Trading Standards warn of investment scams

Perth & Kinross Council's Trading Standards team has warned residents about not being taken in by investment offers that seem too good to be true, after a resident of the area lost nearly £100,000 as a result of a scam.

The resident, who is keen for their experience to be shared to help prevent others being similarly affected, was contacted in 2017 by what appeared to be a legitimate investment company, who sent a glossy brochure inviting them to become an investor in fine wines and visit their London offices anytime - with the company's address given as Hatton Gardens - where they would be 'well looked after'.

The sales representative from the company built up a relationship with the resident and gained their trust. There was always an element of urgency involved when the resident was contacted by the company, telling them that other people were also interested in that specific wine, so they would need to be quick if they wanted it.

While the resident did ask a trusted source questions about the company, the advice given was unfortunately not correct or sufficiently robust to prevent them losing a large sum of money.

Perth and Kinross Trading Standards, working with their colleagues in Hertfordshire, have managed to recover over £21,000 of the resident's money. The Hatton Gardens address turned out to be a mail forwarding service - and was deliberately used to create a certain image in people's minds of wealth, opulence and quality.

Chair of the Perth and Kinross Community Safety Partnership, Councillor Peter Barrett said: "Investment scams, or 'boiler room' scams, come in many different guises offering investment in many different commodities including fine wine, parking spaces, burial plots, diamonds and carbon credits.

The people running these scams will stop at nothing to get unsuspecting victims' money. The newest product which is being offered is graphene, an actual substance but one that is not being mass produced. Investment in graphene is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - so any investments made are completely unprotected.

Operators of these scams are very good at building relationships with victims, taking time to talk to them and telling them about their fictitious family. They will often research the local area that the victim lives in and speak to them about their local football team for example. There is always an element of urgency and the victim is often told not to tell people about it, this is to stop victims having time to think about it properly or discuss it with someone else who may see through the scam. Our Trading Standards team would always advise anyone thinking about taking up a new investment or pension opportunity to seek professional advice first before agreeing to anything or signing any paperwork."

In most cases, investments in commodities are not covered by the UK's Financial Services Compensation Scheme, so your money is not protected in any way. The FCA website has a warning list regarding investments, pension opportunities and companies to avoid - see https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/warning-list for more details.

General scam advice can be found on the Advice Direct Scotland website - https://www.consumeradvice.scot/knowledge-centre or by phoning 0808 800 9060.