Consumer Investments data review April 2022 – March 2023

Data Published: 08/12/2023 Last updated: 08/12/2023

We summarise our work to tackle consumer harm in the investment market between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023.

This is our fifth Consumer Investments Data Review. It covers 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. 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 2-year update on our Consumer Investments Strategy, which sets out our strategic programme of work to improve consumer outcomes across this market. This data review covers our ongoing activities which contribute to the Consumer Investment Strategy outcomes.

As we set out in the 2-year update, the outcomes and workplans under the Consumer Investments Strategy now fit within the wider FCA Strategy and align to the Public Commitments. To avoid double reporting, going forward we will report on our outcomes and workplans as part of reporting on the FCA Strategy. We will no longer publish a separate data review but will continue to use the relevant elements of this data in reporting against our Public Commitments.

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 5 new consumer investment firms who applied from entering the market
  • published 1716 consumer alerts about unauthorised firms or individuals
  • secured £4.9m in consumer redress from unauthorised investment business

At the same time, our consumer-facing work shows the challenges investors face. Enquiries to our consumer helpline about potential scams have increased significantly since 2020, and this trend continued into 2022/23 (a 12% annual increase).

Our ScamSmart website also had 12% more visitors than the previous year. We saw significant increases in enquiries about potential recovery room scams (21%), FCA impersonation scams (38%) and cryptocurrency scams (17%). While most consumers contact our helpline about potential scams before investing, 80% 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 2022 and 31 March 2023. Where we give comparisons, these are to the previous year (April 2021 – March 2022). In most sections we have been able to give yearly comparisons, but in some areas, this is more difficult due to the evolving nature of our work.

Our Consumer Investments Strategy identified 4 key harms in this market. The mainstream investment and redress harms are targeted by policy and structural changes. The data in this review focuses largely on the remaining 2 harms: 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. Our ongoing regulatory activities play a significant role in tackling these harms. The remainder of this document is broken out into 2 sections covering:

  • Activities in our regulation of firms to prevent and reduce serious harm (authorisation, supervision and enforcement activity), and
  • Activities to enable consumers to help themselves (consumer information campaigns and helpline support).

We often talk about fraud or scams interchangeably. Both involve dishonest firms and individuals preying on consumers to try and steal their money. 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

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 intend 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. We reject submissions of extremely poor quality on the basis they do not amount to an ‘application’ – this happens before scrutiny.

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



FCA led refusal/withdrawal/rejection rate for new firm authorisation applications assessed in the Consumer Investments market



* 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 2023, we supervised 6,322 firms within the Consumer Investments market. These firms acted as principals for 7,448 unique registered appointed representatives.

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. We use data provided by firms to proactively identify indicators of unsuitable pension transfer advice and pension scams. We opened 97 cases on the basis of these indicators in 22/23 (105 in 21/22).

We recognise the harm caused to former members of the British Steel Pension Scheme who received unsuitable advice to transfer their pension between May 2016 and March 2018. As a result, we have implemented a redress scheme to make sure former members who are owed money can get it. This scheme will run through 2023/24. We estimate it will provide around 1,100 in-scope consumers with approximately £49m in redress. Alongside this, we have updated our methodology for calculating redress for unsuitable Defined Benefit pension transfer advice. 


We are responsible for supervising some cryptoasset firms’ compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations (MLRs). Our Digital Assets department aims 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 channels for illegal activity, pose harm to consumers or to market integrity. This department also takes action against cryptoasset scams, and on firms operating as cryptoasset businesses without being registered.

Table 3: Cases opened




Cases opened about potential unregistered or scam cryptoasset businesses



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 over 25,000 reports of potential unauthorised business between April 2022 and March 2023. Many of these reports are either already known to us 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 48 enforcement investigations into 212 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 which is contributing to the decline in overall enquiry case numbers.

In previous periods we have obtained significant redress for consumers in relation to unauthorised firms.  The £4.9m for 2022/23 is a return to more typical levels.  In particular 2021/22 saw a significant pay out in relation to action against Park First.

Table 4: 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




3. Enabling consumers to help themselves

3.1. Consumer education campaigns

Our ScamSmart campaign aims to give consumers the knowledge and tools to help prevent them falling victim to scams. We do this by raising consumer awareness of the key warning signs of a scam and encouraging them to check our online Warning List. ScamSmart ran a pensions scams campaign between October and November 2022. In February 2023, we launched an investment scams campaign to increase awareness among 21–54-year-olds.

Table 5: ScamSmart visitors





Unique visitors to the ScamSmart website




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




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




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. Cryptocurrency offers continue to be the biggest category of reported potential scams. Most ScamSmart users said they heard about investments online or on social media (60%). There was a notable decrease in offers ‘recommended by a friend’ (down to 13% from 17%).


Data table



Data table


3.2. Providing direct consumer support through our Consumer Helpline

Between April 2022 and March 2023, we received nearly 100,000 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 2022/23, enquiries to our helpline about investment products decreased by 39% from 2021/22. Enquiries to our helpline about potential scams continue to grow, on top of already significant increases since 2020. Scam enquiries made up around 40% of all helpline enquiries in 2022/23.

Table 6: 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 includes instances where 1 consumer has contacted us more than once about the same potential scam, for example, to provide further information. Due to the way we record our data, the data on the subsets of investment scams and specific types of scams do not include these subsequent enquiries. 


Data table



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, 80% of consumers who contacted us about potential cryptocurrency scams had already invested when they contacted us, and 76% for potential foreign exchange scams.


Data table


This data underlines the importance of our work to help consumers access and identify investments that suit their circumstances and to understand the risks they are taking. In August 2022 we 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 places higher standards on firms that approve financial promotions for unauthorised persons. In December 2022, the initial set of new rules came into force. This included a requirement for an improved consumer risk warning in financial promotions for high-risk investments. A fortnight later, we reviewed 67 crowdfunding and peer-to-peer firms to assess if they were complying. Of those firms, we found 60% had failed to comply with the new standards. We were extremely concerned about this and so we took immediate action to ensure the firms put it right.

4. Next steps

As explained at the beginning of this publication and in the 2-year update, we will now be reporting on the Consumer Investment Strategy outcomes as part of the Annual Report cycle. This is the final Consumer Investment Data Review publication.