The scam that makes you feel special
A month ago, a guy called Mike (or maybe Mark) phoned."Hey, Anthony [when people call me that rather than Tony I know they are reading from a list), how are you, we haven't spoken for a time."
I was too polite to ask why someone in M&A, which is something for massive investment banks, should bother calling me. But he told me that, between working on mullti-million pound cross-border deals in Germany and Austria, he likes to call selected clients.
So now I had become "a client" of someone on first name terms with me but without any real identity or company.
He went through the usual litany of how much I might have for investment (I mumbled something about "a bit of money") and whether I was interested in income or capital growth ("a mix of both" I answered).
He then re-iterated how busy he was with all his corporate work, implying how lucky I was to have such a powerhouse of finance concern himself with little me. He promised to email me details of a "brilliant" investment that would offer both a substantial, guaranteed income as well as capital growth.
The email that never arrives
Regular readers of this column will know that whenever someone promises to email me, they never do. They want the opportunity to phone again, ostensibly to enquire what I thought of the email, but in fact to reinforce their control over me. The confidence trickster knows that victims often need more than one conversation before they fall under the spell.
Again, Mike/Mark told me how fortunate I was that he could spare some time from his really important corporate finance work for me. He promised to send details of the "great opportunity".
Surprise, surprise, nothing arrived. On my third phone call a week later, I was more aggressive.
He then explained that I would be buying into a boat-repair company. Alarm bells rang.
Money in boats?
Last November I was offered shares in this same firm after being called by Paul and Mike who were apparently working for an investment bank in the Seychelles. Was this the same Mike? Or another one? Or Mark? I really don't know.
This time, my guy claimed to be an independent consultant, but when the details arrived – from a German hotmail account – there was the same Seychelles bank as before. And when I tried to find more details of this bank, my computer said: "Warning this site may harm your computer" and "Reported attack page – site is listed as suspicious".
The email said:
My apologies on the tardiness of the email, it's been absolutely manic this end the last couple of days. As per request please find enclosed some additional information to assist in your due diligence process, as well as the payment instructions and proposed bond agreement. The attached agreement outlines the asset backed guarantee of all moneys invested along with the minimum of 10% return on the investment due at end of term. I shall be in touch later today to assist with complication of the proposed transaction.
He enclosed two agreements – both for €20,000 (about £16,000) already completed with my name. And there was also a form to open a German bank account (a well-known bank which would be mortified to find its name used for this).
He did not get in touch as promised – he was probably too busy with mega cross-border mergers and acquisitions to bother with me.
Talking a good game
But I looked at the material he sent. There was a "press release" from April which stated that it was going to merge with an oil and gas company.
Which one? No idea. How much money will this cost and how profitable is this company? No clue. When? Total silence. But I was meant to be impressed.
The firm talks a good game, mentioning that it wants to expand into emerging markets, including in Eastern Canada. What's interesting is that the New Brunswick Securities Commission, on the eastern Canadian coast, is very aware of the firm. On May 17th this year it was added to the commission's "caution list", warning investors that they might be approached to buy shares.
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