When it comes to financial scams and fraud, it’s always easier to prevent than deal with the aftermath. Falling victim to such crimes can be extremely damaging to your psychological, emotional and financial wellbeing. Hence, we take this very seriously and make sure that our clients are aware of the risks and know what to do to protect themselves.

We need your help by making us aware of any potential frauds or scams you have identified or have fallen victim to. This will allow us to assist you and your financial adviser in better recognising potential harm and avoiding it in the future. We can also use these examples to help us to develop further fraud controls and guidelines on our platforms and through colleague training.

Financial scams come in many shapes or forms and can be difficult to identify and distinguish from normal financial services operations. It’s very common for fraudsters to use techniques similar to processes such as verification and exchange of documents, especially when targeting less tech-savvy customers. In order to prevent this, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and know how to deal with suspicious situations.

Identity fraud and security

It may seem harmless at first glance, but leaving personal data in the web space may provide fraudsters with enough material to break into your accounts through guessing your passwords and secure questions. Once they have obtained your personal and confidential information, they can steal your identity, takeover your accounts and products and can commit financial crimes such as taking out loans or credit cards in your name, withdrawing from your bank account or making purchases with your funds.

You may not be aware that your personal data has been compromised and we would encourage you to take note of any potential fraud flags sent from your bank, building society or financial service provider. You can double check the legitimacy of these by contacting your provider via their normal customer services helpline which should be available on their website or on the back of your bank card.

Negating the damage done by identity theft is a prolonged process, so remaining careful and not exposing confidential information online can be crucial for prevention.

Impersonation of Financial Institution Scams

There is an increase in the number of impersonation scams where fraudsters will pretend to be a trusted organisation, either your bank, building society or even Government departments such as HMRC. They may contact you either via phone, text or email and may look for you to take urgent action on providing personal information, to move money or make a payment to an external link. It is important to remember that your financial institution will never ask you for your online login passwords, any One Time Passwords (OTPs) or to approve any payments/money movement that you do not recognise.

If you are unsure if a request is genuine, you can end the call or leave the text/email unanswered and contact your financial services provider through their customer service helplines to check. You can also call 159 to report any instances of fraud or scams where you have been contacted by someone pretending to be from your financial services provider.

Online and Social Media safety

It’s important to remain vigilant online, especially when you are in public. Try to avoid making transactions, online purchases or banking while in public, and make sure you properly log out and close your sessions. It is recommended that you do not access any public Wi-Fi domains when paying for products/services or accessing your online banking or financial products and to ensure the website is secure (using an “https://” web address).

You should always try to use passwords that include a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers to minimise the changes of these being compromised. You should avoid information that may be readily available on social media, such as your children or pet’s names, birthdays or the name of the place you live, and try to make sure you have different passwords for different accounts. Although it goes without saying, you shouldn’t tell people what your passwords or PINs are.

To protect yourself from a cybersecurity standpoint, it can be beneficial to ensure you have installed the latest software updates to your devices, and you can also have an antivirus software. It is recommended that you do not open any links or download any documents sent to you via text or email from unknown addresses or phone numbers. Remember you can call 159 to report any instances of fraud or scams where you have been contacted by someone pretending to be from your financial services provider.

Email security

When using email, you should try to always verify the sender is legitimate and avoid clicking on links from unfamiliar senders. The golden rule is that if the contents of an email seem too good to be true, it probably is. You should never give any personal or financial information via email, reply to emails that you don’t expect, or open attachments that you don’t expect.

Good indicators that an email might be fraudulent are typos, bad grammar, spelling mistakes, lack of personalisation, use of different fonts and font sizes, using image rather than text and lots of suspicious links.

Common online scams

Fraudsters are always finding new ways to scam and dupe the general public and are often at the forefront of technology changes and improvements, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) now commonly being used to identify personal information that can be used to gain access to products and open new accounts.

The most types of common online scams are as follows:

  • Cryptocurrency scams
    Be aware of social media adverts promising large returns on investment or adverts containing celebrities or high profile individuals – these are often used to promote fake investments.
  • Investment Scams
    Fraudsters may try and get you to invest in fake commodities, shares or schemes which don’t exist or won’t provide the returns they promise.
  • Romance fraud
    If you are approached or contacted by someone you don’t know or haven’t met online, spark a friendship or romance then they ask for money – you may have been the victim of a romance scam.

You can read in detail about the potential dangers of these and more.

While it’s important to know the theoretical risks of scams and fraud, identifying and taking preventative measures can be very difficult. We’ve created a framework that may help you with protecting yourself against fraud below:

Steps to protect yourself

To remain vigilant and identify potential financial harm, you may consider the following points:

  • Familiarise yourself with the risk of fraud – this page on the FCA website might be useful
  • Consider organisations that fight fraud - these include Take Five (national campaign with advice on how to stop fraud), Stop Scams UK (industry-led collaboration Stop Scams UK), Get Safe Online (advice on how to avoid being scammed online) and Action Fraud amongst others
  • Banks actively inform you if there’s a concern that you’re at risk of identity theft. These can be easy to confuse with scam messages, but for safety purposes, we'd recommend contacting your bank directly via a known number or secure messaging service.
  • Be aware of the rise in AI-powered voice-cloning technology and to the potential of being scammed over the phone into sending money to someone you believe is a family member.
  • Consider the prevalence of ‘phishing’ scams and to be wary of clicking on any online ads, emails or messages, especially if they’re offering deals. Also, if you’re expecting a parcel delivery, it’s easier to fall for scam emails and texts about missed parcels with fraudulent links to ‘track package’.
  • You should aim to protect yourself if you’re contacted by a suspicious email or caller. Authenticate the caller as you would expect to be authenticated by your bank, e.g. ask the suspicious caller something they should know.
You can find out more about the dangers of pensions and investments scams, and the importance of preventing them and the potential harm they can cause.