Online trading scams

Find out how online trading scams work, how to avoid scams and what to do if you’re scammed.

First published: 20/05/2019 Last updated: 20/03/2023 See all updates

People are being increasingly targeted by investment scams carried out via online trading platforms where fraudsters offer trades in foreign exchange, contracts for difference and cryptoassets such as bitcoin.

How online trading scams work

Investment scams using online trading platforms are often promoted online and via social media channels. They often use fake celebrity endorsements and images of luxury items to entice people to invest in their scams. 

The ads then link to professional-looking websites where consumers are persuaded to invest, either through a managed account where the firm makes trades on their behalf, or by trading themselves using the firm’s platform.

Most people report initially receiving some returns from the firm to give the impression that their trading has been a success. They will then be encouraged to invest more money or introduce a friend or family member. Eventually the returns stop, the customer’s account is suspended and there’s no further contact with the firm. 

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 are offered an investment opportunity through a search engine, they may not be regulated or authorised by us. You can check the FCA Warning List for firms to avoid. 

Video: Online trading scams

How to protect yourself

Many scam firms claim to be based in the UK and even claim to be FCA authorised.

You should only deal with financial services firms that are authorised by us. Check our Financial Services Register to find out if a firm is authorised. If you can’t find a firm on the FS Register, call us on 0800 111 6768.  


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.

You should seriously consider getting financial advice or guidance before investing. MoneyHelper has information on how to find a financial adviser and our InvestSmart pages will help you make better investment decisions. 

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.

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