The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has called on regulators and law enforcement agencies from around the world, including the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Spanish and German regulators, to help tackle a fraud that reaps about £300 million yearly from the UK public, for criminals.
Up to 20 countries are expected to be represented at the first international boiler room conference, organised by the FSA. The conference which is taking place today and tomorrow at Merchant Taylors' Hall in London aims to encourage a global response to this global problem.
Margaret Cole, FSA director of enforcement, in a speech to the conference said: "The FSA's investigations into boiler room activity are showing us just how international the crime is. A firm might be operating out of one country, targeting people in another. But when we follow the trail of the victims' money, we often find a complex web that may take in a further five or six jurisdictions spanning three or four continents. To take effective action we need to get right to the root of the operation.
"In order to do this, we want to form a strong alliance with our international counterparts, working towards a common goal, sharing information and ideas and understanding that ultimately when we're talking about boiler rooms, we're talking about serious organised international crime. We need to provide credible deterrence against these criminal operations and I'm convinced that by working in partnership, together we can make a real impact."
Each year, around 30,000 people fall victim to boiler rooms in the UK alone - estimates put the total fraud at £300 million. Typically, victims can be 'groomed' over weeks or months by fraudsters who call them regularly, eventually persuading them to buy worthless shares.
The problem is global. Boiler rooms are based overseas, often in Spain, Hong Kong or North America. But their victims tend to be in the UK, Germany, United States and Scandinavia.
The FSA has launched a number of initiatives this year to help raise awareness of boiler rooms. These include:
- working with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators to urge listed companies to send warnings about boiler rooms to their shareholders;
- working with APCIMS, the stock broking trade association on a leaflet for its members to give to customers warning them about boiler room fraud; and
- improving the information given to consumers about boiler room fraud through our website moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk.
In the past 18 months, the FSA has also taken action against 7 entities for acting as or assisting boiler rooms, including taking out injunctions, freezing assets, making people bankrupt and starting criminal investigations. In March, the FSA helped to refund around £1 million to UK investors.