Cloned firms and individuals - Financial Conduct Authority

Cloned firms and individuals

Published: 15/10/2014
Find out why fraudsters claim to be from a legitimate firm authorised by us, how to protect yourself and what to do if you are scammed.

Fraudsters look for new ways to scam consumers, but one increasingly reported to us involves share scammers pretending to be from firms we authorise. 

These scammers typically cold-call investors to promote shares, property or other investment opportunities that are non-tradable, worthless, overpriced or even non-existent.

But a new tactic has seen fraudsters using the name, ‘firm registration number’ (FRN) and address of firms and individuals authorised by us to suggest they are genuine. This is what we call a ‘cloned firm’. 

How it works

As a firm needs to be authorised by us to sell, promote or advise on the sale of shares and other investments in the UK, some fraudsters claim to represent authorised firms – or even try to change firms’ contact details on the Register – to appear genuine.

The scammers then give their own phone number, address and website details to possible victims.

We have also heard of fraudsters claiming that a firm's contact details on the Register are out of date, but this is unlikely as we update the Register each evening.

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.

These scammers may even copy the website of an authorised firm, making subtle changes such as to the phone number listed. We have even seen fake versions of our website and Register that include the fraudsters’ contact details rather than those of the genuine, authorised firm.

How to protect yourself

Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! 

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

To verify the identity of an authorised firm ask for their FRN and contact details, but always call them back on the switchboard number given on the Register. If there are no contact details on the Register or the firm claims they are out of date, contact our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

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. 

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. This might include checking the details on the firm’s website, or with directory enquiries or Companies House.

If you give money to a cloned or unauthorised firm, you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.

There are more steps you can take to ensure you are dealing with the authorised firm that you think you are – find out how to protect yourself from investment scams.

What to do if you have been scammed

If you have been scammed or contacted by an unauthorised firm – or a firm you suspect is not legitimate – you can report to us by contacting our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

Find out more about what to do if you think you have been scammed.

Consumer Helpline

t: 0800 111 6768

e: consumer.queries@fca.org.uk

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External links

Companies House

Registers companies and offers information to the public

Action Fraud

The national fraud and internet crime reporting centre

Money Advice Service on scams

Useful tips to protect yourself from scams and identity theft