under enormous pressure to buy.
In the space of just a few months, he had transferred £30,000 to the firm’s bank account.
At one point he was more than £40,000 in debt, and it has taken him most of the 13 years since falling for the scam to get back on track.
'They were so convincing – I just fell for it'
Jeffrey told The Sun: “This all started with me answering a call while I was at college doing a legal exec course.
"As soon as they had some money out of me the calls became constant.
"They guaranteed I’d make a lot of money and relatively quickly. They were so convincing I just fell for it hook, line and sinker.”
Once Jeffrey's cash had dried up, the swindlers stopped making or taking calls and disappeared; within a month their phone number was no longer operational.
This left Jeffrey’s mental health in tatters and his finances in ruins.
But while Jeffrey is angry about how easy it was for him to get conned, he has moved on and he is keen that others learn from his experience.
'My health, friendships and relationships have suffered'
He said: “They were just so slick, so good at getting me to keep investing.
“Afterwards, I learned the firm had been flagged up as best avoided on the financial regulator’s website, and the share certificates in companies such as Hi-Tech Wealth Inc. and Western Sierra Mining Corp, had restriction notices on them.
"This meant I couldn’t have sold them for 12 months after buying them even if I wanted to. Given the scammers stressed I’d be able to sell for a quick and healthy profit within a month or so, this was really galling.
"I've never fully recovered from it; my health has suffered and so has my friendships and relationships. It's just been terrible"
Action Fraud reported last year that fraudsters had conned timeshare victims out of £7million – for a second time.
We also told how a gardener had been conned out of £10,000 in bank transfer scam by fraudsters impersonating HMRC.
But banks will be introducing new rules to ensure people don't pay the wrong person online.
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