Financial scams on the rise: How to protect your money

Scammers are taking advantage of the uncertainty and stress caused by Covid-19 to approach more people. Figures show financial scams are on the rise and falling victim could affect your long-term security. However, there are warning signs to keep an eye out for to protect your assets.

Since the start of the pandemic, research from Aegon, suggests a fifth of the population have faced approaches by scammers, with 2.8 million falling victim. With some people feeling the pinch due to lower incomes and others wanting to make the most of savings amid a climate of low-interest rates, financial scams are on the rise.

While many financial scams involve smaller sums of money, fraudsters target larger savings too. Information released by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed scammers have successfully accessed more than £30 million from pensions in three years since 2017. Some of these victims lost as much as £500,000. Financial scams can not only have a devastating impact on your financial security but your wellbeing too.

The 5 most common financial scams

We often think we’d be able to spot a scam. But scammers are becoming more sophisticated and when you’re already under pressure it can be easy to overlook the warning signs. The first step to protecting your assets is to understand how scammers operate.

The FCA has identified the top five financial and bank scams as:

  1. Boiler room schemes: These types of scams will often start with a call out of the blue. Scammers will typically offer high investment returns and use high-pressure sales tactics to try and push you into quick decisions, such as moving your money to another account.
  2. Phishing scams and smishing scams: Phishing scams refer to emails you may receive that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as your bank. They will contain a link which the email will say you need to click on to verify your account, confirm a transaction or something similar. Instead, you’ll unwittingly give them your account details. Smishing scams are similar but the scam begins with a text.
  3. Pension liberation schemes: Pensions are usually among our largest source of savings and so present a tempting target to scammers. Unsolicited contact claiming they can help you access your pension early or have high-return investment opportunities should act as red flags.
  4. Homebuying fraud: When buying a property, we typically have a lot on our mind and scammers take advantage of this. Homebuying fraud involves a fraudster monitoring emails between a solicitor and a client intending to get you to transfer the sale money to them. As they’ve been monitoring communication, these emails can be convincing and lead to you sending large sums to the wrong account.
  5. Freebie scams: A freebie or free trial can be tempting. But if you need to enter your card details you may be signing up for an expensive monthly subscription that can be difficult to get out of. Once you approve this type of billing, payments can occur without any further contact. Of course, many businesses use a free trial model. Before supplying card details, make sure the firm is legitimate and manage payments carefully.

In many cases, if you fall victim to a scam it will be the last time you see your money, so remaining vigilant is important. If you think you’ve fallen victim to a financial scam, contact your bank or provider and Action Fraud, they may be able to stop the release of funds or recover the money.

6 things you can do to protect your money

1. Be wary of all unsolicited contact

While unsolicited communication can be tempting, it’s often the first sign of a scam. If you receive a call, text or email about your finances out of the blue, be cautious. Fraudsters using this tactic will usually be offering high-return investment or saving accounts to tempt you. Phrases such as a ‘free pension review’ or ‘pension unlocking’ are often indicators too. A ban on cold calling about pensions came into effect in 2019.

2. Verify who you’re speaking to

If you don’t recognise the person you’re talking to, take the time to do some due diligence. This should include checking the FCA register, which will show you if a firm or person is authorised. Keep in mind that number spoofing is becoming more common. This is where a criminal will manipulate the caller ID to suggest they are from a legitimate business, such as your bank. If you’re unsure, hang up the phone and call the firm directly on another phone where possible.

3. Don’t make quick decisions

Financial decisions can have a huge impact on your life and goals. Don’t rush into making them. A fraudster will try to push you into making snap decisions, so you don’t have the time to weigh up your options. They may do this by offering time-limited deals or even sending a courier to your house with documents to sign. Always take some time to think about your decisions. A professional will understand this and give you the time and space you need without pressure.

4. Understand your financial assets

Criminals often use a lack of understanding of financial assets to their advantage. For instance, they may suggest complicated investment opportunities or that you can access your pension sooner than possible. By understanding your assets, you’re in a better position to spot those trying to scam you.

5. Ask questions

Financial decisions can have a huge impact on your life, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need more information or clarification. A scammer may try to brush you off, but a professional will understand why it’s important and be happy to answer questions.

