Blacklisted companies use Man United stars and ex-police chiefs on websites

7 AM SAT companies blacklisted for using Man United stars and ex-Met police chief on websites

Manchester United stars are shown in an outdated image on a website run by one of the financial institutions on a UK blacklist (Image: Trade FCA)

Suspicious financial firms on an official ‘alert list’ continue to promote their services to UK consumers, research shows.

According to the research, the websites of one in six companies on the Register of Unauthorized Businesses, published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), remain accessible to UK consumers.

Of the 1,717 companies and individuals that made the list last year, 292 still had an online presence, the researchers found.

These include one entry, Trade FCA, which uses a picture of Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw and former players Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani on its website.

A slogan reads “Trade FCA belongs in support of Manchester United FC.”

Trade FCA says it has operated with offices in Westminster since 2007 and has around 1,200 financial advisors. Consumers are offered the opportunity to trade stocks, cryptocurrencies, commodities and forex with an initial investment of up to $50,000 (£40,360).

Not only does the firm share the same initials as the UK regulator, it lists the FCA in a “Regulations” section but gives no further information.

Another unauthorized operation is the use of a picture of former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon on his website. Coin Value Bank claims the picture shows their financial manager named “Michael”.

The firm also professes to be a “relentless ally to your financial well-being,” offering among other things loans “within minutes.”

FCA history

Manchester United players can be seen in an outdated team picture used on Trade FCA’s website (Image: Trade FCA)

Another company, Heartford Capital, states on its website that it is regulated by the FCA, although it was listed in 2006.

The company says it has “enabled” clients to trade in global markets since 1971 and operates in 154 countries.

With a headquarters address on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman, Heartford claims on its website that it is “regulated by the FCA UK.”

Under each listing, the FCA warns: “Almost all companies and individuals offering, promoting or selling any financial service or product in the UK will need to be authorized or registered by us.

“This company is not authorized by us and is targeting people in the UK.

FCA history

Heartford Capital claims to be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority despite being on a list of unauthorized companies (Image: Heartford Capital)

“They don’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so if something goes wrong you probably won’t get your money back.”

Any company carrying on a regulated financial activity in the UK must be authorized or registered by the regulator.

Although the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 does not give the FCA specific powers to prosecute fraud, it does make the online searchable database available to the general public through its website.

FCA history

Former Met Police Chief Sir Paul Condon (second from bottom) is referred to as “Michael” on Coin Value Bank’s website (Image: Coin Value Bank)

Analysis of the database up to December 7 last year was conducted by researchers at the NordVPN virtual private network. A total of 10,726 companies are on the list.

A further search revealed that some financial websites are still operational despite having been included in the register 17 years ago.

The website of a listing listed as Profit FX, based in London’s Covent Garden, displays a message stating that, with the help of Nominet, “this domain has been suspended at the request of the Financial Conduct Authority”.

FCA history

A website operated by an unauthorized financial company has been taken down by the FCA and Nominet (Image: Financial Conduct Authority/Nominet)

However, Nominet, the national domain registry, aims primarily to protect UK domains and web users.

In 2021, Mark Steward, outgoing FCA Executive Director for Enforcement and Market Oversight, said: “Unfortunately, most scam sites do not have UK domains, making it difficult to deactivate domains outside the UK.”

NordVPN is calling for more international collaboration to make deactivation a hassle-free process, regardless of the domain used.

Chief Operation Officer Marijus Briedis said: “The FCA cannot adequately protect UK consumers as its influence through Nominet is limited to UK domains.

“Scammers routinely exploit this simple loophole because it’s so easy to use the internet and social media to remotely target consumers in any country.

“It’s high time domain registrars worldwide join forces to defeat those who commit online fraud and financial crime.

“The main tool for these crimes is a cheap but effective website, but that can also be their downfall if countries work together.

“The longer a business that offers unregulated advice and products, or that defrauds consumers stays online, the more victims will be enticed into parting with their money.

“Each of these companies can see that they are on the FCA register of unauthorized companies. The fact that they’re happy to keep it that way should ring alarm bells.

“Always check the FCA register before depositing cash with any financial services provider.”

Nominet has informed that it is attempting to shut down fraudulent websites registered on domains outside of the UK.

Eleanor Bradley, Managing Director, Registry & Public Benefit said: “We have worked hard in partnership with law enforcement and domain registrars to reduce criminal activity among UK web addresses.

“As we have developed these collaborations, we have increased the number of proactive domain blocks.

“Given the global nature of the Internet, it is important that worldwide collaboration between law enforcement agencies and domain registries continue to increase, and good examples of this already exist.”

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Justin Scacco

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