Am I being scammed by a clone of a real investment firm?

A reader has asked: I entered my details on “Compare the best UK fixed-rate bonds on the market” which led to an email from someone claiming to be from Aberdeen Standard and phone calls. They offered a Fixed-rate high yield bond with Aberdeen Standard 2 year at 2,29% product number 121891. Funds to be sent to UK Forex Ltd Account 304193 62 20-32-30 Is this a scam or legit?

Answer: This is a scam. What the scammers have done here is lured you in with the promise of above-market returns on a fixed income bond investment and copied a real investment firm to make themselves look legitimate.

This type of scam is known as a “clone“. The FCA and the real Aberdeen Standard are aware of this and published a warning in June 2020, which was updated this month: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/warnings/aberdeen-standard-investments-clone-authorised-firm

The email address that scammers have been sending you emails from is @aberdeenstandardinvestment.com which is listed as one of the fake websites used to clone Aberdeen Standard on the above FCA clone notice.

Douglas Tennant, Anti-Financial Crime Manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments told us:

We have been made aware of consumers being contacted by telephone regarding investing into high yield 1-5 year bonds with Aberdeen Standard Investments. I can confirm we do not offer such products nor do we advertise on such websites. We have recently updated our Investor Warnings across our websites to make consumers aware: https://www.aberdeenstandard.com/en/uk/investor/investor-risk-warning , this also provides contact details for getting in touch with our team.

Those are the correct banking details for UK Forex (now OFX) who have been notified and their compliance department is investigating.

How does an investment clone scam work?

A typical clone scam works like this. Scammers will:

  • set up a fake comparison website offering high returns
  • advertise these returns on social media or search engines
  • request your name, phone and email address to get more information on the investment
  • contact you via email and call you using high-pressure sales techniques pretending to be from the legitimate investment firm. In this case they have provided you with the “product number”. This number is actually the FCA authorisation number of the real Aberdeen Standard. Presumably so that if you Google the offering it will show up some real information
  • provide fake banking details for you to send money to. In this case, they have provided the banking details of UK Forex (now OFX) a legitimate currency broker. The scammers may have set up a fake account with the currency broker using the KYC (ID) documents you supplied so that when your money arrives it can be sent abroad quickly making it difficult to retrieve.

You have certainly done the right thing by double-checking this and we encourage everyone to do their research online before investing with a new provider.

For more information on how bond scams work you can read our guide to fixed income scams.

Aberdeen Standard is not the only big investment firms to be cloned. Aviva, has also been cloned (https://www.fca.org.uk/news/warnings/aviva-plc-aviva-bonds-plc-clone-fca-authorised-firm)

If you think an investment is too good to be true or you think you are being scammed you should report it to the FCA here: https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/report-scam-us

You can also search the FCA warning list for scams that have already been reported here: https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/warning-list

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