Fraudulent wealth management offers: Stay vigilant!

Fake credit: a businessman offers a bunch of 50-euro banknotes

In the past few weeks, the FSMA has received new complaints from consumers who have been approached by companies offering wealth management. The FSMA warns consumers against these tempting offers, because often behind them are fraudsters who are not authorized to make such offers, the sole aim of which is to steal your savings.

The principle always remains the same: victims are contacted by telephone without having asked for it or after having entered their contact details on an online form. They are offered wealth management services, with the promise of returns in excess of the market returns and most often with a capital guarantee. But in the end the result remains the same: the victims find themselves unable to recover their money (or at least all of it)!

Over the past few weeks, the FSMA has been informed of fraudulent activities conducted by:

How does the fraud start?

There are different ways in which scammers may approach you.

You may be approached after having expressed interest in an advertisement on social media or on other websites boasting high interest rates. In the next few days, you will receive a phone call from a telephone salesperson offering you investments. For more information, you can consult our warnings of 30 September 2019 and 3 December 2020.

You may also be contacted by phone without having taken any prior initiative yourself. This technique, known as 'cold calling', is widely used in investment fraud. You will then be invited to check the 'company’s' website and to open a personal account. Sometimes you will also be offered a contract. Contact will subsequently be by e-mail and telephone.

Beware, and do not trust the 'professional' look of the website to which you are referred; fraudsters clearly do everything they can to appear as legitimate as possible.

What do they offer?

You may be offered a variety of investments. However, consumers have over the last few months frequently reported being offered wealth management contracts. In essence, you give them your money and they manage it for you, with the promise of high – or even guaranteed – returns.

In other cases, consumers are asked to open an account (savings or otherwise), the key again being high – or even guaranteed – returns.

How to avoid falling into the trap?

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 have been the victim of fraud?

If you think you are the victim of fraud, make sure you do not pay any additional sums to your contact. Be especially wary if you are promised a refund in exchange for a final payment, as this is a technique frequently used by fraudsters in order to obtain additional funds.

Also, immediately contact the local police to make a complaint and alert the FSMA to the scam via the consumer contact form.

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.).