Social media abound with false investment offers of cryptocurrencies, binary options and forex/CFD products, 'investment wine' and the like, with fake offers of wealth management and fraudulent credit offers. Swindlers 2.0 are constantly devising new strategies to make even more victims.
Deceivers regularly use social media to disseminate their fraudulent investment offers. These are spread through sponsored ads on Facebook and Instagram, simple posts on Facebook, fake press articles or via chats between the scammer and the victim. For more information, please consult our warning of 30 September 2019.
The FSMA has identified two new techniques used by swindlers to propagate their fraudulent offers on social media:
Hacking of Facebook accounts: has one of your contacts come up with an offer that sounds too good to be true?
You aren’t normally suspicious of your Facebook friends. Crooks are well aware of that! Be watchful because the identity of your contacts can be misused to trap you.
Fraudsters hack Facebook accounts and use these to promote investment or credit offers. They will for example publish on the account of one of your friends a post boasting of an investment offer providing an exceptional return. If you click on that post, the scammers will usually very quickly call you to present their fraudulent offer. Be all the more wary if you see that several persons are tagged on that post.
Fraudulent online trading platforms currently make a wide use of this technique. For more information on this type of fraud, please consult the website of the FSMA as well as our warning of 19 November 2020.
Fraudulent investment offers via dating sites and applications
Dating sites and apps such as Tinder are venues conducive to emotional scam attempts.
These sites and apps have lately also been used to prospect for potential preys to investment fraud. Victims are mostly men. While looking for a date, they get in touch with women of allegedly Asian descent.
This fraud generally unfolds in 4 steps:
1st step : Seducing you
On a dating app such as Tinder, you discover pictures of a charming woman. Most of the time, she has dropped a “Super Like” on your profile. Super Likes are a paid feature of Tinder that allows you to express a special interest in someone.
Beware! Swindlers could well be hiding behind the features of the woman you see on the pictures. They have created a fake character with fake photos in order to manipulate you.
2nd step: Arousing your curiosity
Once contact is made, exchanges will systematically be conducted in English. Your chat partner will often offer to continue chatting on WhatsApp.
One conversation follows another. Where does she live? What does she do in her spare time? What is her occupation?
She then explains that she doesn’t have to worry about money and her financial future.
Then you ask her the question she was awaiting since your initial contact: how does she manage to make so much money so easily?
3rd step: Promising riches
She then tells you her secret: she makes money by investing! She tells you that you can also do the same. She sends you a link to a website through which you can invest either in cryptocurrencies (new ICO), or on online trading platforms proposing to invest in forex products for example. The link directs you to a fraudulent online trading platform typically produced in English and Chinese.
In some cases, your chat partner will tell you that she can put you in touch with one of her acquaintances who is a renowned trader or a financial adviser who will help you get rich.
She has won your trust and you are convinced that you have found a way to invest your money profitably and without risk. You then make a payment.
4th step: Making off with your money
Once you have paid, you will have no hope of getting your money back. As soon as you begin wondering about the veracity of that offer, your chat partner will disappear and will not answer your messages anymore.
Avoid being a victim of investment fraud on social media
The FSMA encourages you to follow the recommendations below in order to prevent being defrauded:
- Take the test on the website of the FSMA to determine whether the offer you have received is fraudulent.
- Be wary of promises of completely disproportionate returns. Where a return seems too good to be true, it usually is!
- Do not accept uncritically the information provided by such companies. It is not uncommon for a company to claim to be authorized to offer financial services although this is not the case. Be sure always to verify the information you are given (company identity, home country, etc.). If the company is located outside the European Union, you will also have to be aware of the difficulty of legal recourse in the event of a potential dispute.
- Check whether the company holds an authorization by searching the lists published on the FSMA website – Check your provider. Be wary as well of 'cloned firms': companies that pass themselves off as different, lawful companies even though they in fact have no connection with the latter. A close look at the email addresses or contact details for the companies in question may prove useful in order to detect potential fraud of this sort.
- Consult the warnings published on the FSMA website as well as on the website of foreign supervisory authorities and of IOSCO. Check if the company offering you a financial service has been named in a warning. Search not only for the name of the company(ies) in question but also for the companies to which you are being asked to transfer money.
On the FSMA website, this search can be conducted via the search function provided. In addition, all the 'companies' about which the FSMA has already published a warning are included on the 'List of companies operating unlawfully in Belgium' published on the FSMA website.
Please note: the fact that the FSMA has not published a warning against a given company does not mean that that company is authorized to offer financial services. While the FSMA seeks to ensure that it publishes warnings in a timely manner, it is entirely possible that a company operating unlawfully on the Belgian market may not yet have come to its attention. Moreover, unauthorized companies regularly change their name.
- Be wary of unsolicited phone calls/emails (cold calling), that is, where no prior request has been made by the investor. Such calls are often indications of an attempt at fraud.
- Be wary of requests to pay money into bank accounts in countries that have nothing to do with the company that is approaching you, or your own place of residence.
- Never invest in a product if you do not fully understand what is being offered.
- Be all the more suspicious if the payout of returns is conditional on an additional payment and/or the payment of a tax. These additional demands are often the sign of fraud.
If you have the least doubt about whether financial services being offered to you are lawful, please don’t hesitate to contact the FSMA directly using the consumer contact form. As well, feel free to notify it should you come across a suspicious company that has not yet been the subject of a warning by the FSMA.
What to do if you are a victim of fraud?
If you think you are the victim of fraud, make sure you do not pay any additional sums to your contact. Note: this is also and especially true if you are promised a refund in exchange for a final payment, as this is a technique frequently used by fraudsters in order to try to obtain one last payment.
The FSMA stresses the importance of filing a complaint quickly and with ample documentation (the company in question, bank accounts to which you transferred money, etc.).