I have spent several days over the past fortnight sitting in a London court watching and listening to a fraud and money laundering trial. Sometime in this coming week the jury will retire to consider its verdict in a trial that started in mid-May. They will have to decide whether as the prosecution alleges this was an outright fraud or whether just a question of two businesses failing as one of the defence barristers claims.
Whatever the jury’s verdict one thing is clear: many of the investors lost their money some losing over £100,000. Money that few could afford to lose and its loss is likely to make their retirement less comfortable than it might have been.
It is also highly probable that many of the investors did not do their due diligence properly by checking out the companies concerned and the investments proposed. Leaving aside the elderly and vulnerable this is a common feature. All too often people are cold called and then are prepared to write cheques, often for very substantial amounts, to companies they know little or nothing about and for investments they know little about.
During the last week I spoke to one punter with a ‘wine investment’ company who had parted with around £48,000 for a portfolio of wines worth at best £25,000. Certainly he would receive less than £25K by the time commission is taken off. He described the appalling bullying, high-pressure tactics that had been applied by the company. He was being called frequently at home and at work. To told that it was a brilliant investment that he must seize he was urged to remortgage his house even told to sell his car to raise the necessary funds.
Sadly he allowed himself to be bullied and intimidated by these spivs into buying vastly overpriced wine – a 12-bottle case 2008 Mouton-Rothschild for £12,800 some two years ago when a competitive price was between £7000-7500 in June 2011. Now, unfortunately, the price for a case of 2008 Mouton has fallen sharply to between £3400-£3600. A very long way from £12,800! It is very unfortunate that he just didn’t put the phone down on the aggressive salesman.
The one positive is that this investor has his wine – all too many find that they have paid their money but have nothing to show for it.
Although it is probably impossible to stop the scams, we as journalists can at least put over the clear message that if you are cold called about an investment – put the phone down. Whether you also tell the caller to “**** off” is up to you!