The Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) issued a stark warning about the number of consumer complaints it received in 2017. The authority broke down the list by type of solicitation.
The results show that out of a total of 1,710 messages that it received in 2017, 792 reports were related to fraudulent activities. The list is topped by pyramid schemes with 169 messages, followed by binary options with 164 and boiler room scams that prompted consumer submissions on 112 occasions.
The regulator is highlighting that the total increase in complaints for the year amounted to 13 percent when compared to 2016. The local regulator was the first of many to issue stark warnings about binary options, and it banned OTC forex trading in August 2016.
The messages reporting fraud or unlawful offers concerning binary options have been on a par with some of the most popular financial fraud schemes like boiler rooms, pyramid schemes and ‘phishing’.
Cryptocurrency Fraud Relatively Rare
Cryptocurrencies have also found their way onto the list with 33 consumer reports about such scams.
The financial regulator in Belgium is linking the increase in complaints to its strategy of issuing a growing number of warnings about potential fraudulent activity. Consumers reached out to the regulator after being defrauded or to ask about the details of suspicious offerings.
Paradoxically, the ban of OTC retail trading and binary options also contributed to the increase in the number of complaints.
The Chairman of the FSMA, Jean-Paul Servais, said: “Increasing numbers of consumers are finding their way to the FSMA. That is a positive development. The more information we receive, and the more quickly, the better we can warn consumers so as to ensure they do not become victims.”
Due Process and Police Reporting
After receiving a complaint, the FSMA forwards the details to the relevant judicial authorities. A publication on its website on the subject is also common. Foreign supervisory authorities are also sent a notice.
The FSMA’s list of warnings in the previous year has grew by 70 percent when compared to 2016. A total of 46 warnings targeted boiler rooms, with another 42 focused on binary options.
The regulator is urging defrauded individuals to report their cases to the local police. The process of identifying and pinpointing the fraudsters is only triggered after a defrauded victim gets in contact with judicial authorities.