The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a warning about adverts online and on social media promising high returns from foreign exchange (forex) investment online.

The financial watchdog said consumers should always do further research on the product they are considering and the firm they are thinking of investing with.

The FCA singled out one particular company in its latest release. The unauthorised online trader using Instagram, known variously as chloefxtrades or chloehenx or xchloesworld.

“We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation,” the financial regulator said.

The unapproved firm’s accounts have been promoted widely on social media. “We want consumers to be aware that [the company] is not authorised by us. We have requested that the accounts should be removed.”

Online trading scams

UK consumers are being increasingly targeted by investment scams carried out via online trading platforms. Fraudsters offer trades in foreign exchange, contracts for difference and cryptoassets such as bitcoin.

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These are often promoted via social media.

The scammers typically promise high returns and use fake images of luxury items to entice people to invest in their scams. The ads then link to professional-looking websites where consumers are persuaded to invest.

The “investment” is carried out either through a managed account where the firm makes trades on their behalf, or by trading themselves using the firm’s platform.

The scammers may also ask for consumers to message them privately to hear about the investment opportunity and invest that way.

Customers’ accounts closed with no further contact with the firm

Most consumers report initially receiving some returns from the firm to give the impression that their trading has been a success.

They will then be encouraged to invest more money or introduce a friend or family member to invest.

However, eventually the returns stop, the customer’s account is suspended and there’s no further contact with the firm.

Many scam firms claim to be based in the UK and even claim to be FCA authorised. Consumers should always check the FCA register to see if a firm is authorised.

The FCA cannot compel social media companies or search engines to remove scam content.

“We encourage consumers to report content to us and to social media companies or search engines directly. This allows us to issue warnings and to request that content is removed,” the regulator said.

What consumers can do

Consumers should check the Financial Services register to see if a firm is authorised. If they use an unauthorised firm, they won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so are unlikely to get their money back if things go wrong.

Consumers can also check the list of unauthorised firms and individuals we’ve received complaints about. If the firm isn’t on the FCA’s list, don’t assume it’s legitimate – it may not have been reported to the regulator yet.