Scammers taking it to the next level
When it comes to being scammed, it’s easy to dismiss the idea of it and say, “that will never happen to me” or “that only happens to other people.” But it might surprise you to hear that research by Citizens Advice has revealed that more than two thirds of adults (36 million) have been targeted by a scammer between January and June 2021. With fraudsters finding new techniques and angles all the time, the reality is that anyone could be targeted.
The level of sophistication displayed by scammers is growing all the time. They are articulate, have strong financial knowledge, and own very professional looking websites, which can make them very hard to distinguish from the real thing.
These types of scam attempts can include fake adverts that offer you higher than average returns, plus what’s known as template phishing organisations. These basically involve sending emails and letters linking to phoney websites, under the guise of reputable companies, attempting to fool customers into revealing personal information the scammer can use.
Scams rife during the pandemic
As technology continues to play a huge part in the way we live our lives in a post-Covid world, it is an unfortunate consequence that this will mean there are more opportunities for scammers to take what doesn’t belong to them too. And with fraud losses totalling £479 million in 2020 according to a 2021 UK Finance report, up five per cent on the previous year, it’s a serious problem.
Meaning it’s more important than ever to be wary of the possibility of being targeted by a scammer.
When many of us were worrying about our loved ones during the pandemic, scammers didn’t waste any time finding new ways to take advantage of people – especially when it comes to their investments.
The tell-tale signs of a scam
No matter how savvy you are with your investments, you could still be caught out by a bogus financial adviser or advisory firm seemingly offering you something legitimate.
A fraudster might bombard you with phone calls, letters or emails – often pressuring you to ‘invest’ quickly with them, so you don’t miss out on a deal. You may also receive glossy brochures, investment certificates and a polished sales pitch. But don’t be fooled.
Regardless of sophisticated methods used by fraudsters, there are certain red flags that can actually help you identify a potential investment scam:
- Out of the blue contact – fraudsters tend to use cold-calling as their method of choice, but contact can come from a variety of sources like email, post, or even in person. A reputable organisation would never contact you this way.
- Added time pressures – these might come in the form of limited time offers or exclusive discounts if you invest before a certain date.
- Improbable investment returns – with the promise of tempting returns to draw you in and much better interest rates than elsewhere.
- Dazzling with professionalism - using glossy literature and fancy websites, many people can be duped in to thinking they are speaking with an authority on investment products.
A key rule of thumb to consider is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Extra guidance when you need it the most
If you do receive an offer that sounds wonderful and potentially life-changing, it’s a good idea to be cautious and take some time to consider it. Don’t let pushy salespeople force you into making a quick decision you might regret.
You should also be wary of anyone asking you to pay money upfront, and never hand over any money until you’ve had chance to check over their credentials.
Here at Skipton we’ve been providing a financial advice service to help our customers for over 30 years, and we want to use that experience to help you avoid falling victim to a scam.
To help you feel more prepared for the world of scammers, we have created a special 'How to spot a scam' (PDF) guide, which breaks down some of the most common forms of scams out there today.
You’ll find information on the different types of scams to watch out for, plus guidance on what to do if you suspect you’re being targeted. If you think you have been scammed, there’s also a step-by-step guide on what you need to do.