The FSMA once again warns the public against the risk of scams that take advantage of news about COVID-19. For the fraudsters, the current climate is particularly favourable to making new victims.
The FSMA was recently informed that the ‘firm’ Altridium Group inc., active via the websites www.flixgm.com and https://flixance.com/, has asked its victims to pay additional costs (‘Coronavirus fees’) if they wish to recover their initial capital or to receive supposed earnings.
The fees demanded by Altridium Group inc. (www.flixgm.com and https://flixance.com/) are allegedly imposed on offshore banks by the World Health Organization in order to raise funds in the fight against COVID-19. To make their claim more credible, the scammers behind the company have not hesitated to create false documents that, among other things, feature the logo of the World Health Organization.
The FSMA has already issued a warning about Altridium Group inc. (www.flixgm.com and https://flixance.com/) on 1 October 2019.
The FSMA therefore advises you to be more vigilant than ever about the risk of scams relating to COVID-19 (please also consult our warnings of 27 March 2020 and 1 April 2020 ) as well as about ‘cloned firm’-type fraud (consult our warning of 13 February 2020). In the latter scams, fraudsters usurp the identity of an existing person or company (an authorized firm, an international company, a lawyer, a bank, etc.) to gain the credibility, or even legitimacy, that helps them gain the trust of investors.
Be particularly wary if you wish to invest!
- Beware of (promises of) 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 one(s) 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 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 transfer money to a country without any connection to the company or to the State of which the investor is resident.
- Never invest if you do not understand precisely 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 signs of fraud.
If you have the least doubt about whether the 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.).
Similarly, do not hesitate to alert the FSMA to any suspicious company that has not yet been the subject of a warning on its part.
Do you have any questions about the measures taken in the banking and insurance sector in response to the coronavirus crisis?
The FSMA, as a supervisor with a focus on consumer protection, has opened a call centre to address matters relating to the coronavirus crisis. Its staff are there to answer any questions you may have about the coronavirus crisis and the measures taken by banks and insurance companies. A contact form and the phone numbers for the call centre are available on the FSMA website.