Avoid these silver-tongued scammers

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Phone callIt's hard to hear due to the background of a whole room of salesfolk reading their scripts to potential punters, but the guy says he's called Marty and that he's a "broker in the City of London".

I was minded to say that if he's a City broker, that makes me first in line to be the next president of the United States or, at the very least, the future England football manager. But I resisted the temptation – otherwise he would have put the phone down.


But – and let's be more formal with his name - Martin did say that it was not a cold call because I had responded to a Google campaign in June. Again, I was tempted to say "well, why did you take four months to phone me? That's really rubbish service from your firm". I didn't.

Let the lies begin

I let Martin talk on. He told me he was the "chief trading officer" of a City-based firm which specialised in various markets such as carbon credits, gold, and silver, with an expertise in palm oil plantations if I was seeking income rather than growth.

He said the firm had been trading for "around six months". In fact, I later discovered that it had only been established three months ago, that Martin was the only director of the company and he was still a very youthful 26 years.

Surely, I thought, the chief trading officer should be trading, not following up four-month-old Google links (assuming there was one)? And how is anyone so clever to trade assets as disparate as palm oil plantations and gold? And especially at his age. None of these assets are, of course, regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

Here comes the flattery

I did not disturb his stream of words. He informed that while he was looking for new clients, he "would only bring those on board when it was exactly the right time".

Additionally, only clients who had a "certain style" would be welcome.

This meant I was in that select group – a flattery further reinforced by the line: "We only deal with savvy investors who understand the markets and can do due diligence." Of course, the last person this guy wants is someone who actually understands markets, while the only due diligence required is to slam the phone down.

He went on to emphasise just how well treated I would be. He would offer me a discreet (does that mean tax avoiding?) service, backed by a team of skilled professional brokers who could advise me on the "most lucrative" investments. I could, should I wish, put these into a SIPP pension plan.

He stressed that I would be served with "a dedication to excellence" and that he could guarantee that "trust and integrity" were of paramount importance. Everything – including this discussion – would be "proprietary". I must admit that I don't understand that one.

The personal touch

Now Marty – he insisted on that as he called me Tony – was keen to contrast his firm with competitors. He said that they would attempt to confuse me and leave me wondering what degree of control I had over my money. But his firm, which he said was "a leader in the market", operated with a "guiding hand" principle. He always insisted on a "customer-first" approach.

And just to give me further reassurance, he said his firm would take "time to get to know me" and that it would not push me into anything that I felt uncomfortable with. He emphasised that "vision, timing, knowledge and contacts" were the essentials for making my money into much more money. I would not, however, be asked to invest into anything dangerous as he would spread my "risk and return parameters".

"Sounds very interesting," I said. Now what I should have said – except it would have spoiled my relationship with this man who obviously wanted to be my very best new friend – was that I was totally uncomfortable with the phone call, him, his firm, and the assets it claimed to sell.

There are scores of Martins around. And they have your bank balances, not your interests, at heart.

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