More than £18m has been stolen from residents in the Thames Valley area from ‘clone firm’ investment scams.

‘Clone firms’ are set up by fraudsters using the name, address and ‘Firm Reference Number’ (FRN) of real companies authorised by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority).

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Action Fraud, as well as a report by Thames Valley Police, revealed that a gargantuan amount of money was stolen between January to December 2020.

Thames Valley victims were mostly men, with people between the ages of 50 and 59 being the most commonly affected.

The figures don’t make light reading at there was a 29 per cent increase of ‘clone firm’ investment scams across the country, with 77 per cent of investors not knowing or are unsure what a ‘clone investment firm’ is.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson said: “These scams can have a devastating impact on the victims who invest, believing they are legitimate websites.

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“This is in no way a victimless crime and can have catastrophic, wide-reaching consequences.

“Unfortunately, anyone can become a target of fraud or scams and clone investment fraud can look genuine.

"Our advice is always to stop, challenge and protect.

The money was stolen between January to December last year

The money was stolen between January to December last year

“Thousands of pounds have been lost due to clone investment fraud and the only way to be sure is to check every detail.

“Responsible businesses would not have any issue with you carrying out due diligence and we recommend you carry out substantial research to ensure your money is going where you want it to go.”

What is a ‘clone firm’ investment scam?

‘Clone firms’ are set up by fraudsters using the name, address, and ‘Firm Reference Number’ (FRN) of real companies authorised by the FCA.

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The criminal gangs running these scams can engage with victims through a number of channels and often, they will take out adverts on social media platforms and search engines.

Victims will then click on these adverts and be taken to exact replicas of websites belonging to genuine investment firms.

The most sophisticated criminals will even clone the website domain name.

Once victims have registered their interest, they’ll be contacted by the fraudsters, who often obtain the names of genuine employees of investment firms and create seemingly legitimate company email addresses, but with very subtle changes.

There have also been instances of investors inputting their contact details into genuine price comparison websites and then being phoned by criminals purporting to be from a well-known, legitimate investment firm.

Another tactic used by these criminals to dupe investors is to send victims sales materials linking to websites of legitimate firms.

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The returns being promised by these criminal gangs are often modest so as not to arouse suspicion, but slightly better than the market rate, therefore appealing to those looking for long term, ‘safe’ investments.

In the end, victims will end up transferring their savings directly to criminal gangs, under the false belief that they are sending them to a legitimate investment firm. Often, victims will not realise that they’ve been scammed until months later, when they fail to receive quarterly returns or investment reports.

Superintendent Sanjay Andersen, from the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has caused many people to feel financial worry and uncertainty - something which criminals will feel no remorse about capitalising on.

“We have sadly seen an increase in the number of investment fraud reports in 2020, compared to the previous year, with a spike in reports in the summer, after the first national lockdown was lifted.

“If you think you’ve already invested into a fraudulent scheme, report it to Action Fraud.”

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If you are suspicious about a website and think it could be cloned, send any emails to and suspicious text messages should be forwarded to 7726.

Additionally, if you believe you are a victim of clone investment fraud, you can make a report by contacting Action Fraud.