Hundreds of thousands targeted in £350 million investment scams

A new drive to prevent people being conned out of millions of pounds through bogus investment schemes was launched yesterday by consumer minister Gerry Sutcliffe.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been targeted with offers to invest money in property development, art, wine, jewellery and worthless shares.

Sutcliffe says: “Unsolicited approaches are accompanied by exaggerated claims about the likely returns. In fact the goods turn out to have little or no real investment potential, or may be sold at such an inflated price, a loss is almost guaranteed.”

The DTI has also published new advice on how to avoid being conned by investment scams. The Department has closed down 17 companies offering bogus investments, but still estimates that consumers have invested more than £350m in companies running these scams.

Sutcliffe adds: “The operators of these scams are very persuasive and it is often people who can least afford to lose the money who are being targeted.

“I want anyone who is tempted to invest their money to think very carefully about anything which sounds too good to be true.

“We will continue to pursue the fraudsters and shut down their companies. But prevention is better than a cure. If people are aware of the warning signs, they won&#39t be taken in in the first place &#45 even when new scams come to light.”