110 people arrested in major crackdown on share fraud scam

110 people have been arrested across the world in one of the biggest operations into tackling gangs who tricked people into investing in worthless or non-existant shares. There are 850 confirmed victims of the gangs in the UK alone.

What is boiler room fraud?

Ever been cold called by a hard-selling "stockbroker" offering a high return for an investment that sounds "too good to be true"?

If you have, you may have been the intended victim of a boiler room operation.

A business property in Barcelona was among 35 addresses raided this week by officers cracking down on boiler room fraud. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The practice, which takes its name from the high-pressure nature of the selling, sees professional-sounding but bogus callers attempt to gain investment in shares that are either non-existent or so worthless they are impossible to sell.

Victims are promised discounts and "secret" stock tips by the persuasive callers, who supply them with fake documents, direct them to mock websites and confuse them with technical jargon to make their fake investments seem credible.

The callers usually operate from overseas and doggedly pursue an increasing scale of investments before quickly severing all contact once they deem enough money has been obtained.

The alleged fraud network busted by UK and Spanish police this week is said to have conned more than 1,000 victims.

Read: Fraud victims issue warning after £15m cold-call losses

Fraud victims issue warning after £15m cold-call losses

Victims of cold-calling share fraud gangs have urged people to check the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website before making any investments.

So far 850 people, mainly pensioners, are known to have fallen victim to persistent cold callers, each losing sums between £2,000 up to £500,000.

Pensioners were deliberately targeted by repeat callers who attempted to form an easy rapport with their victims. Credit: Frank May/DPA

Victims were phoned by a man who claimed he was a financial advisor with 18 years' experience of the markets and urged investments in carbon credits, rare earth metals, gold and anti-malaria products.

Callers were sent a range of brochures, promising considerable rewards, in a sustained campaign that culminated in victims even being urged to re-mortgage their homes to generate more funds.

A total of around £15 million is known to have been taken, though police believe the figure is the "tip of the iceberg" with thousands more expected to have been duped.

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Excess from 'fraud scam' likened to Wolf of Wall Street

Anti-fraud squad officers have likened the lifestyles of the alleged criminals involved in a major share fraud scam to the excesses portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street.

UK and Spanish police executed 35 warrants on lavish homes and offices used to run the alleged fraud in the dramatic raids in Barcelona, Madrid, Marbella and London this week.

A Ford Mustang confiscated by police from a property in Manchester was among many high-performing cars held by the fraud squad. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
High-end watches were also seized by police. City of London police spent two years looking at the top levels of the fraud gangs. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Around 40 officers from the capital travelled to Spain to bolster a force of 300 officers ahead of the raids. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
The chief targets were the lawyers, alleged money launderers and financiers accused of masterminding the scams. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Dozens arrested in crackdown on 'boiler room fraud'

The alleged criminals are said to have funded their playboy lifestyles on stolen money, with an Aston Martin and Ferrari seized by police. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

UK and Spanish police have arrested 110 people in one of the largest operations into tackling gangs who are accused of robbing millions of pounds in savings by duping people into investing in worthless or non-existant shares.

The crackdown on so-called "boiler room" fraud saw 84 people held in Spain, 20 in the UK, two in the United States and four in Serbia this week. The arrests can now be reported after a reporting ban was lifted by a Spanish judge.

Investigators from the City of London Police joined Spain's national police in targeting a number of organised crime gangs, aiming to take out the top levels of the networks as well as dozens of the alleged conmen who work for them.

Officers claim the gangs spent the stolen money on sports cars, designer watches, drugs and prostitutes, while one of the suspects was believed to be paying £40,000 per month to rent an apartment.