A pensioner has told how she lost £150,000 after investing with a firm who falsely claimed to be backed by consumer champion Martin Lewis.
Diana Bundy, 70, ploughed her life savings into a scheme with trading company Stern Options.
The firm are listed at addresses in Glasgow and Edinburgh and claim to have offices in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Diana, a retired university administrator, claims she has been given inaccurate reports on how her investment has performed and now fears she’s lost the lot.
She has failed in repeated attempts to get her original sum returned, despite her account statement saying it has more than doubled in value.
Money Saving Expert creator Lewis, whose advice website is used by millions of consumers, says he has been flooded with similar complaints.
Diana – who stayed in Peacehaven, Sussex, but is now living in Spain – said: “I have had to deal with the sinking feeling that I have been conned.
“You feel so stupid. This was money from the sale of my house. I feel terribly fragile.”
Police are investigating the firm.
Diana said she contacted Stern after seeing an advert on Facebook which included a picture of Lewis.
She said: “I first became aware of Stern when I saw things on Facebook saying Martin Lewis supported them.
“My account suggests my investments are worth £309,000 but I just want the £150,000 I’ve invested back.
“I’ve been requesting my money back since the end of September but to no avail. It’s very distressing. “
Stern’s website say the firm are owned and operated by a company called BP1 LP, who are registered with Companies House as having their headquarters in Edinburgh.
But the office at 5 St Vincent Street is a virtual address run by a company called LAS International.
BP1 LP previously used a virtual address in Glasgow’s Bath Street to give customers the impression of being based in the UK.
Government watchdogs the Financial Conduct Authority issued a warning about the firm, saying they have been targeting consumers “without our authorisation”.
The agency say Stern are based in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Finance guru Lewis blamed Facebook for running misleading adverts.
He said: “If this woman lost £150,000 after investing in this because of me, that makes me want to cry.
“I’m devastated to hear it.
“This is the opposite of what my life’s work’s been. They’re using my good reputation to harm someone’s life.
“We already know of an old fellow who’s lost £17,000 and a woman who was looking after her grandchildren after their parents died. She’d put their money into this because my face was on it and lost out.
“Every time we report it to Facebook, after a couple of weeks, it gets taken down but a new one is re-launched the next day. “Facebook say the onus is on me to report it. They don’t appear to be taking responsibility.”
Diana’s family are considering legal action against Facebook over the ads.
They are upset that her bank Barclays allowed her to make transfers of £100,000 in September without notifying her son Jasper, who is a joint account holder.
Sussex police confirmed they are looking into Diana’s case. They said: “The investigation is in its early stages.”
Barclays said: “The matter is being investigated as a priority.”
The Sunday Mail made frequent attempts to contact Stern Options but no one provided an official comment.
A man answering their 0131 customer service number at first said they had no record of Diana being a customer.
He later claimed: “Her account is funded. She simply has to log into her account and place a withdrawal request online. The process usually takes up to seven or 10 working days.”
Facebook said they disable the accounts of those who violate their advertising policies. A spokseman added: “We prohibit adverts which are misleading, false or infringe on third-party rights. We encourage our community to report anything they suspect may violate our standards.”
LAS International did not respond to requests for a comment.
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