Find out how binary options work, how to avoid scams and what to do if you’re scammed.First published: 10/08/2017 Last updated: 20/03/2023 See all updates
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Binary options are a form of fixed-odds betting. Typically, a trade involves predicting whether an event will happen or not. For example, whether the price of a particular share or asset will go up or down.
If the investor is correct, they ‘win’ and should see a return on their investment. If they’re wrong, they lose their full investment.
From 2 April 2019, we banned firms from selling binary options in the UK. If you’re offered binary options, it’s probably a scam.
How binary options scams work
Binary options fraudsters often advertise on social media – the ads link to well-designed and professional-looking websites.
The firms running the scams tend to be based outside the UK but often claim to have a UK presence, such as a City of London address.
Scam firms may manipulate software to fake prices and pay outs. They may then suddenly close individuals’ trading accounts, refusing to pay back their money.
Scammers also target people searching for investments online through search engines like Google and Bing. They may offer high returns to tempt you into investing, but some may also offer more realistic offers to appear more legitimate.
If you’re offered an investment opportunity through a search engine, the firm may not be regulated or authorised by us. You can check the FCA Warning List for firms to avoid.
Binary options bought before the ban
Before 3 January 2018, binary options were regulated by the UK’s Gambling Commission.
If you want to make a complaint against a binary option firm about a bet made before 3 January 2018, you should contact the firm in the first instance.
How to protect yourself
You should only deal with financial services firms that are authorised by us. As the sale of binary options to consumers is now banned, any firm offering binary options is probably unauthorised or a scam.
Always be wary if you’re contacted out of the blue, pressured to invest quickly or promised returns that sound too good to be true.
If you're contacted unexpectedly by a financial business or individual, make sure you reply using the contact details on the FS Register.
Find out more on how to protect yourself from scams.
If you've been scammed
If you’re worried about a potential scam or you think you may have been contacted by a fraudster, report it to us. Call us on 0800 111 6768 or use our contact form.
If you’ve already invested in a scam, fraudsters may try and target you again or sell your details to other criminals.
The follow-up scam may be completely separate or related to the previous fraud, such as an offer to get your money back or to buy back the investment after you pay a fee.