Consumer investments data review April 2021 – March 2022

Data Published: 18/10/2022 Last updated: 13/06/2023

We summarise our work to tackle consumer harm in the investment market between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022.

This is our fourth Consumer Investments Data Review. It covers 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022. We have published these reviews regularly since 2020 to give greater transparency about how we protect consumers from investment harm.

We are publishing this report alongside a 1-year update on our Consumer Investments Strategy, which sets out our work to improve consumer outcomes across this market.

As well as giving insights into our work, this data helps us monitor progress towards our Consumer Investments Strategy outcomes, particularly those on high-risk investments and scams and fraud.

Summary of key findings

The data shows we have maintained our focus on preventing and reducing serious harm to consumers in this market. For example we:

  • stopped 1 in 7 new consumer investment firms who applied from entering the market
  • opened 116% more supervisory cases on high-risk investments or investments scams
  • published 1844 consumer alerts about unauthorised firms or individuals (a 40% increase)
  • secured £34.8m in consumer redress for unauthorised investment business

At the same time, our consumer-facing work shows the challenges ordinary investors face. Enquiries to our consumer helpline about potential scams have increased significantly since 2020, and this trend continued into 2021/22 (a 24% annual increase). Our ScamSmart website had 59% more visitors than the previous year. We saw significant increases in enquiries about potential recovery room scams (89%), FCA impersonation scams (72%) and cryptocurrency scams (59%). While most consumers contact our helpline about potential scams before investing, 79% of consumers who contacted us about potential cryptocurrency scams did so after investing.

1. What this data covers

The data covers our activities between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022. Where we give comparisons, these are to the previous year (April 2020 – March 2021). In most sections we have been able to provide yearly comparisons, but in some areas this is more difficult due to the evolving nature of our work. We published data from 2020/21 in our second Consumer Investments Data Review. Some of the 2020/21 figures used here are different to those previously published. Cases can be updated after they are opened, and this means the total numbers of cases in a given group can change over time. We have provided updated 2020/21 figures where applicable.  

Our Consumer Investments Strategy identified 4 key harms in this market. The data in this review focuses largely on 2 of these: the harm from consumers ending up in high-risk investments when it doesn’t suit their circumstances, and the harm from consumers losing money to investment scams. We often talk about fraud or scams interchangeably. Both involve dishonest firms and individuals preying on consumers to try and take their money illegitimately. In this update, we refer to this range of practices as ‘scams’. An investment scam is typically where a customer is tricked into making a payment to an investment that doesn’t exist or at a significantly inflated price. 

2. Preventing and reducing serious harm

The data in sections 2.1 and 2.2 has been updated following review. Issues were identified with the parameters applied to the authorisation application data and supervision case data. We have also updated how we describe some of the data to ensure clarity and consistency with similar published data.

2.1. Preventing harm at the gateway

Our Authorisations Division is the gateway to financial services. When firms and individuals apply to be regulated, they must meet stringent minimum standards. We will refuse to authorise a firm or individual if we are not satisfied that they meet, and will continue to meet, these standards. In these cases, we will inform the applicant that we are minded to refuse them, and the firm or individual will often withdraw their application rather than face a refusal case (we refer to this as an FCA-led withdrawal). Withdrawals can also be firm-led, for example a firm changes its mind. Submissions of extremely poor quality are rejected on the basis they do not amount to an ‘application’ – this happens prior to scrutiny.

One of the key harms we want to prevent at this gateway is individuals avoiding the consequences of giving unsuitable advice by moving to or setting up new firms. This is known as phoenixing. In some cases, individuals seek to set up a new firm before their existing firm starts to get complaints, known as lifeboating.

Table 1: Authorisations applications received




Total authorisations applications received in the Consumer Investments market*



Table 2: Authorisations applications assessed



Total authorisations applications assessed in the Consumer Investments market*


% of all applications refused, withdrawn or rejected


New firm applications assessed in the Consumer Investments market


% of new firm applications refused, withdrawn or rejected


% of new firm application withdrawals which were FCA-Led 75%

Firms prevented from being authorised after phoenixing or lifeboating suspected


Individuals prevented from being authorised after phoenixing or lifeboating suspected


* This includes firms in the following 6 Consumer Investments portfolios: Financial advisers and investment intermediaries; SIPP operators; Investment platforms; Wealth management and stockbrokers; Investment-based crowdfunding platforms; Peer-to-peer lending.

