By Max Clarke

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is contacting thousands of people to warn them they could become victims of share fraud after it recovered its biggest ever ‘master list’ used by boiler room fraudsters.

The list contains the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 49,387 people and includes potential victims who the FSA believes may have been contacted out of the blue and offered worthless shares.

The greatest concentration of targets is in London, although there are a significant number based in Scotland and the South East of England. The list is thought to still be in use by fraudsters operating in the UK and abroad and is likely to have been circulated between different boiler room networks.

The FSA is writing to every single person on the list to alert them to their presence on it and to advise them how to avoid getting scammed. Anybody who thinks they may have been targeted by a boiler room scam should call the FSA’s customer contact centre on 0845 606 1234.

Margaret Cole, the FSA’s managing director of enforcement and financial crime, said:

"So far this year we have contacted 95,000 people across the UK to warn them about the risks of investing via boiler room fraudsters.

"This latest list is the biggest we’ve ever recovered and we are contacting every single person on it in the hope we can stop people losing money. Even if only one in ten we contact heed our warning it could mean around £96 million is not invested in these scams. *

"Boiler room fraudsters often sound like the real deal so it’s easy to be drawn in by their professional and high pressure sales tactics. In reality however, the shares are worthless or don’t exist and the money is lost forever."

The FSA recovered this list via its ongoing intelligence work with counterparts in the United States, Homeland Security Investigations (formerly known as Immigration & Customs Enforcement), and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

Share fraudsters, commonly known as boiler rooms, usually contact people by telephone to con investors into buying non-tradable, overpriced or even non-existent shares. These fraudsters are unauthorised, normally overseas-based companies with fake UK addresses and phone lines routed abroad.

People can avoid becoming victims of share fraud by:

* Hanging up the telephone if they receive an out of the blue call offering them shares;
* Checking the FSA Register to see if the person selling shares is authorised to do so;
* Calling the company back using the details on the FSA Register to verify their identity;
* Make additional checks to confirm that you are dealing with an authorised or registered firm and have the correct contact details, such as checking on the firm’s website, with directory enquiries or Companies House; and
* Reporting any company that cold calls them to sell shares to the FSA or the Police.