THE pandemic has fuelled an “attack of the clones” by con artists who pose as established financial advisers, an industry figure has warned.

An absence of face-to-face contact, combined a reduction in the number of independent financial advisers taking on new clients, has presented a golden opportunity for scammers.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) received nearly 4,000 reports of clone scams last year and said criminals were making it much harder to spot them.

April last year saw a 29 per cent month-on-rise in this type of scams as the industry entered its first month of lockdown. Over the course of 2020, fraudsters imitating genuine investment firms cost consumers an average of £45,242 each, totalling £78million for the year.

Kevin Forbes, regional chairman of the Personal Finance and Society in Hampshire and Dorset, said: “It’s not the fault of the firm that has been cloned. It’s often very damaging for them and a sad situation for some great advisers and businesses. Fraudsters use literature and websites that mirror those of legitimate firms, as well as encouraging investors to check the firm reference number (FRN) on the FCA Register to sound as convincing as possible, as they also clone this.

“The FCA warned that even experienced investors could be at risk of these clone firm scams, as despite 75 per cent of investors saying that they ‘felt confident’ they could identify a scam, 77 per cent went on to admit they did not know or were unsure what a clone investment firm was.”

Mr Forbes – a founding partner at Strategic Solutions Chartered Financial Planners in – said anyone considering investing with a new adviser should visit the FCA register to make sure the firm was authorised. “Then importantly use the contact details on the FCA register, not the details the firm gives you, and look for subtle differences to avoid ‘clone firm’ scams,” he added.

Fake directories are also a potential problem, he said, so consumers should go to the directories of legitimate professional bodies such as the Personal Finance Society, or visit the FCA at

“The golden rule should be that, if you are in any doubt about whether or not the firm you are dealing with is legitimate, do not part with your hard-earned savings,” he added.