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25 Nov 2020

Fraudsters used FCA register mistake to dupe investors

Impostors set up as a Vision Introducer Limited after it remained incorrectly listed as 'live' on the regulator's website, eight years after closing

Suspected scammers posed as an investment company which closed in 2012 after it remained incorrectly listed as active and authorised for eight more years on the financial watchdog's official register.

The out-of-date entry for Vision Introducer Limited was only spotted earlier this month when accountant and anti-fraud campaigner Mark Taber found an impostor firm linking to it and claiming to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Mr Taber reported the entry to the FCA and it was swiftly removed, with the regulator then publishing a warning about the copycat firm.

It's not yet clear whether anyone was successfully scammed by the impostors.

However, news of an inaccuracy on the register raises major concerns, as checking the FCA register is a cornerstone of fraud prevention advice given by Which? and other organisations.

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Website mystery

Earlier this month, Taber found a firm calling itself Money Bonds Market advertising on a Google search results page.

On clicking through, he found the site - which offered investments - claimed to be called 'Vision Introducer Limited' and linked directly to the FCA register entry for a firm of the same name. The register entry stated the firm was live and correctly authorised to provide investment services.

But Taber realised this could not be true, as Vision Introducer Limited ceased operating in 2012.

The impostor site was registered at the official URL stated in the FCA's register entry, making the copycat firm appear even more convincing. This raises the possibility that the impostors may have acquired the lapsed URL of the defunct firm in order to carry out the deception.

Who was Vision Introducer?

The genuine Vision Introducer was an official introducer for investments company, Quilter. It operated in this way from 2011-2012 and was authorised to do so by the FCA at this time, with Quilter named as its principal firm on the FCA register.

However, it should have been removed from the register once this arrangement stopped.

Who is responsible for the error?

The FCA has overall responsibility for the register but implied that Quilter was to blame for the out-of-date entry.

A spokesperson told Which?: 'It is the responsibility of the authorised principal firm to notify the FCA whenever an appointed representative ceases operations.'

The FCA told us it was investigating the incident.

Quilter told Which? it was 'continuing to investigate and work closely with the FCA to understand how this incident occurred.'

How to spot an investment scam

To avoid scam investments, savings and other financial products, stick to firms authorised by the FCA. Look up organisations on the FCA register to check for any 'copycat' warnings and identify genuine websites and contact details.

This may not be enough to keep you safe though, as this story illustrates. So for more advice, see our guide on how to spot an investment scam.