2.2. Our oversight of the market

On 31 March 2022, we supervised 6,531 firms within the Consumer Investments market. Firms in these portfolios acted as principals for 8,247 unique registered appointed representatives. To help us track the progress of our Consumer Investments Strategy, we monitor data on supervisory cases that involve higher risk investments or potential investment scams. Data for cases involving potential scams has been extracted by identifying cases relating to Consumer Investments where the supervisor dealing with the case has included the term scam in their description of the case. These cases have then been reviewed to exclude those which do not relate to a potential investment scam (eg other types of scams). We have also included data from our specialist supervisory teams who tackle harms caused by particular products or firms.

Table 3: Supervisory cases that involve higher risk investments or potential investment scams

Supervisory cases opened that involve higher risk investments or potential investment scamsms



Supervisory cases closed that involve higher risk investments or potential investment scams



% closed following review



% of cases closed where the case has been combined with another case covering the same issues 



% closed following regulatory action



We saw a 116% increase in supervisory cases opened involving investment scams or higher risk investments. This was due to:

  • More cases opened in our Financial Promotions and Enforcement Taskforce to tackle harmful online promotions. As outlined in our recent Data Strategy Update, we are scanning an average 100,000 websites created every day to identify newly registered domains with characteristics that could be used for scams or fraud.
  • More cases being referred to our cryptoasset supervision team about potentially unregistered cryptoasset businesses and potential scams, including through our improved detection of online promotions.


Data table


Case Study: Contracts for Difference

Our Contracts for Difference (CFD) Portfolio Team supervises firms whose business predominantly relates to high-risk, complex investment products: actual contracts for difference, spread bets and rolling spot forex. These firms trade as principal in these over-the-counter (OTC) products, taking the other side of consumer trades.

On 1 January 2021, around 100 CFD providers previously operating under the EEA passport regime entered the UK’s temporary permissions regime (TPR) while preparing to apply for full FCA authorisation. Our initial reviews suggested approximately 20% of these firms may have been engaged in scam/churning activity. These techniques include misleading financial promotions and encouraging consumers to trade excessively to generate revenue for the firm. There was also circumstantial evidence that some might have been ‘phoenixes’ of firms we had previously acted against in 2020.

We conducted deep-dive analysis on these firms, which led to interventions against 16 of them in 2021, including 4 OIREQs (own-initiative requirements imposed by the FCA) and 12 VREQs (voluntary requirements agreed to by firms). These 16 firms have all now ceased UK business.

We calculate that our interventions disrupted activities which otherwise could have caused ongoing consumer harm of around £100m annually.


Pension Harms

When a consumer falls victim to a pension scam or money from their pension ends up in inappropriate investments, their losses can be life-changing. One of our supervision teams focuses particularly on cases where we suspect potential pensions harms. Of the cases we have opened in supervision on high-risk investments and scams, 82 of these were opened by this team. It also opened 105 cases on the basis of data analysis, involving suitability of pension transfer advice or potential scams.

Table 4: Cases opened




Cases opened involving high-risk potential investments and/or investment scams by the pension harms team*



*Cases resulting from whistleblowing intelligence are excluded from these numbers.

Table 5: Cases opened




Cases opened on the basis of information received, eg from consumers or other areas of the FCA


Cases opened on the basis of data analysis involving suitability of pension transfer advice and potential scams


We recently consulted on introducing a redress scheme for former members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) who transferred out of their defined benefit pension. At the time of publishing the consultation, we estimated the proposed scheme could mean that 1,400 BSPS members receive £71.2m in total redress. We also used emergency powers to prevent financial advice firms who advised members of the scheme from disposing of assets to avoid paying compensation. 


Although we do not regulate cryptoassets, we are responsible for supervising some cryptoasset firms’ compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations (MLRs). Our Digital Assets department seeks to identify, manage and reduce risks of potential harm from active and registered firms. This includes rapidly intervening where firms are at risk of being used as conduits for illegal activity, or where they pose harm to consumers or market integrity. The department also takes action against cryptoasset scams, and on firms operating as cryptoasset businesses without being registered.

Table 6: Cases opened



Cases opened about potential unregistered or scam cryptoasset businesses


Referrals to the Advertising Standards Agency


* We have not provided a yearly comparison as this work only began after the deadline for cryptoasset business to apply for registration on 15 December 2020. Cases resulting from whistleblowing intelligence are excluded from these numbers.

2.3. Acting against firms and individuals who cause consumers harm

Unauthorised business

We take action against firms and individuals who are not authorised or exempt under FSMA but who carry on regulated activities in breach of the legislation and/or who disregard restrictions on financial promotions. Many firms and individuals acting in breach of FSMA and carrying on unauthorised activity are likely to be scam firms and involved in investment fraud.

