Most financial scams are designed to get you to part with your personal details, and scammers will use all kinds of clever tactics to get them. Read about the different types of scam, how you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you’ve been targeted. And, if you have been misled by a scam, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Scammers are cunning and anyone can get caught out.
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When coronavirus hit the headlines, scammers didn’t waste any time finding new ways to take advantage. From urging people to buy overpriced or fake goods online like vaccines and facemasks, to targeting vulnerable people on the doorstep. Ultimately, criminals want to gather as much personal information as possible so they can steal identities. Here are some coronavirus scams to be aware of that are active right now.
Think before you click.
There have been reports of fake messages from Gov.uk about tax refunds, MOT extensions, benefits payments and fines. The messages are designed to entice you to click on a link or call a number that will divert you to a fake website or call centre where criminals will try to get your personal information.
Be cautious of unexpected emails or text messages asking you to click links or phone companies. Don’t provide any personal information unless you’re 100% sure you’re dealing with a genuine company. If in doubt, contact the company by looking-up their number, then call them back to confirm the message is really from them.
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The week after Covid19 officially became a pandemic, online shopping increased by 23% globally. It also saw a rise in the number of fake shopping sites selling this type of item:
People or companies offering products like this are almost always unlicensed and are not genuine businesses.
It’s okay to say no and to close the door.
There are lots of new groups springing up to help vulnerable people and, while most have good intentions, not all of them are genuine. You should check out anyone who’s offering services like shopping, home cleaning or medication collection to lonely or vulnerable people.
Be careful where you get information about coronavirus. Only use government and NHS websites or reputable news outlets for the latest coronavirus information.
Phishing emails look like they come from a person or organisation you trust, like a bank, credit card company or shopping website. These emails might even appear in a genuine chain of emails received from these organisations. Fraudsters use this trust to trick you into giving them personal information.
Fraudsters usually try to trick you into going to the website by saying you need to update your password to avoid your account being suspended, or the email might suggest you’ve won a prize. A link in the email itself will take you to a website that looks exactly like the genuine page. However, it's actually a fake designed to trick you into entering personal information.
If you're in any doubt, don’t open any links, attachments or respond to any requests for personal information. And if you’re unsure about an email, text message or phone call that appears to be from Skipton Building Society, call us on 0345 850 0469.
Vishing means 'voice phishing' and involves fraudsters calling you, pretending to be a person or organisation you trust like a bank or the police. Fraudsters use your trust to trick you into giving them personal information – they might already have carried out research to find some basic personal information so they’ll sound more convincing.
If you’re unsure about an email, text message or phone call that appears to be from Skipton Building Society, call us on 0345 850 0469.
Smishing means 'SMS phishing' and involves fraudsters sending you text messages, pretending to be a person or organisation you trust.These text messages might even appear in a genuine chain of text messages you've received from these organisations before. Fraudsters use your trust to trick you into giving them personal information. They’ll usually tell you there’s been fraudulent activity on your account and will ask you to call a number or visit a fake website to update your personal details.
You're at risk from pension fraud even if you're not a pensioner. Unfortunately, following government reforms introduced in April 2015, pension scams have become increasingly common.
It’s not just retirees who are affected, because defined contribution pension holders can now access their entire retirement fund from age 55. People are being encouraged to withdraw from their pensions and put money into schemes that offer large returns for a short-term investment. The 'investment' is actually deposited into a fraudulent account.
If you're under 55, you might be approached by someone promoting the benefits of early pension release schemes, and encouraged to access your pension early. The funds would actually be transferred into overseas schemes (with extortionate fees) or placed into high risk investments. And once money is transferred into an early release scheme, the scammers could take all of your pension pot.
Early pension release schemes are not authorised by HMRC and funds withdrawn will be charged anything from 55% to 70% in tax. The government only allows early access to pension funds in very limited circumstances. If you’re considering entering a scheme to access your pension before 55, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recommends seeking professional advice.
Firms, individuals and other bodies regulated by the FCA are unlikely to contact you unexpectedly or pressure you into making a decision. If they do, you should report them to the FCA straight away. If you’ve been approached by someone, you can check if they’re regulated by searching the Financial Services Register online – there's no charge.
