About 2,500 people have been warned that their names appear on a scammers’ potential client list which was found when police raided premises in Marbella in March this year, financial watchdog Autoriteit Financiële Markten AFM has said.
Police started the investigation over two years ago after a total of 40 people reported they had been conned out of a combined €6m by boiler rooms operating under such company names as FX-CI, Global Trading Investment Group and Power Capital Financial Trading.
A boiler room is a construction in which people are talked into buying shares in supposedly profitable companies which are in fact worthless or do not exist.
The crooks put together data on potential Dutch clients, the so-called ‘sucker list’, by collecting information volunteered by unwary would-be investors on investment sites, or by clicking on ads on Facebook or other websites, the AFM said.
The lists of names continues to circulate in criminal circles where they are regarded as a valuable commodity, officials said. This means potential victims can be approached again and again.
‘To call these people ‘suckers’ is not really fair,’ AFM market integrity chief Jan Boerboom told the Telegraaf. ‘People with a university education are taken in just as easily. The people who perpetrate the fraud are masters of manipulation. And greed is a universal trait and that is exactly what they are focusing on.’
But the fraud doesn’t end there, Boerboom said. Victims are sometimes approached by people posing as lawyers who offer to help retrieve the money. They are then conned out of more cash.
Figures from the national Fraud help desk show that the number of reports of investment fraud jumped from 147 in 2017 to 229 in 2019, with losses amounting to a combined €10.7.
So far this year, 204 reports have been made. The coronavirus crisis has meant that people spent a lot of time online, Boerboom said, prompting criminals to increase their activities.
The AFM said the real damage done by boiler room scams is much larger because many do not report the fraud out of embarrassment. The organisation said the best advice to hang up when approached and never agree to make an investment on the phone.
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