While many things have changed over the past 18 months, one thing that hasn’t is scammers’ desire to get their hands on your money.
Pension and investment fraud has been more virulent than ever, while other thieves have innovated with new scams to try and access your earnings.
According to financial trade association UK Finance, more than £750 million was stolen from customers in the first six months of 2021, an increase of 30% from the same period in 2020.
So, read on to find out about the latest scams you need to be aware of right now, as well as five tips for how to make sure you secure your finances so that only you benefit from all your hard work over the years.
One of the most common types of scams, “investment fraud” is where scammers try to get your money by offering new investment opportunities with unrealistically impressive returns.
Scammers might contact you via phone, text, or email with a complicated investment scheme that you’ve likely never heard of.
This has become a big problem on social media, with Action Fraud reporting that over £63 million had been lost to fake investments advertised on social media sites between May 2020 and May 2021.
Be cautious if you’re approached with an offer like this. You should never agree to an investment from someone you don’t know without taking financial advice first.
It’s also often prudent to ignore investment ads that you read online, particularly on social media.
“Pension fraud” involves scammers trying to get access to your pension pot, often with promises such as instant tax-free access to your pot or investment returns that would allow you to retire immediately.
According to FCA statistics published in Pensions Age magazine, more than £2.2 million was lost to pension scammers in the first six months of 2021 alone. The average losses for each individual were upwards of £50,000, an amount that could severely harm your retirement income.
Never trust individuals who say their schemes can circumvent UK pension rules. You should never make decisions with your pension pot before discussing it with a financial planner first.
Some particularly unscrupulous scammers have tried to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic by innovating a new set of healthcare scams.
These have included:
- Selling fake “vaccination passports” for those who have had both vaccine shots
- Charging to book vaccine appointments, despite them being free on the NHS
- Using fake ads to sell personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hand sanitiser and masks, and then not sending the products.
One particularly horrifying case saw a scammer inject a 92-year-old woman with a fake vaccine and then charge her £140.
Never take medical advice from anyone other than your GP or from the genuine NHS or Public Health England websites.
The pandemic has also created a wave of fraudulent activity related to deliveries as the number of products delivered to homes has increased.
This has included false text messages claiming to be from Hermes or Royal Mail, stating that a delivery couldn’t be made as a delivery fee hasn’t been paid.
You should never open links from messages you’re not expecting, nor should you input your details into these sites.
Check whether you’re expecting a delivery before you open any messages and pay any fees.
5 ways to stay safe from scams
1. Ignore cold calls, texts, or emails
The first thing to do to keep your money safe is to ignore cold calls, texts, or emails from people you don’t know.
Anyone who contacts you out of the blue with offers of boosting your money with secret hacks that no-one else is using is almost certainly a scammer trying to entice you with false promises.
Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
2. Learn to spot common “phishing” techniques
“Phishing” is a scammer’s technique where a scammer tries to get access to your money by masquerading as a trusted entity via emails or a fake website.
This could be a fraudster pretending to be a delivery company, such as in the Royal Mail or Hermes scams, but it may also involve someone acting as your bank or building society.
You can often discern the difference between phishing attempts and the real thing by looking for clues such as website domains and email addresses with inconsistencies, poor spelling and grammar in emails, or unusual requests such as to send money somewhere via a money transfer service.
If you’re unsure whether an email is legitimate, ask for help from a family member or contact the institution they’re claiming to be directly.
3. Beware push-payment fraud
Push-payment fraud is when scammers tell you there’s a time pressure for what they’re telling you, creating a false sense of urgency designed to force you into making a snap decision.
This could be in telling you that they have a fantastic investment opportunity but only if you invest right now. Or a scammer could be posing as your bank, telling you that you need to move money to another account to protect your wealth from a scam.
Real institutions and financial advisers will never force or rush you into making a decision like this. If there’s ever time pressure like this, reconsider whether you trust the person.
If they’ve phoned you, tell them you’ll phone back on a number that you know is genuine.
4. Keep your personal details secure
One of the most common ways for scammers to get access to your money is by stealing your personal details and getting direct access into your accounts.
There are plenty of things you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen, including:
- Using complex passwords and changing them often
- Never inputting passwords or personal details on public devices, Wi-Fi, or into sites that you don’t know or trust
- Never clicking links in texts or emails that you weren’t expecting to receive.
Keeping your details secure helps to prevent scammers from accessing your accounts.
5. Stop, challenge, protect
A great way to protect yourself for the long term is to use campaign group Take Five’s “stop, challenge, protect” method if you think something feels wrong:
- If something feels suspicious, stop. Take a moment and assess whether you think the person you’re speaking to is legitimate.
- Next, challenge the person you’re speaking to. Don’t be afraid to take your time and verify their identity, using the FCA’s Financial Services Register or similar resources. If the person you’re speaking to is genuine, they’ll understand your cautiousness.
- Finally, if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, you need to protect. This means changing passwords on any accounts you think a scammer now has access to and contacting your bank or building society to let them know that you think you’ve been scammed.
You should also consider reporting the fraud to Action Fraud to help prevent other people from giving their details to the scammer in the future.
Using this simple three-step process can help to make sure you don’t fall victim to a scam, and also gives you information on what to do if you think you may have inadvertently done so.
Work with us
If you’d like to find out how to protect your financial situation even further, please get in touch with us at Britannic Place.
We have years of experience in helping people just like you to keep their hard-earned money safe and secure.
Email [email protected] or call 01905 419890 to find out more about how we could help you.
This article is for information only. Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.