Fraud alert on offshore share deals.
The warning came after customers lost thousands of pounds they had been persuaded by Caribbean-registered companies registered to spend on penny shares over the last few months.
By registering abroad and working across international boundaries, the firms avoid being tracked down or prosecuted and are not subject to regulation by the investment watchdog, the Financial Services Authority.
The companies offer penny share investors reports on companies listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
High pressure sales techniques are used to persuade investors to buy stocks, but often nothing is bought and even when some are bought, the investor never receives the share certificates enabling them to sell them.
One investor, a Midland man who wished only to be known as Richard, said he had lost pounds 4,000 this year dealing with one offshore company. He said: 'They wrote to me and claimed they were a stockbrokers and it all seemed very convincing. They had an address in the City and asked if I would like free advice on a particular company.'
West Midlands Police said it could not discuss individual firms but warned investors about offshore share companies.
Det Insp Dave Churchill, head of the force's Major Fraud Unit, said: 'There have been a number of recent cases of this type of fraud, and people should take great care when deciding who to invest their money with.'