A very convincing clone site of Marcus by Goldman Sachs has recently been taken down, and a warning has been issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It’s one of many cloned financial websites the FCA has issued warnings on this year. Just last month, we revealed that fraudsters had cloned ING Bank and Interactive Investor’s websites and used fake documents to scam unsuspecting investors.
Financial scams are on the rise. The FCA issued 1,204 specific warnings to do with scam firms on its website in 2020 – a 100% rise compared with 2019. The number looks set to rise even higher in 2021, as it has already issued 721 specific warnings, and we’re only halfway through the year.
Here, Which? reveals what to do if you think you were taken in by the scam, and how to keep safe from other clone site fraud.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs cloned website
It’s not known exactly how long the clone Marcus by Goldman Sachs website was live for, but the FCA published a warning about the site on 28 May 2021, and it has now been taken down.
The two screenshots below, taken by Mark Taber, who reported the clone site to the FCA, show how similar the clone site was to the real thing. The first is the real website, the second is the clone.
The scammers had been using the web address www.marcus-uk.co.uk – very similar to the real website www.marcus.co.uk – and had provided a fake email contact and phone number.
It’s thought that the clone site was linked to from an investment comparison site being advertised on Google. Earlier this year, we reported that there had been a spike in scam investment paid-for ads showing up in search engine results on Bing and Google.
This is by no means the first time Marcus by Goldman Sachs has had some part of its brand used by scammers. A spokesperson told us it has seen 24 cases of brand infringement in 2021 so far, and there were reportedly 130 cases in 2020.
What does Marcus by Goldman Sachs say?
It’s important to note that the clone Marcus by Goldman Sachs site is nothing to do with the real company.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs told Which?: ‘All suspected fraudulent activity is promptly investigated and we take all appropriate action to help minimise impact to customers.
‘We have several measures in place to help protect consumers against fraudulent use of our brand, including the use of software and third parties to monitor the web constantly for unlicensed use of our branding online and a dedicated anti-fraud team, which supports customers directly. We also identify and purchase domain names which could otherwise be used for fraudulent purposes.
‘However, as fraudsters become more sophisticated we have seen an increasing amount of credible websites that are hard to distinguish from the real thing. When we see these fraudulent sites, we send the domain owner a cease and desist letter and engage with a third party to initiate a takedown of the site.
‘We are working with industry partners, such as fraud-prevention service Cifas, and participating in a number of industry fraud advisory boards to share best practices and ensure we are up to date with new technologies and services to enhance fraud security. We are also developing a campaign to raise awareness of scams and better equip our customers with the right tools to stay safe online.’
What to do if you signed up to the cloned website
If you’re worried and think you’ve transferred money to a scammer as a result of a clone website, you should contact your bank straightaway.
Tell them what happened, and let them know the bank account details you sent money to so the bank can try and recover the funds.
If your bank is signed up to the voluntary Authorised Push Payment (APP) scam code, which launched in May 2019, it will have to take steps to reimburse customers who aren’t to blame.
You can also contact the FCA’s consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768.
- Find out more: how to get your money back after a scam
How do clone sites work?
Clone firms are becoming an increasingly common scam problem. It describes cases where fraudsters impersonate regulated firms in some way – be that through cold calls, fake marketing emails, or copying a company’s website – but then changing the contact information to connect to the fraudsters.
Scammers will often advertise products such as bonds, shares, FX and cryptocurrency investment opportunities –hoping that unsuspecting customers will trust the brand they recognise and transfer their money to them.
How can you avoid clone firm scams?
Fraudsters are rapidly changing the ways they try to dupe people, and things like clone scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. To keep safe, it’s important to thoroughly check out a firm before you give it your personal details and, of course, your money.
- Make sure the web address is correct: while the differences were only subtle, the clone Marcus by Goldman Sachs website did have a different URL to the real thing, and it’s changes like this that you need to be on the lookout for.
- Check the FCA warning list: this is at fca.org.uk/scamsmart/warning-list, and details the known firms that are operating without permission or running scams. However, if a scam firm has not yet been brought to the FCA’s attention, it won’t be on the list, so this should be one of many checks you do.
- Check the Financial Services Register: the FS Register will help you see whether or not you’re dealing with an authorised firm. You can use it to see whether the permissions match the service you’ve been offered, and it also provides firms’ official contact details. As these are the things commonly changed on clone sites, you should check them against what’s on the register. Make sure you access the register directly on register.fca.org.uk – don’t click through from other sites.
- Check the company’s other credentials: as clone sites become increasingly difficult to spot, it’s also worth checking the company’s contact details against what’s listed on Companies House, and Directory Enquiries to make sure the details match up.
- Be wary of giving out your personal details: Avoid entering your contact details on unknown sites, particularly those that advertise on search engines and social media, as your details may be passed on or sold and you’ll leave yourself open to being targeted by scams.
You won’t be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) or the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if you give money to a clone site or an unauthorised firm.
If you think you’ve come across a clone site, you should report it to the FCA.
- Find out more: how to report a scam