We received nearly 30,000 reports of potential unauthorised business between April 2021 and March 2022. Over 70% of these reports we are either already aware of or fall outside our remit. We either log the remaining reports for intelligence purposes or open them as enquiries for further review. Enquiries may involve us working to disrupt unauthorised business, such as issuing consumer alerts, taking steps to remove websites and working with firms to resolve a breach. The most serious cases become enforcement investigations into serious misconduct using our formal powers. We currently have 49 enforcement investigations into 217 unauthorised firms and individuals.

Due to the high volume of reports and their complexity, the outcomes of these can vary from year to year depending on many factors. These include the nature of the reports, our approach to triaging cases and the resources we can dedicate to this work. We are using data to allow us to focus our efforts on the cases that represent the most serious risks. Some of the outcomes are also inter-dependent. For example, one of the reasons that we closed fewer cases after engaging with firms is that we have published more consumer alerts, which may not require any firm contact.

Table 7: Action against unauthorised firms and individuals




Reports of potential unauthorised activity



Enquiry cases opened



Enquiry cases closed



Enquiry cases closed after engaging with the firm



Consumer alerts published



Enforcement Investigations into unauthorised firms / individuals opened



Consumer redress obtained for unauthorised investment business



* We identified an error in this figure when preparing the April 2021 – March 2022 data review and corrected it in this publication.  We have now also corrected this in the previous April 2020 – March 2021 publication. 

Case Study: Unauthorised investment business

We received a report about an unregulated firm which appeared to be operating as an unauthorised trading copy service, offering consumers the chance to copy trading positions. This was promoted through the firm’s website and on social media.

We were concerned that people would be drawn into this type of trading without understanding the risks.

We reviewed the website and social media posts and within 24 hours of the report we published an alert on our website. We also sought to have the website and social media posts removed.

We are particularly concerned these kinds of promotions could lead to real harm at a time when consumer finances are already under strain. People should always be wary of any promotion made by someone who is unauthorised, as you are very unlikely to have any protection if things go wrong. If you are unsure, visit the FCA register and our warning list to make sure the firm you’re dealing with is authorised, and always use the contact details provided on our register.


Scams and higher risk investments where regulated firms and individuals are involved

We have 33 live enforcement investigations or proceedings involving the conduct of regulated firms and individuals where consumers have invested in potential scams or higher risk investments. These are investigations which often involve multiple subjects (firms and individuals), which makes the total number of firms and individuals under investigation significantly higher. In most of these cases, we liaise with law enforcement and/or other agencies such as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Insolvency Service.

We can also intervene by imposing requirements on firms or varying their permissions, either with their voluntary agreement (known as a VREQ or a VVOP) or on our own initiative (known as an OIREQ or an OIVOP), to restrict their activities to limit harm. Typical requirements include stopping firms from promoting and selling specific products, from providing specific services or restricting use of their assets, for example, to meet their potential redress liabilities.

Table 8: Action against regulated firms and individuals




Enforcement Investigations opened involving potential investment scams or higher risk investments



Voluntary Requirements (VREQs) authorised firms provided in order to prevent harm



Own-initiative Requirements (OIREQs) we imposed on authorised firms in order to prevent harm



* This figure has also been updated following review


Case Study: Credit Brokers’ network

Between August 2021 and March 2022, we used our own-initiative powers to close 8 firms. This was in response to concerns that they might be connected to Texmoore Limited and Fabcourt Developments Limited, entities that we have warned consumers about for undertaking unauthorised business.

Our initial action against 3 firms (Cavendish Incorporated Limited, Sentor Solutions Commercial Limited and Marvell Enterprises Limited) followed reports from 11 consumers that they had lost £524,000 collectively through investments in Texmoore and Fabcourt arranged by the firms. These firms made misleading statements to consumers about their regulated status and undertook investment activities without required permissions, exposing consumers to the risk of significant loss.

We followed this with pre-emptive action against 5 other firms (Grosvenor Associates Limited, Renaissance Advisory Limited, Thestral Financial Services Limited, Falcon Financial Solutions Limited and Semantic Business Services Limited) due to their apparent links and for misleading the FCA about their controllers and intended business at authorisation. These firms appear to have obtained authorisation to conduct regulated activities beyond their permissions and to benefit from the perceived halo effect of being FCA-authorised. Our action stopped these firms from misusing their regulated status to take advantage of consumers.

3. Enabling consumers to help themselves

The data in this section has been updated following review.

3.1. Consumer education campaigns

We know we can’t stop every scam from happening, but we want to shrink the audience that scammers can target and help support the Government’s priority to make the UK a more unattractive place to commit financial crime. One of the ways we do this is through our ScamSmart campaign, which aims to empower consumers with the knowledge and tools to help prevent them losing money to scams.

