The Prince of Poyais – it wouldn’t happen to you, would it?

London, 1820 – A Prince called Gregor has recently arrived claiming to hail from an unknown land called Poyais. A place that until now, people have only dreamed of. The Prince had much to tell about the paradise he called home.

Resources and food sources were aplenty – between the roadways sat plantations of sugar, coffee and cotton. Herds of animals spent their days grazing on the hillsides, the rarest of fruits grew on the trees and the fertile ground could produce three harvests a year.

Not forgetting the bustling capital of Poyais. Lined with an array of breath-taking buildings – a Royal Palace, an Opera house and a grand Cathedral. Mansions were the go to residence, reflecting the roaring success of the warehouses that filled the quaysides of the ports.

The picture painted was a stark contrast to the British Isles. At the time of Gregor’s arrival it had suffered two decades of warfare that had exhausted the country. Men were eager for a fresh start. A distraction. They were ready to follow any lure of fortune that promised an escape from the bleak post-war world that engulfed them. And Poyais, shouting out for willing investors and settlers, did just that.

Before too long the story of Prince Poyais and his golden empire was broadcast across London and Scotland through every available means. Offices were opened so land in Poyais could be sold over the counter. And applications from perspective settlers began to pour in.

Not what they expected

On 10 September 1822, the first party of settlers set sail to Poyais – a collection of farmers, tradespeople and professionals.

Excited and optimistic, the small group sailed towards what were actually the abandoned swamps of Nicaragua. On arrival they found themselves stranded on an uninhibited shore. No ports, no development, nothing but a wasteland.

Poyais had never existed, and neither had its Prince – Gregor was actually a native of Glengyle, Scotland. And he’d drawn his investors and aspiring settlers to a desolate part of Honduras. A scam thought up to con thousands of people out of their money, and in the end a few hundred of the stranded their lives.

Thankfully the British Navy recalled the remaining five ships en route, but by this time MacGregor had escaped to France. In total MacGregor conned a total of about £21 million in today’s money.

I’d never fall for something like that

MacGregor was clever. A true con-artist. He published interviews in national papers highlighting the perks that came with investing or settling in Poyais. He even went to the extreme lengths of writing a book about Poyais under the false name of Dr. Thomas Strangeways.

It’s unlikely a scam as elaborate as MacGregor’s could be pulled off today. But the reality is financial scams are becoming much more widespread. And fraudsters are employing a range of cunning tactics to fool an increasing number of people.

In today’s world of modern technology it’s easy to create a professional looking website. Much like MacGregor’s book written by Dr Strangeways. Or it may be someone tries to lure you into a once in a lifetime overseas investment. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And much like MacGregor turned up out of the blue with his tales of Poyais, scammers will more often than not contact you unexpectedly.

Just like MacGregor, a scammer doesn’t care about your wealth or even your age. If they think they’ve got a chance they’ll give it a go.

We're committed to protecting you and your money from scammers. And we want you to be aware of the tell-tale signs. To help you with this we offer a helpful scam brochure. Call 0800 055 6898 today to order yours.

If you believe you’ve been scammed don’t be afraid to speak up. Ensure you report it to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can call them on 0800 111 6768.

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