A Bay of Plenty woman has been left $7000 out of pocket after she invested money in a scheme advertising itself as "make easy money from home".
The woman, who doesn't want to be named, clicked on an advert after reading an article on Yahoo! about how billionaire Sir Richard Branson had made money.
"I presumed it was attached to him."
She watched some videos online about how to do it and then rang the company whose call centre was based in Scotland.
"The woman on the phone said it was not going to make me rich and that it was more of a part-time thing."
Then she got put on to a broker to tell her what to do.
The woman signed up online and set up an account with an initial investment of US$300 ($415) and began trading on currency.
"I was naive; I didn't know about trading. It was totally out of my league."
But she made a few wins and was convinced to put more money in. This time it was US$5000.
Then she got nervous and decided she wanted her money out.
"After a while I said nah - this doesn't suit me. And my husband didn't like it. I said I wanted to get out."
But she says that was when the passive aggression started with the broker making repeat phone calls, late at night, wanting her to make more trades.
In the end she threatened to call the police and had the number blocked and he stopped calling.
Little did the woman know she had been caught up investing in an unlicensed binary option trading scheme.
Binary options enable you to make (or lose) money by predicting the short term movements in price of a share, commodity, currency or index.
Usually the timeframes are short and investors don't have long to make their call.
More than a third of complaints to New Zealand's investment regulator the Financial Markets Authority relate to overseas offshore companies which offer binary options or foreign exchange trading.
The trading is not illegal but is considered to be high risk, even for experienced investors.
The FMA is highlighting the woman's case as a warning to other New Zealanders to use licensed financial service providers as part of World Investor Week which starts today.
Paul Gregory, FMA director of investor capability, said the woman's situation reflected many of the issues raised by investors in this areas such as;
• click-through internet advertisements about "making easy money from home"
• aggressive sales tactics
• companies refusing to return money
• cold calling and get-rich-quick schemes.
Gregory said it was illegal to sell financial products to New Zealanders by cold calling.
Most financial service providers who offer their products and services to New Zealanders also have to be licensed by the FMA.
In April the FMA decided businesses selling short-duration derivatives like binary options also need to be licensed and has given companies until December 1 to do so.
Gregory said the licensing process gave investors some basic protections.
"Investors should expect to be communicated to clearly about the benefits and risks of a product. They can complain to a dispute resolution service if they have any issues with a financial service provider.
"Licensing also means we are able to hold providers to account for the way they treat their customers."
Gregory said it was very hard for the FMA to help where an unlicensed, unregulated company based offshore withholds money from an investor.
The woman says anyone considering this kind of investment should be very careful.
"Educate yourself before you sign up with anything."
While the loss of the money hasn't put her on the street the woman says it means she won't be taking the overseas holiday she had planned to.
"I was lucky enough I could sense it. My hunger for money didn't over-ride my common sense."
How to protect yourself
• Don't think a company is legitimate because their advertisement appears on what seems like a credible website.
• Before you invest check FMA lists of individuals and businesses to be wary of
• Check the FMA website for lists of providers, markets and individuals that are licensed or authorised to operate in New Zealand.