If you're approached about your pension, warning signs include:
Criminals will use a stolen identity to obtain goods or services by deception. Victims often don't even notice the fraud until they receive an unexpected bill or start having problems with their credit rating.
If fraudsters can find out enough information about you, they can impersonate you and open new accounts, credit cards or loans in your name. Or they might take control of your existing accounts by impersonating you and changing the address of your account.
Information you post online can leave you vulnerable. Fraudsters use social media to gather information about people from social media too – addresses, children's names, pets' names and check-in locations.
If you think your identity might have been stolen – speak up. People who experience identity theft can feel embarrassed about being misled. But don’t be: scammers are extremely cunning and can deceive anyone.
If you're being bombarded with phone calls, letters or emails pressuring you to invest quickly, you might have been targeted by investment scammers. They might also send you glossy brochures and investment certificates. Scammers deliver a polished sales pitch and often present offers as ‘exclusive’ and tell you not to discuss them with anyone else. They offer investments in ‘unique commodities’ like wine, land banking, carbon credits, diamonds and graphite. Potential victims will be promised high returns but these will usually be worthless.
Share fraud and boiler room scams
Victims are sold overpriced or non-existent shares, usually with the promise of high returns. The fraudsters are usually highly trained and employ high pressure sales tactics to convince you to invest with them. They'll provide convincing statistics with a very short timescale to make a decision. Some will advertise in national press and set up fake or cloned company websites.
Some scammers pretend to be from authorised companies and will cold-call investors to promote investment opportunities that are non-tradable, worthless, over-priced or non-existent. They use the name and Financial Conduct Authority register number of a real company to appear genuine. If you feel suspicious about a firm that has approached you, check their registration number on the FCA website. The FCA register also tells you the switchboard number of the real firm, which you can call to check if the contact you’ve received is genuine or not.
You might be offered an investment opportunity from a firm that isn't regulated by the FCA. Please be cautious: if they’re unregulated, you have no protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, and you will be unable to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service if something goes wrong.
This happens when someone gives you a cheque they know you can’t cash. There are several variations of this scam, for example:
Protect yourself by:
Please speak to us if you have any worries about cheque fraud.
A Money Mule is someone who helps criminals launder money. Money Mules can be willing participants who know about the crime, or they might be tricked into it.
Innocent people will be persuaded into receiving money into their own accounts, then sending the money on. They'll usually be given a payment or ‘salary’ for doing this, and might have been led to believe they've been employed by a legitimate company.
Money laundering is the process of making illegally-gained finances appear legal. The funds are normally from the proceeds of crime. Money Mules could be criminally prosecuted for carrying out the transactions, their accounts could be closed and they could be held liable for the value of the transactions they received.
If you've got any concerns about being asked to carry out transactions through your own account on another person's behalf, please speak to us. Alternatively, report it to the police by calling the Action Fraud line on 0300 123 2040.
Often these cases begin with unsolicited visits from trade or salespeople at home. They might claim to have identified home maintenance problems just by looking at your property from the outside.
They may talk about doing work for neighbours or offering you a significant discount for paying cash. They may even mention government schemes or grants.
Points to look out for:
You can check whether a firm is reputable and reliable using one of the many trade checking websites available online.
If you've been a victim contact your local Trading Standards and report it to them.
They'll try to pressure you into agreeing to expensive work. They'll usually ask for payment or a large deposit upfront. An individual may even try to gain money by befriending potential victims to gain their trust.
If you agree to this kind of scam, the work might never be started or, if work begins, might be done badly.
If you've been a victim of fraud, speak to us as soon as possible.
Find out about the steps you can take to protect yourself from fraud.
See how we help protect your Skipton accounts from frauds and scams.
Here are some other official websites and resources dedicated to keeping you safe from fraud.
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Site intended for UK residents only. Skipton Building Society is a member of the Building Societies Association. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, under registration number 153706, for accepting deposits, advising on and arranging mortgages and providing Restricted financial advice. Principal Office, The Bailey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 1DN.