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).
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
You can also contact the FCA's consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768.
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.
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.
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.