What are financial boiler rooms and how can you avoid them?
Retail investment from mobile devices underwent a “boom” in 2020 and 2021, just after the lock-down. At that time, the most sought-after assets were shares of technology companies and even crypto-currencies for bigger risk takers.
The current economic situation is very different from what it was then, but this investment trend remains strong. However, not all digital platforms are reliable and sometimes an investor may even lose their entire investment. This would be the case of the financial boiler rooms. As defined by the Spanish National Securities and Exchange Commission (CNMV) on its website, these are entities and persons that are not authorized to act in the securities markets or provide investment services as laid down in the Securities Market Law.
Thus, these entities are not registered with the CNMV or the Bank of Spain, and are not members of the Investment or Deposit Guarantee Fund, so investors are not protected in the event of insolvency.
The CNMV carries out constant reviews and publishes the names of the new entities it detects, as well as those from other European Union (EU) countries that are registered by market supervisors.
“Financial boiler rooms are dangerous because in most cases the apparent provision of such services is just a cover to appropriate the capital of their victims, making them believe that they are making a highly profitable investment,” explains the CNMV in a guide published on its website.
The body adds that they are often “very elaborate scams with the appearance of credibility,” so that any investor is susceptible to falling for them. “It is easy to become vulnerable to the promises of quick and risk-free get rich schemes of financial boiler rooms, which, no matter how well constructed, are always false,” it stresses.
The channels used by fraudsters to contact potential investors do not differ from those of authorized entities: telephone calls, postal and email, social networks and so on. For this reason, the CNMV warns that when dealing with financial products and services, "one must be very cautious with the offers and information received, even if they have been requested or consented to.”
How can we avoid these scams?
Although anyone is susceptible to investing in a financial boiler room, there are a number of tips to keep in mind when deciding which platform to invest in. The first is to verify that the entity is authorized and whether it has received a warning from the CNMV.
“Take an active attitude. Ask questions about the characteristics of the service and the investment being proposed. Get information in writing,” recommends the CNMV.
Another of the red flags highlighted by the CNMV is when the investor shows interest in the firm and agrees to give them their money. “Be wary if they do not ask you for information: authorized financial intermediaries offering you a product must evaluate its suitability (experience and knowledge) and/or suitability (experience and knowledge, financial situation and investment objectives) through a profile or questionnaire,” explains the body, in accordance with current legislation.
Some of the warning signs that may be a sign that the investor has fallen into the web of a financial boiler room are unexpected calls or emails, urgency of the investment, entry bonuses and pyramid schemes that invite the customer to recruit other potential users.
This could be coupled with psychological pressure to take an immediate decision or even the mention or use of the CNMV logo. The promise of high returns without risk is another of the most common hallmarks of these types of entities.
The benefits of having a financial advisor
The unreliability of some of the investment platforms, coupled with uncertainty about the global economy, makes having a financial advisor more necessary than ever.
“The uncertainty in which we find ourselves makes it essential to have more professional financial advice, such as the one we offer at MAPFRE Gestión Patrimonial. This is something that our customers value," emphasizes Miguel Ángel Segura, General Manager of MAPFRE Inversión.
In addition, explaining the characteristics of the products and the risks faced by the investor becomes vital, and is something that financial boiler rooms tend to hide. Protecting our customers is a priority for MAPFRE.
Proximity is vital in these cases, which is why MGP continues to expand and open offices throughout the country. Currently, MAPFRE's financial advisory unit is present in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Seville, Zaragoza, Palma de Mallorca and Malaga.