The Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) warns the public against the activities of certain companies in this country. They are approaching Belgian consumers with offers of attractive investments although they do not hold the requisite authorization. These are most likely new ‘boiler rooms’.
‘Boiler room’ fraud is a type of fraud that generally involves contacting consumers unsolicited, often by telephone, offering to sell them shares or other financial products. In recent times, the services being offered have grown ever more diverse. Products and services currently being offered also include: management accounts, term deposit accounts, investment advice, investments in crowdfunding, etc.
Although the boiler rooms claim to be authorized service providers, with a professional website and forms to fill out, they are in reality fraudsters who offer fictitious or worthless products or services.
As a rule, the consumer is enticed to make an initial, limited investment that very soon appears to be profitable. After that, the consumer is asked to make more and more additional investments. But when a consumer asks for his or her money back, this proves to be impossible without making additional payments and/or the new investments begin to lose money.
The fraudsters often put the consumer under severe pressure (hence the term 'boiler room'), insisting that they keep making further payments. In the end, the consumer will never get the invested money back.
The new 'companies' about which the FSMA wishes to warn the public are the following:
- Burton Mills (www.burtonmills.com)
- Hollis Kookmin Financial (www.hkfglobal.com)
- Lambert & Sons Incorporated (www.lambert-incorporated.com)
- Loeb Benson (www.loeb-benson.com)
- Meadows Financial (www.meadowsfinancial.com)
- Schalom and Gerson (www.schalomandgerson.com)
The FSMA strongly advises against responding to any offer of financial services made by the companies listed above and against transferring money to any account number they might mention.
In order to prevent consumers from falling victim to this type of investment fraud, the FSMA reiterates some of its recommendations:
- 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 (promises of) completely disproportionate returns. If a return seems too good to be true, it is usually just that.
- Always verify the identity of the company (company name, registered office, etc.) offering you financial services. If the company cannot be clearly identified, it should not be trusted. 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.
- Consult the warnings published on the FSMA website as well as on the websites 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.
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 Belgian territory may not yet have come to its attention. Moreover, unauthorized companies regularly change their name.
- 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.
- Company directors and managers should be extremely vigilant. Many boiler rooms target that group in particular.
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.