Protect yourself from unauthorised firms - Financial Conduct Authority

Protect yourself from unauthorised firms

Published: 12/09/2014
Follow our ten steps to make sure you are dealing with an authorised firm, and to protect yourself from fraud and unauthorised activity.

Firms and individuals can only conduct regulated financial services activities in the UK if they are authorised by us or registered to do so, or are otherwise exempt. Yet some act without our authorisation or knowingly run scams.

If you deal with an unauthorised firm you will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.

But there are steps you can take to make sure you are dealing with an authorised firm, and to protect yourself from fraud and unauthorised activity.

Ten steps to avoid unauthorised firms

Step 1: Check the Register

We strongly advise you to only deal with financial services firms that are authorised by us or registered, and check the Register to ensure they are.

The Register has information on firms and individual that are, or have been, regulated by us.

If a firm does not appear on the Register but claims it does, contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

Step 2: Ring them back

To confirm the identity of an authorised firm on the Register, ask for their ‘firm reference number’ (FRN) and contact details, but always call them back on the switchboard number given on the Register rather than a direct line they might give you.

If there are no contact details on the Register or the firm claims they are out of date, contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

Step 3: Use the right website 

You should access the Register from our website – www.fca.org.uk – rather than through links in emails or on the website of a firm offering you an investment.

Also check the address of our website is correct and there are not subtle changes that mean it is a fake.

Step 4: Beware of cloned firms

You should also beware of fraudsters pretending to be from a firm authorised by us, as it could be what we call a 'cloned firm'.

These scammers often claim to be from overseas firms that appear on the Register as these firms do not always have their full contact and website details listed.

Step 5: Make additional checks

With fraudsters adapting their tactics you should make additional checks to confirm you are dealing with the financial services firm in question and have the correct contact details – especially if you have been cold-called.

You might want to check the details on the firm’s website, with directory enquiries or Companies House.

Step 6: Check if a firm is authorised or registered

Almost all financial services firms and individuals must be authorised by us. But certain types of firms may instead be registered with us, including some payment services providers and electronic money (e-money) institutions, mutual societies like credit unions, friendly societies, cooperative societies, working men's clubs and building societies.

You can check the Register to see whether a firm is authorised by us or registered.

Beware that registered firms do not have to provide us with as much detail about their business and we have less power to check on the firm

You can contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 if you have any problems or questions about using the Register or what the information in it means.

Step 7: Search our list of unauthorised firms

You can look through our list of unauthorised firms to avoid doing business with, although their names are likely to change regularly. This is a list of firms and individuals that are currently targeting UK investors and we have received complaints about.

We add new names to this list as soon as possible, but if the firm which has approached you does not appear on our list, do not assume it is legitimate – it may not have been reported to us yet.

Step 8: See warnings from abroad

If you are dealing with an overseas firm or scheme you should check how it is regulated and follow similar steps to these.

We also have some warnings from foreign regulators about firms conducting unauthorised business.

Step 9: Avoid unwanted sales calls

Keep in mind that authorised firms that you have no relationship with are highly unlikely to contact you out of the blue.

You can also reduce the number of unsolicited mailings and cold calls you receive by registering with the Telephone Preference Service and Mailing Preference Service.

Step 10: Report an unauthorised firm

If you think you have been approached by an unauthorised firm you should contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

We also have reporting forms that you can use to tell us about an unauthorised firm or broker involved in certain business areas, such as consumer credit, mortgages, insurance products, payment services and share fraud.

Consumer Helpline

t: 0800 111 6768

e: consumer.queries@fca.org.uk

See more ways to contact us


Related links

Check the Register

Cloned firms and individuals

Unauthorised firms to avoid

Warnings from foreign regulators

Report an unauthorised firm


External links

Companies House

Registers companies and offers information to the public

Telephone Preference Service

Mailing Preference Service



Firms to avoid

Search our list of unauthorised firms to be wary of

Read More

UK banking brands

Check whether all of your savings are protected

Read More

Bank account rights

Find out your banking rights and how to use them

Read More