Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
J.H. writes: Have you seen that James Lees, the son of TV chef and personality Rustie Lee, is a huge promoter of the CashFX scam?
Delays in getting withdrawals from CashFX started in May and have gradually got worse.
Delays are now eight or nine weeks, and members are waking up to the fact that this is a scam and things are not right.
Support: Television celebrity Rustie Lee with her son James Lees
Tony Hetherington replies: CASHFX is an illegal foreign exchange trading scheme based in Panama but with tentacles stretching around the world. More than two dozen countries and financial regulators have issued public warnings against it, including our own Financial Conduct Authority.
It poses as an educational business, selling training manuals about ‘forex’ trading, but with a nod and a wink, its promoters convince recruits they do not need to learn a thing. The real money is made by simply investing a lump sum, with even more if you recruit all your friends and family into the scheme. Rustie Lee has been on numerous TV programmes going back many years. Recently her son James (and yes, he does have an ‘S’ at the end of his surname, while she does not) joined her on Channel 5’s Million Pound Motorhomes, and he is a prolific and flamboyant figure in online videos. But does James tell the truth?
In one online announcement about CashFX, he claims that ‘we are going to be FCA regulated’. This is so false it is laughable.
The FCA says: ‘This firm is not authorised by us and is targeting people in the UK. You will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so you are unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong.’
Of course, just selling training manuals needs no authorisation, so is James Lees on safe legal ground? No, he is not.
In one presentation he tells victims he lost money when he tried forex trading for himself, but now relies on CashFX: ‘With this, I can see the benefit. You are letting the experts trade for you.’
I asked both James and his mother Rustie to comment on this illegal activity. James clammed up, while Rustie suggested I needed her ‘celebrity’ status to attract readers.
She added that she has no link to CashFX and explained: ‘Any online/facebook chat between my son and I are of a private mother/son nature about life matters and have/had nothing to do with CashFX.’
Her husband and business partner Andreas Hohmann chimed in too, telling me it was ‘distasteful’ that I should even approach Rustie with my questions.
He threatened: ‘I will not have you use Rustie and bring her celebrity and good name to this non-event of a story.’
He later backtracked very slightly, saying he advised James to stay away from CashFX.
So just how private are the online chats between Rustie Lee and her son? Not at all, since he posts them for the world to see.
Alongside one promotional video he announces that, ‘profits are better than wages’ and provides a link to his personal CashFX recruiting website.
And in the video itself, Rustie Lee tells him how proud she is: ‘You’re my son, you’re not a trickster. You’re honest, and if it is not right you would not do it, so good luck to you and good luck to the people you’re looking after.’
A private chat between mother and son? Not likely. After it ended, James posted a message: ‘Wow, 1.5k views, thanks Rustie Lee.’
The blunt fact is that James Lees is recruiting victims into an illegal investment scheme, and it is one I warned against last year and again earlier this year.
Why the repeat warnings? Because the FCA is a failed watchdog that regards a notice on its website as if it is real action.
It devotes its ‘woke’ energies to telling financial firms they need more gender diversity and how they should react to climate change. Meanwhile, it licenses crooks without proper checks and has long since abandoned the idea of protecting victims of scams.
I did invite the FCA to comment today, but after saying it would think about it the regulator decided to go back to sleep instead. When, I wonder, will MPs and the Treasury Select Committee wake up?
Why working out taxes is so taxing
Ms J.S. writes: Revenue & Customs notified me that I was due a refund of £199 tax that was paid on a PPI claim.
The company that represented me, PPI Tax Advisory, say they never received Revenue & Customs’ cheque.
Seven phone calls and six letters to the taxman have failed to solve the mystery, and the claims firm washed its hands of it. Surely Revenue & Customs can trace whether or not its cheque has been banked?
Refund: Revenue & Customs has done its sums all over again and come up with a £150 refund
Tony Hetherington replies: Bizarrely, soon after you contacted me you received a second letter from the taxman, this time saying a further cheque for £45 had been sent to the same agent, but with nothing to show how this was calculated.
It took senior staff at Revenue & Customs headquarters to explain to me what had happened. Your agent submitted claims covering three years, from 2016 to 2019, but you had already filed a self-assessment tax return for one of those years and had a refund.
When Revenue & Customs sent the £199 refund, it made the cheque out incorrectly and needed to reissue the payment, but then failed to keep a record of this. Staff recalculated your refund and sent the £45.
Next though, they discovered an earlier agent that acted for you had also made a mistake, leaving you now with a tax bill of £151, and not a refund. The bottom line to all of this, I am glad to say, is that Revenue & Customs has done its sums all over again, resulting in a £150 refund which has been sent to PPI Tax Advisory. A Revenue spokesman said: ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience caused – and have now corrected Ms S’s record.’
The taxman has also sent you £75 compensation. I invited PPI Tax Advisory to comment but it did not respond, though it did finally send you £147, which is your tax refunds less its commission. Who says working out your taxes isn’t taxing.
Virgin called in debt collectors
P.L. writes: We switched from Virgin Media to BT. We had already paid Virgin in advance, and received a mobile phone refund but nothing for our landline and broadband package. Then Virgin collected a further £72 from our bank account.
On the right wavelength: Tony asked Virgin to call off its debt collectors while it got its act together, and it did so
Tony Hetherington replies: You told me that when you contacted Virgin, staff apologised and said they would sort this out, but instead of money back you received a letter from debt collectors saying you owed even more. I asked Virgin to call off its debt collectors while it got its act together, and it did so.
Virgin Media now says: ‘We apologise to Mr L for any distress caused. ‘We have issued a cheque for £101 to refund the money taken in error and will remove any outstanding balance on his account.’
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
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