The Office of the FAIS Ombud welcomed the recent resolution of a complaint by a major Financial Service Provider (‘FSP’) involving a complainant who suffered significant financial losses after investing in a fraudulent investment scheme. The complaint was made against a representative who operated as an agency of the major FSP. In March 2021, the respondent recommended the complainant invest in an unincorporated entity called Alternate Invest, which was operated and controlled by a Mr Keenan Ebden.
The complainant submitted that she was told there would be no risk to the invested capital and she would receive a minimum of 100% return after three months, with a maximum return of 150% if the funds were invested for the duration of the investment period. The complainant invested a total of R450,000 in Alternate Invest between March and July 2021. However, the complainant did not receive any returns on her investment and was unable to withdraw the capital investment, even after multiple requests.
In January 2021, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) had issued a warning to the public to avoid doing business with Keenan Ebden as he was not authorised to provide any financial advice or render any intermediary services in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, 2002 (FAIS Act).
The complainant lodged a formal complaint with the FAIS Ombud and it was sent to the respondent for his response. The respondent denied any responsibility or liability for the loss. Fortunately, the major FSP made an offer to settle the claim, which the complainant accepted.
This matter should serve as a warning to other consumers of financial services that you should remain vigilant, even when dealing with representatives of well-established FSPs. Ask questions or do your own
research if the representative recommends investments other than with the entity he represents. Most importantly, always remember the old but very relevant adage – “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. High returns with the promise of no risk is a sure indicator of a potential scam. The high returns offered to the complainant should have been a “red flag” and a quick internet search would have revealed the true nature of the so-called investment.
Financial Services Providers themselves also need to be vigilant regarding the products their agents or representatives offer to consumers and take appropriate steps to monitor any suspicious advice provided.
If you have a dispute with a Financial Advisor or Financial Service Provider, you can lodge a complaint with the FAIS Ombud, by visiting our Complaints Portal at www.faisombud.co.za and select ‘Lodge Complaint’. Alternatively, you may submit a complaint in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: (012) 348 3447 / (012) 470 9097. Alternatively, you may call our Client Care Centre on (012) 762 5000 or Sharecall 086 066 3274 for assistance in submitting a complaint.