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Aussie CEO scammed for $44,000 while investing in electric car company despite ASIC approval

A successful Australian CEO who considers himself “quite intelligent” has revealed how he was robbed of $44,000 in two highly sophisticated stock scams.

The man only gives his name as Lawrence and has told his story to warn others that it could happen to them too, no matter how smart or educated they are.

The Melbourne father owns a company that adheres to regulations, has a postgraduate degree and invests regularly in stocks.

But he was still scammed by bogus companies, despite seemingly being approved by ASIC – the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Despite his business success, the loss of $44,000 still put a big dent in his family’s savings and he doesn’t want others to go through what he went through.

A Melbourne man has shared his story of falling victim to a stock scam as a warning to others. Pictured is a stock image of a distraught man reviewing business information

The scam came about because he wanted to invest in a hip American electric car company called Rivian, which was about to go public in November 2021.

Lawrence searched online for a way to buy Rivian stock and found a supposedly British company called Invystor that put him in touch with two different brokers.

“They arranged a call from this mob called Berenson Capital,” he told news.com.au.

Berenson Capital, which claimed to be Australian, had a very slick website.

A British-accented man calling himself John Alexander spoke to Lawrence and guided him through the process.

It sounded legit and he invested $20,000 by transferring the money to a Commonwealth Bank account.

Invystor also introduced Lawrence to another broker called Kingsway Capital Limited.

He then spoke to a woman, “Catherine Willows,” who, like Alexander, spoke with a British accent.

She told him they had access to some Rivian Initial Public Offering (IPO) shares, so Lawrence transferred $24,655, this time to a US bank account.

An Australian man who wanted to invest in the IPO of electric car maker Rivian was scammed out of $44,000.  Pictured are Rivian vehicles

An Australian man who wanted to invest in the IPO of electric car maker Rivian was scammed out of $44,000.  Pictured are Rivian vehicles

An Australian man who wanted to invest in the IPO of electric car maker Rivian was scammed out of $44,000. Pictured are Rivian vehicles

He didn’t just make the two transfers without thinking – he did what he thought was due diligence first.

Lawrence checked with ASIC that the brokers were properly licensed and looked up online reviews of them and their UK counterparts.

Kingsway Capital Limited is a real company but the one he was dealing with was a fake company imitating the real company.

Lawrence said he felt stupid after doing all the checks he deemed necessary and still getting ripped off.

“It was just a very disturbing experience. It was just so advanced, that’s what I couldn’t get over,” he said.

At the end of its first day as a public company on November 11, 2021, Rivian was valued at nearly $130 billion ($88 billion).

Investors have been warned about scammers who 'clone' legitimate companies to scam stock buyers.  Pictured is a stock image of a scam artist

Investors have been warned about scammers who 'clone' legitimate companies to scam stock buyers.  Pictured is a stock image of a scam artist

Investors have been warned about scammers who ‘clone’ legitimate companies to scam stock buyers. Pictured is a stock image of a scam artist

Lawrence should have been in the money, but he didn’t hear from a broker he thought bought stock.

When he tried to call Berenson Capital, the number rang and ‘John Alexander’ seemed to have disappeared.

The day after the IPO, Lawrence received an email saying that Catherine Willows’ email address no longer worked.

He knew then that not only had he not made any money from Rivian’s public launch, he was also $44,000 in the red.

The UK’s equivalent of ASIC, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), subsequently warned investors about criminals ‘cloning’ Kingsway Capital.

“Almost all companies and individuals carrying out financial services activities in the UK must be authorized or registered by us,” the post read.

‘This company is not authorized or registered by us, but has targeted people in the UK claiming to be an authorized company. This is what we call a “cloning firm.”

The FCA explained that clone companies can use the name and other details of real companies to mislead investors.

Rivian, once expected to rival Tesla in electric vehicle production, has seen its stock shrink nearly 67 percent since going public

Rivian, once expected to rival Tesla in electric vehicle production, has seen its stock shrink nearly 67 percent since going public

Rivian, once expected to rival Tesla in electric vehicle production, has seen its stock shrink nearly 67 percent since going public

Nauseatingly, the scammers asked Lawrence to prove he was who he said he was by sending them his passport details, which he did.

As a result, he is now scammed again when the criminals get loans and credit cards with his name and data, for example.

The only bright spot in the story is that he got more than half of his money back.

Bendigo Bank, which made the transfer to the US account, refunded him the $24,655 that had been transferred.

But a year later, the other $20,000 seems to have disappeared with no chance of getting it back.

However, it has not been smooth sailing for Rivian either.

Last month, it recalled nearly all of its vehicles because of loose fasteners that could affect the driver’s ability to steer.

It was once expected to rival Tesla in electric vehicle production, but Rivian’s stock has shrunk nearly 67 percent since its IPO.

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