‘Get rich quick’ investment opportunities are soaring among young professionals, with more than £890m ($1bn, €1.02bn) lost to investment fraud last year, according to the City of London Police.
It said that criminals are evolving the way that they target people with bogus investment opportunities, with many victims now being targeted on social media.
The total sum lost to investment fraud in the 2021/22 financial year rose by a staggering 49.5% to £890,916,169 from £596,053,731 the year before.
Data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) also shows there were 26,170 reports of investment fraud to Action Fraud in the same period, meaning victims lost an average of £34,043.41 each.
It also shows that reported cases of investment fraud have risen by 15.2% in the last financial year compared with the previous period (22,719 reports), and young professionals are now the most likely victims of this type of fraud.
A total of 39% of all victims of investment fraud were between the ages of 20 to 39 years old, with those aged 40 to 49 years old the third highest age demographic (16%).
In many cases, victims have seen an influencer advertise an investment scam on social media. The suspects behind the fraud use influencers with a high number of followers to endorse their advert and reach a larger audience quickly and cheaply.
Upon seeing the advert, victims either make authorised push payments on fake or cloned websites, or their personal and banking credentials are obtained by criminals through social engineering techniques, such as remote access tools or over the phone.
Along with an increase in the number of victims lured into false investments via social media, investments into cryptocurrency have also increased over the last two years, with Bitcoin the most reported currency.
‘Always be on your guard’
Suzanne Ferris, detective chief inspector from the City of London Police, said: “Investment fraud is rife and it destroys individuals and families. With the cost of living crisis now at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there is the potential that more people will fall victim to this devastating type of fraud as they try to find a way to get quick financial returns to help pay the bills.
“While criminals are now using social media to target people with fake investment opportunities, the ‘typical’ cold calling tactics haven’t gone away, so we must not be complacent and remain alert to these types of approach.
“Always be on your guard and take time to do your research thoroughly before deciding to invest any amount of money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Follow the take five to stop fraud advice as it will help protect you and your money.”