Table 9: ScamSmart visitors




Unique visitors to the ScamSmart website



Visitors who visited the website and also visted our investment and scam checker page



Visitors who visited the website and also searched for a firm on the warning list



Visitors who went on to check the FS register




Data table


We also track which investment and pension products consumers are checking on the ScamSmart Warning List tool, and how consumers heard about these products. This shows which investment and pension products are being promoted to consumers, and by which channels. We have seen a 55% increase in checks on cryptocurrency offers and a 16% increase for pension transfers. Most ScamSmart users said they heard about investments online or on social media (53%), and we saw a notable increase in offers ‘recommended by a friend’ (to 17%).


Data table



Data table



We launched our InvestSmart campaign in October 2021, which targets inexperienced investors to provide them with information to make better-informed investment decisions. Our online and social media advertising reached over 3.2m people on Instagram and Facebook, over 4.8m on Twitter and 4.4m on TikTok. 48% of those seeing an InvestSmart ad said they would make sure they understand the risks presented by a high-risk investment, compared to just 26% who hadn’t seen one.

The aim of the advertising was to direct consumers to our InvestSmart pages, which have been viewed 79,003 times. Our most popular article is 5 questions to ask before you invest, which has been read by nearly 10,000 people (9,816 unique views).

3.2. Providing direct consumer support through our Consumer Helpline

Between April 2021 and March 2022, we received nearly 105,000 enquiries to our consumer helpline. When a consumer contacts us, we resolve the enquiry immediately where we can. However, we often guide the consumer to contact the firm or other organisations to progress their enquiry. We will also often investigate enquiries further if we suspect misconduct.

As well as trying to help consumers who call us, we monitor the information they give us as this is a valuable source of intelligence. Along with other sources, we use it to inform our action against fraudulent and unauthorised activities, and our collaboration with other anti-fraud agencies.

In 2021/22, enquiries to our helpline about investment products decreased by 28% from 2020/21. One reason for this might be a number of spikes we saw in 2020/21, for example around the surge in trading ‘meme stocks’ in January 2020. Enquiries to our helpline about potential scams continue to grow, on top of already significant increases since 2020. Scam enquiries made up one third of all helpline enquiries in 2021/22.

Table 10: Enquiries to our consumer helpline




Enquiries about investment products



Enquiries about pension / retirement products



Enquiries about potential scams*



Of which, enquiries about potential investment scams



*Throughout this section the total number of enquiries about potential scams contains instances where one consumer has contacted us more than once about the same potential scam, for example, to provide further information. Due to the way our data is recorded, the data on the subsets of investment scams and specific types of scams do not include these subsequent enquiries. 


Data table


Enquiries about potential boiler room scams are still the most common type of scam enquiry we receive. This is where fraudsters cold-call investors offering worthless, overpriced or non-existent investment opportunities. Figure 6 below also shows the continued rise in enquiries about potential cryptocurrency scams (59% higher than in 2020/21), FCA impersonation scams (72% higher) and recovery room scams (89% higher).


Data table


We collect data on whether consumers have invested in potential scams at the point they contact us. Most consumers contacted our helpline about possible scams before investing any money. But for some types of scam consumers were more likely to contact us after investing. For example, 79% of consumers who contacted us about potential cryptocurrency scams had already invested when they contacted us, and 77% for potential foreign exchange scams.


Data table


We also try to capture how much consumers have invested in potential scams where we can. Looking at the top 3 kinds of scams where consumers invested before contacting us (cryptocurrency, boiler rooms and foreign exchange), we only have data on the amount invested in around two thirds of cases. Of consumers who told us how much they had invested, 61.5% had invested up to £10,000, 24.9% had invested between £10,000 and £50,000, and 13.5% had invested over £50,000. This underlines the difficulties consumers face in the investment market and the harm when things go wrong.


Data table


This data underlines the importance of our work to help consumers access and identify investments that suit their circumstances and understand the risks they are taking. We recently published our policy statement on strengthening our financial promotion rules for high-risk investments. These new rules will help to ensure that consumers understand the risks involved before investing, and place higher standards on firms approving financial promotions for unauthorised persons.

Cryptoasset promotions currently sit outside our remit, giving us few tools to address the harm from these promotions. We welcome the Government’s intention to legislate to bring certain cryptoassets within the Financial Promotions regime. As we have said before, consumers investing in cryptoassets should be prepared to lose all of their money.

4. Next steps

We have published these reviews on a 6-monthly basis. We intend to make this an annual publication and we will publish the next review in summer 2023, covering April 2022-March 2023.

Our previous data reviews have included data on consumer complaints and redress paid by firms in the investment sector. We have not included this in this review, but this data is available