The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has received a number of reports from the general public about unsolicited telephone calls, SMSes or correspondence (by e-mail and post) concerning bogus investment opportunities, and prize/lottery winnings. These calls/correspondence are typically derived from overseas-based fraudsters who target consumers, offering to sell them what often turn out to be worthless or high risk shares,or to participate in bogus lotteries. These fraudsters can be very persistent and extremely persuasive, and even send over documents via courier service, in order to be signed.
This is not the first time that the MFSA has made similar warnings. Regrettably, there are consumers who have been victims of persuasive phone calls or letters promising rich winnings.
It is not just the novice investor that has been deceived. In certain cases, individuals who have been successfully investing for several years have also fallen victim to these scams. Consumers who sent money to fraudsters in the hope that they will receive millions in prize monies without ever having purchased a lottery ticket have never recovered their money.
The public is therefore being advised to be very wary, and exercise vigilance and appropriate caution in respect of any unsolicited telephone calls or correspondence offering to buy shares at a discount or offers of lottery winnings.
The Authority also requests financial entities who provide money transmission services, either through their offices or through third party outlets, to be aware of these scams and to actively encourage consumers to verify to the extent possible whether the transaction they are about to undertake appears to be a legitimate one or not before sending any money.
People need to be aware of the dangers that are posed by such unauthorised entities, and may verify whether an entity is licensed to provide financial services in Malta, by visiting the MFSA website at: www.mfsa.com.mt. The MFSA’s website is also constantly updated with warnings issued by European financial regulators regarding entities which may be operating financial activities without the necessary authorisations.
Persons wishing to obtain additional information are invited to contact the MFSA’s Consumer Complaints Unit (telephone 80074924 or e-mail [email protected]).
Further information on bogus lottery scams
Letters falsely purport to originate from Spanish, Australian or British companies, or otherwise SMSes from reputable international companies, claiming that the addressee is a ‘lucky winner’ of a large cash prize. In order to claim the prize, the addressee is told to pay a sum that allegedly goes towards taxes, bank costs, courier and processing fees necessary to deliver the prize; in actual fact the lotteries are fictitious and the addressee will be left out of pocket of the money he sends.
If the prize or lottery notification has any of the following elements, we strongly suggest you do not respond to it:
- The information advises that you have won a prize – but you did not enter any competition run by the prize promoters;
- The mail may be personally addressed to you but it has been posted using bulk mail – thousands of others around the world may have received the exact same notification;
- The prize promoters ask for a fee (for administration or “processing”) to be paid in advance;
- To get your prize might require travel overseas at your own expense in order to claim a bogus prize.
- We strongly advise against any communication with fraudsters who run these scams. Do not respond at all. If you already have, cease all communication immediately;
- Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself;
- If you have already given money to these fraudsters for any variety of reasons, unfortunately, there is not much chance of recovery. Once the fraudsters have your cash, your money is gone.