The Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) launches a campaign today against online investment fraud. Partly due to the coronavirus crisis, the risk of encountering such fraud has increased. The campaign is conducted fully online and is intended to warn potential victims of offers that sound too good to be true. The FSMA is also putting a new test on its website to help consumers determine the chances that an online investment offer is fraudulent.
Last year, the FSMA received 1227 reports of fraud, a 23 per cent increase in comparison with 2018. A striking development last year was the increasing use of social media by fraudsters. They used channels such as Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to tempt consumers with promises of sky-high returns.
In order to alert consumers to the dangers of certain offers, the FSMA regularly publishes warnings. Last year, it did so 138 times. At the request of the FSMA, last year the Belgian judicial authorities blocked access from Belgium to 173 website with fraudulent offers.
Fraudsters brazenly take advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic to make new victims. The risk of being faced with attempts at online investment fraud has grown during the crisis because more people are going online, either because they are working remotely or because they use this means to keep in touch with their social circle. Moreover, the uncertainty of the financial markets may lead consumers to be more susceptible to promises of ‘miraculous investments’ offered by fraudsters as an alternative to ‘traditional’ investments.
At the beginning of the crisis, the FSMA issued warnings specifically against such offers in the context of the coronavirus crisis. In addition to these warnings, the FSMA is today launching a new online campaign against fraud. The campaign will be conducted via Facebook and Google, because the victims often contact their victims via social media. The campaign slogan is: “An offer that sounds too good to be true? Start by saying no.’ The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of online fraud and to urge people to be prudent. It will be conducted in two waves: in June and in the fall.
‘Be wary of promises of exceptionally high returns. They are often a sign of fraud. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We are launching this campaign today in order to further highlight this message,” notes Jean-Paul Servais, Chairman of the FSMA.
The anti-fraud section of the FSMA website has also been updated. Visitors can, among other things, take a short online test to determine the chances that an offer they have received is fraudulent. The test consists of nine quick questions. The result gives an indication of the risk of fraud. You can try the test yourself on the FSMA website (available in French – Dutch only).