In early 2020 we received a call from an elderly gentlemen who had been advised by his bank to contact a professional independent financial adviser. This followed the banks concerns about their client’s intention to purchase a bond quoting a very high yield.
The gentleman had searched online to look for possible investments on behalf of his wife, as they were curious to see if there was an option for her money to achieve better returns than they were currently receiving in interest from the bank. The couple were elderly, vulnerable and trusting, and had limited understanding of investment matters.
He entered some of their details into a website asking to receive a brochure with some information about an investment. They did not receive a brochure, and instead received a phone call from a company, different to the one he thought he had provided his details to online.
The call was from a confident, charismatic, persuasive individual, who spoke at great lengths with the gentlemen. The gentleman queried where he was calling from and the caller directed him to the FCA website to show him the entry for a company. This was not the same company but an explanation was given as to why this was the case. They progressed to exchanging emails with various employees of the supposed business and also sent documents to prove their identity.
The gentleman was told that there was a bond with HSBC offering good returns, and that this had been bought for him. They requested £50,000 to be paid immediately. The gentleman was concerned as he had not agree to purchase any investment. However, following continuous calls from the individual they went to their local bank to withdraw the money.
The bank informed the couple that they whole heartedly believed this was a scam and refused to release the money. The bank strongly advised they seek professional financial advice
The gentleman contacted Ellis Bates for advice He was immediately passed through to one of our Directors who reiterated what the bank had said, highlighted the ‘red flags’, and explained all of the reasons why it did not sound like a legitimate investment opportunity, and could be fraud.
One of our Advisers went to visit the gentlemen and we talked about what had happened. Midway through the conversation the phone rang and it was the company he had been dealing with. Our Adviser was passed the call and asked some questions. Unfortunately the caller quickly became rude, made personal attacks towards our Adviser and tried very much to intimidate them. The call ended and no further unsolicited attempt to contact was made.
The best advice for the client, based on their personal circumstances, was to consider premium bonds or a fixed term deposit account, and we suggested they speak to their bank.
We have notified HSBC bank and other relevant authorities. Here are some of the red flags our Adviser experienced:
- The monies were to be paid to a bank account in the name of the firm the individual claimed he worked for, not to HSBC where the bond is held.
- The individual was very pushy and pressurising and was rude when challenged.
- The bond had already been purchased for them, and they had to send the money to ‘pay the company back’.
- The supposed company’s website was poor.
- No real evidence online of the individual.
- The company they claimed they worked for was registered on Company’s House mere weeks earlier – not long established.
- The address of the company does not appear to reference actual business premises.
- No entry on the FCA register (that is current and authorised).