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Threats to be aware of

Fraudsters come up with new tactics all the time. Below you can find more information on the most common types of fraud which could affect you.

Look out for:

  • Identity fraud happens when your personal details are being used without your knowledge to open accounts and apply for services. In many cases, all the fraudsters will need is your full name, date of birth and address. They can obtain this information in a variety of ways including taking documents from your rubbish or contacting you and posing to be a legitimate organisation. Remember, your identity and personal information are valuable assets. Keep them safe and secure.

  • Phishing communications are made to look as though they have been sent by a genuine sender. They are designed to trick you into inadvertently disclosing confidential information to fraudsters, which happens when you reply to the fake email, open an attachment which in turn implants malicious software or a virus on your device, or click on any links which lead to spoofed websites. Remember that phishing can also happen through phone calls, fake texts pretending to be from your bank, and social media posts. Be skeptical of any communication which pressures you into acting quickly, or asks for confidential information. Think twice before clicking on links or opening attachments from unverified sources.

  • Fraudsters can install malware on your device enabling them to harvest your credentials. When they have obtained enough information, they can take control of your accounts by using your login details or by resetting them. To protect yourself, invest in an up-to-date firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and perform regular security sweeps on your device. Update your software regularly to prevent fraudsters from exploiting the vulnerabilities of any outdated programs. Remain vigilant and monitor your accounts. Report any unauthorised activity immediately.

  • Cold calls and out-of-the-blue contact from someone offering an opportunity to invest into a scheme, investment or product that is either worthless or doesn’t exist. These types of scams usually operate out of what is known as ‘Boiler Rooms’.

    For many fraudsters, it is a full-time job meaning they have time to build a relationship with you and make you more vulnerable to their exploits. Their aim is to take your money and convince you that you have invested in something worthwhile. Once you have parted with your money, you will unlikely be able to get back in contact with them or get your money back.

    How do I spot them?

    • Beware of any out-of-the-blue telephone contact or correspondence which offers interest in your shareholdings, guaranteed returns, or ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ investment opportunities.
    • High pressure tactics pushing you to make a quick decision – suggestions that it is a limited time only offer and something that is ‘personally good for you’.
    • Promises of high returns – if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.
    • Any concerns you may raise are disregarded and brushed off.
    • If you indicate you are not interested, they will persist. A legitimate firm would not push you to make a decision you are not comfortable with or are not interested in.
    • You may be told to keep the investment a secret to protect the returns being promised. In reality, they just want to prevent you from discussing with anyone else so they don’t get found out.
    • They are likely to have obtained your details from old share registers. You should therefore be wary of any reference to investments you may have held in the past where you are being offered a pay-out or requesting you pay a fee (sometimes disguised as a tax) to ‘purchase’ these from you.

    How do I protect myself?

    • If you have any suspicions, or if – separately – you are considering an investment, take steps to independently verify the contact you’ve received (name, address, registration numbers etc.)
    • Do not be afraid to terminate unexpected calls if you have any concerns or are uncomfortable.
    • Any companies offering investments in the UK must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Check the details on the FCA register – register.fca.org.uk
    • Be wary of clone firms. You can also check the details against the unauthorised firms and individuals list – www.fca.org.uk/consumers/unauthorised-firms-individuals
    • Be a ScamSmart investor and visit the FCA’s ScamSmart pages where there is a wealth of information to help you protect yourself – www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart
    • If you have fallen victim to a scam in the past, be aware of Fraud Recovery Scams.

  • Similar to Investment Scams, the scammers use a number of tactics to gain your trust. They may falsely claim to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or that they work for Pension Wise, the government service. The contact will come out-of-the blue by phone, email, text or even from a friend or family member who may also have been unwittingly a victim.

    The scammers will try to persuade you to transfer your pension or even offer to help release cash from your pension early, or promise you a payment outside of your pension to encourage you to part with your hard-earned savings. They will also try to convince you to invest your pension into a unique, yet unusual, high-risk investment.

    How do I spot them?

    • Out-of-the-blue contact.
    • Offers of free pension reviews.
    • Promises of high returns – if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.
    • Offers to help you obtain money out of your pension even though you are under the age of 55. Any offer to take money out of your pension before 55 is very likely to be a scam and could lead you with a huge tax bill and other charges.
    • Unusual investments that will tend to be unregulated and illiquid.
    • Unclear structures where it is difficult to understand where your money is going and where it will ultimately end up. Also, unusual arrangements where multiple people are involved (of which some may be overseas).
    • High pressure tactics pushing you to make a quick decision – suggestions that it is a limited time only offer and something that is ‘personally good for you’.

    How do I protect myself?

    • Reject any out-of-the-blue contact. If you get a cold call about your pension, the safest thing to do is to hang up – it’s illegal and probably a scam. Report pension cold calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – www.ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages
    • Ignore any offers of a ‘free pension review’.
    • Before considering any changes to your pension, consider taking independent advice from an FCA regulated financial advisor. Alternatively, MoneyHelper provides free and impartial information and guidance.
    • Even well-versed and experienced investors fall victim to these scams. Before you commit to any offers, ensure you do extensive independent research and check all the information thoroughly yourself. Visit the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) ScamSmart pages (www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart) where you can also check the FCA warnings list and whether or not the company is operating with or without FCA authorisation – remember, If you don’t use an FCA-authorised firm, you also won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) so you’re unlikely to get your money back if things do go wrong.
    • Report any suspicions of a scam to Action Fraud using their online reporting tool (www.actionfraud.police.uk) or by calling 0300 123 2040.