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article imageYou've Been Scammed — The BBC on fake courses and share scams

By Alexander Baron     Nov 21, 2011 in World
This morning saw another well-researched 45-minute documentary aimed at educating the general public, and keeping their money out of the hands of crooks.
Fed up with ludicrous soap operas about wicked Moslems plotting to foil gay marriages? Check out some real life dramas, the type that could affect you.
Episode 6 of You've Been Scammed can currently be found on BBC iplayer, but if you can't receive it or haven't the time to watch it now, look out for it on YouTube or the BBC's main website.
The programme followed the misfortunes of two people in detail, a young unemployed bloke who was conned by a phony driving school, him and his mother. And a somewhat older gent who was conned out of £2,000 by a boiler room scam. Unlike the young bloke, his story had a happy ending.
The young bloke is Steve, whose ambition from childhood was to become an HGV driver, so having been unemployed for six months, he searched around for a driving course. Like most of us nowadays, he looked on the Internet; unfortunately, he didn't do his due diligence, and ended up parting with £200 on the strength of a phone call. The really bad news is that the same people managed to take his mother for a further £1,500.
The only thing he and his mother got for this money were a medical and a written test.
There really is no excuse for this, because the Internet allows any of us to check the veracity of any company that peddles its wares on-line. As a first point of call, you can check the company's domain, who owns it and when it was registered; you can check its details on the Companies House website. You can check out websites like Scam.Com which has a very active forum. There are many such websites and discussion groups.
Any company you deal with should have a real snailmail address; even very big companies and official bodies use PO boxes, but you should still be on the lookout. If a company has a proven track record going back thirty or forty years, you are much less likely to be scammed than by one that has just appeared out of nowhere.
The second person to be profiled in this programme was a man approaching retirement who was contacted by a cold caller. His name had found its way onto a sucker list; the cold caller here was running a boiler room scam. The 2000 film Boiler Room gives an accurate portrayal of how these scammers operate. Primarily they target, older, sophisticated investors, or those who have had some experience of the stock market. They always target men - never women - but women should of course always be wary of smooth talkers of either sex who have a tall or sob story to tell.
The victim of the boiler room scam portrayed here was persuaded to invest £2,000 in a shell company called Eduvestplc. Incredibly, its website is still on-line, even though it never really existed - shell means exactly that. The website can be found here - and has now been archived by the current writer via the Archive.Org Wayback machine.
Like some rape victims, some victims of on-line and boiler room scams don't report the crime, perhaps in some cases because they feel foolish or ashamed. That didn't happen in this case; the victim reported his loss to the Financial Services Authority, whose investigators lost no time in acting. Fortunately, the man behind Eduvest, David Mason, had dumped the proceeds of his scam into a UK bank account, which the FSA seized. All £270,000 of it! You can read the full story of how this government watchdog secured its first ever criminal conviction for boiler room fraud here.
This money was returned to the victims, including the gent who featured in this programme. Mason was convicted and sentenced at the same court where shortly three Pakistani cricketers would be gaoled for taking bribes. In view of the sentences handed out to them, he should consider the two years at Her Majesty's Pleasure he received for ripping off innocent investors to be merciful in the extreme.
More about Scam, Scams, boiler rooms, eduvest, eduvestplc
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