A company claiming to be called “Blackrock Commodities” is cold calling people who have been scammed into buying carbon credits as investments. “Blackrock Commodities” claims to be able to sell the carbon credits for £5 to a Swedish company called Asio Capital. All you have to do is pay an advance fee. It’s a scam, of course.
Yesterday, John Arnold left a comment on REDD-Monitor, asking whether any readers had had any contact with “Blackrock Commodities” and asking for advice. Here’s his comment, outlining the “Blackrock Commodities” scam:
I have an offer to sell my carbon credits for around £5 per unit by a company Blackrock Commodities. Their buyers are a Swedish company Asio Capital . I have been given their address in Sweden and the address of the company they are using to presumably broker the deal (Carter and Carter) and also Alexander Forbes the Escrow Agents they are using. I have spoken to both these companies who say they have been dealing with Blackrock for a number of years and have successfully completed various deals. The deal is that I pay £6000 upfront to secure the Corporate Re-diversion of the credit. This is refundable after the deal is complete (1st April). I feel there is nothing else I can do to confirm that this deal is legitimate but I am still not convinced.
“Blackrock Commodities” cold called John Arnold
“Blackrock cold called on the basis of having my carbon credits on a registry which I believe is true,” John Arnold writes. “Blackrock Commodities” is lying. The scammers got his contact details from what they call a sucker list. These are lists of people who have been scammed, with information about who they are, their contact details and what they were scammed into buying. Sucker lists are traded between the scam companies.
Here’s a screenshot from insurance company Aviva’s website about cold calling:
If you are cold called, the only safe thing to do is put the phone down. If you are feeling adventurous you could listen to the sales pitch, collect as much information as possible, in order to report the company to Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority.
Other give aways include the advanced fee and the limited time that the offer is available. “Corporate re-diversion” is the fancy term that scammers give to converting voluntary carbon credits (VERs – verified emission reductions) to compliance carbon credits (CERs – certified emission reductions). The first problem with this is that there is no way of doing this. The second problem is that CERs are currently changing hands for €0.40, as this graph from commodities trading company Vertis shows:
The unfortunate reality is that the carbon credits sold by scam companies as investments are worth even less than CERs.
Now that we know this is a scam, let’s look at the companies involved.
BlackRock Commodities Income Investment Trust is a real company. The company is registered in the UK. It’s part of BlackRock Inc, the world’s biggest asset manager with more than US$4.5 trillion in assets under management. But the scammers have nothing to do with Blackrock Inc, other than the fact that they have stolen the company’s name.
Blackrock Inc’s website address is blackrock.com. The scammers gave John Arnold a different website address: blackrock-commodities.com. It was registered (anonymously) on 4 January 2016. And here’s what you see if you click on the scammers website:
The phone number that the scammers gave (0207 859 4985) features on various “who calls me” discussion groups. In most cases, when people answered their phones, no one was there. Needless to say, the phone number doesn’t appear anywhere on BlackRock Inc’s website.
In February 2015, REDD-Monitor reported on another recovery room scam that featured a Swedish company called Asio Capital:
Peter James from Noble Rock Partners phoned “baj”. When the paperwork arrived from Noble Rock Partners, it mentioned a Swedish company called Asio Capital. But no contact details were given for Asio Capital. When “baj” asked why he couldn’t find the company’s website, James told him, “It’s because they are based in Sweden.”
A search for “Asio Capital” Sweden, gives three results – all on REDD-Monitor. I think it’s reasonable to assume that the company doesn’t exist.
Somewhat bizarrely, since Asio Capital is supposed to be a Swedish company, the scammers gave a UK phone number for the company: 0800 6893973. Once again the number features on various “who calls me” discussion groups.
It’s also the number of a company called Henderson Global Trading. In August 2015, the Financial Conduct Authority put out a warning that Henderson Global Trading was a clone company:
Carter & Carter
Carter & Carter’s website (www.carterandcarterinternational.com) was registered (anonymously) on 11 March 2016. After only 11 days in business, the company can claim that, “Carter & Carter is one of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms”. Impressive. Even more impressive is the number of people working for Carter & Carter. If it keeps up this rate of growth, pretty soon we’ll all be working for Carter & Carter:
More than 40,000 Carter & Carter people, across over 130 countries, are focused on making a difference to clients, colleagues and the communities in which we live and work. In the UK we provided services to over 40,000 privately held businesses, public interest entities and individuals. It is led by more than 185 partners and employs more than 4,500 of the profession’s brightest minds.
There is a company called Carter & Carter Partners Ltd that was registered in the UK in November 2012. But the most recent accounts submitted to Companies House reveal a small company with assets of only £91,641.
The scammers told John Arnold they would use a company called Alexander Forbes as Escrow Agents. And the scammers gave John Arnold a website address for the company: alexanderforbesinternational.com. The website was registered (anonymously) on 4 January 2016. Clicking on the web address takes you to same place as blackrock-commodities.com (see the “Temporarily unavailable” screenshot, above). Again, parts of the website are still available via Google’s cache.
This statement is on what’s left of the company’s website:
Alexander Forbes Escrow Services was set up in 2014 and is wholly owned by Michael Ward LLP (CRN: OC3633453, England), a firm of solicitors.
This is pure fiction. A search for “Michael Ward LLP” Solicitors gives two results, one on alexanderforbesinternational.com, the other on alexanderforbesint.com. A search for “CRN OC3633453” gives the same two results. The website alexanderforbesint.com was registered (anonymously) on 11 March 2016.
There is a financial services group called Alexander Forbes, with its headquarters in South Africa. The scammers are cloning yet another company.
If you have been cold called by any of these companies (or anyone else who asks for an advance fee, and offers to sell your carbon credits, no matter what story they give) please contact Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority.