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Giordano Bruno

'landmark' Crackdown On Fake Shares Fraudsters

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Number of victims is likely to be in the "multi-thousands" and is suspected of being responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud. Those who are targeted are usually vulnerable or have a history of share investment, particularly in privatised utilities in the 1980s and 90s. Most of them are aged 40 and over, with many in their 70s and 80s. Police say some killed themselves because of the financial problems they got into. Fraudsters cold-call their victims, applying "high-pressure sales techniques" and "confidence tricks" to persuade them to part with their money. They are offered returns of 10 to 20% per year, directed to authentic-looking websites and glossy brochures and asked to invest in bonds in well-known firms or in other companies that are officially registered. Initially, they may receive "dividends" to give them confidence their investment is paying off but never receive any more or get their money back.

One of the victims, a woman in her late 70s, invested £23,000 in carbon credits. She was then persuaded by another salesman to borrow money to buy £140,000 of shares in gold. She never recovered the money. "I foolishly trusted him," she told BBC News, adding: "My generation is not very streetwise - because we never had to be."

Another victim, a 72-year-old man from the Midlands, said he and his wife had been "scammed out of our entire life savings".

Officers say the fraudsters spend their proceeds on Rolex watches, Armani suits, fast cars and flashy apartments.

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