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Investment scams – how to spot the signs to help protect you and your money

We take a closer look at the latest spate of investment scams and how you can help protect yourself and your money.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

It’s a sad truth that fraud is ever-present, threatening every part of society. It now makes up for well over a third of all crimes in the UK.

One particularly prevalent type of scam is Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud. It’s not a new scam but is being used more and more by fraudsters. In the first half of 2021, losses to APP fraud in the UK hit £355.3m, overtaking card fraud for the first time.

What is Authorised Push Payment fraud?

APP fraud is where victims are tricked into transferring money to an account fraudsters control. They pretend to be a trusted organisation like the FCA, HMRC, law enforcement, the victim’s bank or investment provider like HL. They sometimes also pretend to be someone the victim knows like a family member or friend.

The fraudster will often tell the victim their money is at risk and they need to move it to a ‘safe’ account. They might even ask the victim to lie to their bank or other financial institution about the reason for withdrawing money – this is a tell-tale sign of a scam and something to look out for.

As more of us use online banking these days to make it easier to transfer money in real time, it means more of us are at risk. Scammers can trick victims into using real-time payment schemes to transfer the money to them. These payments are irreversible, a victim can’t cancel the payment once they realise they’ve been scammed.

While banks usually refund you for card fraud, there’s limited protection against APP fraud. It’s notoriously difficult for companies to detect as the victim authorises the payment themselves – making it appear a legitimate instruction. This makes knowing how to spot the signs of APP fraud crucial.

Fraudsters come up with new tactics all the time. You can keep up to date with information across our security centre about the most common threats to be aware of.

Spotting the signs – what to beware of:

  • Cold calls – beware of unexpected calls claiming to be your bank, HMRC, or another reputable company, like HL.
  • Pressure to send payments – if anyone asks you to send a payment or move your savings, and pressures you to do it quickly – this is probably a scam.
  • Intercepted messages – be careful of the emails and messages you’re sending and receiving as they can be intercepted. Look out for anything unusual.
  • Security details – never disclose your full security details over the phone. We’ll never ask you to do that and it’s very unlikely other companies will either.
  • Ask questions – just because someone knows your basic details (like your name and address), doesn’t mean they’re genuine. A quick online search and your own personal research around the contact you’ve received can quickly reveal if it could be a scam.

If you think it might be a scam, don’t try to catch them out. Stop contact with them and report your concerns straight away using contact details provided on the company’s website or letters they’ve sent you.

Most importantly, trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Fraudsters are clever, and for many it’s a full-time job. They might sound convincing, authoritative or professional, and will use lots of different tactics to get your trust and ultimately your money.

If you think you’ve been scammed, you should report it to Action Fraud, either online or by calling 0300 123 2040. You can also report it to the FCA, either online or by telephoning 0800 111 6768.

Further guidance & support:

Get Safe Online


A leading source of up-to-date, straightforward information about online safety.

Met Police - Personal fraud and how to prevent it


What to look out for and how to stay safe.

Take Five - Stop Fraud

Impartial advice to help everyone in the UK protect themselves against fraud.

Age UK

Booklets produced by Age UK about scams.

Help with the emotional impact of fraud

If you do fall victim to fraud, this can have a huge emotional impact as well as being financially crippling. Victims can often feel embarrassed and don’t want to tell people what’s happened, even though they’re not to blame.

If you need to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, you can contact Victim Support either online or via their support line on 0808 168 9111. You can also contact The Samaritans at any time of the day or night on 116 123.

If a scam has left you struggling financially, contact Citizens Advice. You can speak to an adviser to help you find a way forward, through their Adviceline. They’re available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. If you live in England call 0800 144 8848. If you live in Wales call 0800 702 2020.

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    Important notes

    This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

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