The financial industry regulator FSMA has drawn attention to a new trend in fraud: the sale of shares in expensive wines. The scam works as follows: you receive a phone call from someone claiming to work for a company that invests in fine wines, offering to sell you a share in a purchased lot. The bottles you pay for will be held by the investment company until a buyer is found, at which point you will receive your money back, as well as a sizeable profit from the sale.
It seems a gamble unlikely to fool anyone, but there have been takers.
“This is too good to be true,” the FSMA advises. “Despite all the promises, the investors never see their money again.” In some cases a small payment is indeed transferred to the victim’s bank account, but that serves only to gain their trust, and to entice them into making further payments. And for anyone who gets cold feet, the company claims withdrawal costs – yet another payment the customer will never see again.
According to the FSMA, the victims so far reported are all French speakers, as the fraudsters appear to be operating out of France. Victims seem to have been identified from social media, or from websites offering high-return investment opportunities.
The regulator offers some advice on how to spot a wine scam: Beware of bank transfers to a country other than the victim’s own or the country where the call is coming from; Callers who are unusually insistent are suspect, as are exaggerated returns on investment; Websites which have only been online for a short time are also suspect.
And the FSMA listed a number of internet domains already shown to be linked to fraud: www.cabinetconseildexpert.com, www.grandscrus-europe.com, www.lgc-wine.com, www.pfm.cabinetconseildexpert.com and www.place-aux-vins.com.
“These sites have no licence, and are not authorised to offer investment services in Belgium,” the regulator said.
Anyone approached with such a scheme should contact local police or the FSMA itself, and under no circumstances send any money to the company represented by the caller.