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60% increase in reports of fraud

Press release

During the first half of 2021, the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) received 1,087 questions and reports by consumers concerning fraud and unlawful offers of financial products and services. This represents an increase of 60% as compared to the first half of 2020. The FSMA wishes to further raise public awareness of the risk of investment and credit fraud. To this end, a new digital campaign has just been launched. The campaign is being conducted entirely online, as was the case with the campaigns launched in 2020. The aim is to post on Facebook, Instagram and Google a series of awareness-raising videos created by the FSMA for various target groups.

Out of 1,087 reports or questions the FSMA received from consumers in the first half of 2021, around 40% were about fraudulent online trading platform, 30% about various types of fraud (fraudulent offers of portfolio management, fraudulent alternative investments or pyramid schemes) and 10% about credit fraud.

Unlawful offers of financial products and services in the first half of 2021

Number of reports received in the first half of 2021

Changes compared to the first half of 2020

Fraudulent online trading platforms

404

+116%

Credit fraud

105

-10%

Fraudulent offers of portfolio management, alternative investments or pyramid schemes

317

+80%

Cryptocurrencies

88

+54%

Boiler room 

34

-30%

The number of fraudulent online platforms that offer trading in binary options, CFDs or forex as well as cryptocurrencies continues to grow. One of the characteristics of such platforms is that they attract consumers via fake advertisements on social media. The advertisements use the photos (unbeknownst to them) of Flemish and French-speaking celebrities.

For the past few months, we have seen such fraudulent platforms use mobile applications as well to lure victims. These apps often make offers relating to virtual currencies or training. Shortly after clicking on an advertisement placed on social media or downloading one of these apps and entering their contact details on a form, the victims usually receive a phone call from the fraudsters, who make a specific investment offer (in shares, alternative investment products, virtual currencies, etc.). For more information: see the warning of 5 May 2021.

The swindlers also promote these fraudulent platforms via dating sites and applications such as Tinder.

The FSMA estimates that victims of fraudulent online trading platforms lost at least 42 million euros between May 2019 and June 2021. 

The increase in the number of reports or questions about cryptocurrencies can be explained by the significant number of questions about the reliability of service providers offering virtual currencies and more generally about the topic of virtual currencies.

The number of reports of fraud linked specifically to virtual currencies has thus remained constant as compared to the first half of 2020. In fact, the FSMA received 53 reports from consumers on this topic in the first half of 2021 as compared to 48 in the first half of 2020.

The number of warnings published by the FSMA is increasing. During the first half of 2021, the FSMA published warnings about 89 companies engaged in unlawful activity in Belgium. This is a 46% increase over the number of warnings published in the first half of 2020.

Launch of a new digital campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Google

The significant increase in the number of reports by consumers coincides with the awareness-raising campaigns launched  by the FSMA in 2020 and in the first half of 2021, such as the various digital campaigns, the updating of the FSMA website, the launch of the “Have I been the victim of fraud?” test, the posting of animated videos and of testimonials, etc.

The various campaigns conducted by the FSMA have helped raise consumer awareness of the risk of fraud. More and more victims know they should automatically alert the FSMA if they realise they have been defrauded of their money. Consumers are also increasingly contacting the FSMA before investing, whenever they have any suspicions that the offer they have received may be fraudulent.

During World Investor Week 2021 (a thematic week organized by IOSCO), the FSMA will be launching a new digital campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Google against investment and credit fraud.  

The aim of this campaign is to continue raise public awareness by disseminating videos created by the FSMA among 3 target groups: pensioners (60+), young investors (26-39) and more experienced investors (40-59).

3 recommendations if you have any suspicions that the offer you have received may be fraudulent

  • If you have the least doubt about whether the financial services being offered to you are lawful, contact the FSMA directly via the consumer contact form.
  • Consult the FSMA’s website and find out how to recognize and avoid fraud.
  • Lastly, take the test on the FSMA’s website to find out if the offer you have received may be fraudulent.