6. Be realistic

High returns can be tempting. After all, you want to get the most out of your money. But if someone is offering low-risk, high-return investments, take a step back and ask if it’s realistic. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

We’re here to help our clients with their financial plans, and that includes being aware of scams that could pose a threat to you. If you’d like to discuss your assets and how to get the most out of them with your aspirations in mind, please get in touch to arrange a meeting.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

PRIVACY NOTICE

Blue Financial Group Ltd (referred to as ‘we’ or ‘us’) takes the privacy and security of your personal information seriously. This policy sets out the basis on which any personal data we collect from you or you provide to us, will be processed. Please ensure you understand our policy and practices in relation to holding your personal data and how we process it.
By visiting our website or engaging with us, you consent to the practices laid out in this policy.

DISCLOSURE OF YOUR INFORMATION

We may share personal data we hold about you with other parties. however, this will only be with companies who we work with on your behalf and for a legitimate purpose, which is necessary to ensure that we remain compliant with our legal and regulatory responsibilities. Steps will be taken to ensure that the information is accurate, kept up to date and not kept for longer than is necessary.
We will ensure your data is safeguarded against unauthorised or unlawful processing. The information you provide is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998 (the ‘Act’). By signing our Service Charter, you consent to us or any company associated with us processing your personal data. We will not share or sell personal information about you with third parties except to provide the information, products or services you have requested.
Under the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation individuals have a Right to Erasure (‘right to be forgotten’) which can be applied to personal data, in specific circumstances, and is a right that you may be able to exercise for the data that we hold for you. However, we can refuse to comply with a request for erasure where the personal data is being processed to comply with a legal obligation. Under FCA regulation we have a mandatory requirement to retain your data for specified periods (and for some products, such as occupational pension transfers, we are required to retain this data indefinitely) which may impact your Right to Erasure.
If at any time you wish us, or any company associated with us to cease processing your personal data or sensitive personal data, or contacting you for marketing purposes, please contact The Data Protection Officer on (01403 334455) or in writing at Best Practice IFA Group Ltd, Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 4QP. Subject to certain exceptions, you are entitled to have access to your personal and sensitive personal data held by us.

SAFEGUARDING DATA

We are required to follow procedures with regards to maintaining the confidentiality of your personal information. We will continually review these procedures to ensure your information remains safeguarded and will make changes as we deem it appropriate to do so.
However, when sharing information via the Internet, due to its open nature, we cannot guarantee the security of such information that you transmit via our website.

INFORMATION WE MAY COLLECT FROM YOU

We may collect and process the following data about you:
• Information you provide – You may give us information about you by completing our contact form on our Website or by engaging with us via phone, email or in writing. The information would likely include your name, address, email address and any other contact information. It will also include other detailed financial and personal information about you if you engage with our services.
• Information we collect – When you visit our website we may collect the following information:
o Technical information including your IP address, browser type and version, pages visited, geographic location and your device information.

HOW WE MAKE USE OF THE INFORMATION

We may use your personal information in the following ways:
• To provide you with any services/products you request from us and notify you of any changes. This includes carrying out our ongoing obligations/service to you that arise from any contracts entered between you and us.
• To meet our compliance, regulatory and legal requirements as defined by the varying bodies that regulate us.

STORING YOUR PERSONAL DATA

We take appropriate measures to ensure that any personal data are kept secure, including security measures to prevent personal data from being accidentally lost, or used or accessed in an unauthorised way. We limit access to your personal data to those who have a genuine business need to know it. Those processing your information will do so only in an authorised manner and are subject to a duty of confidentiality.
We also have procedures in place to deal with any suspected data security breach. We will notify you and any applicable regulator of a suspected data security breach where we are legally required to do so.
Unfortunately, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to the Website; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.
Keeping your personal data up to date
If your personal details change you may update them by accessing this data through the wealth platform portal, or by contacting us using the contact details below. If you have any questions about how we use data collected which relates to you, please contact us via phone or email.
We will endeavour to update your personal data within seven working days of any new or updated personal data being provided to us, in order to ensure that the personal data We hold about you is as accurate and up to date as possible.
How long we keep your personal data
• We will hold personal data (e.g. name, address, date of birth and contact details) in line with our regulatory and legal obligations as set out by our regulator – currently a minimum of 5 years for investment business and indefinitely for occupational pension transfer or opt-out business.
Where we store your personal data
All of the information that we hold about you is stored on secure servers that comply with the GDPR requirements. They also comply with the most widely accepted standards and regulations like ISO27001, 27017, 27018 and SOC 1, 2 and 3.
If you would like further information please contact us or the Compliance Director at Best Practice IFA Group Limited, of which we are an Appointed Representative (see ‘Contact’ below).

YOUR RIGHTS

Under the General Data Protection Regulation you have a number of important rights free of charge. In summary, those include rights to:
• Access to your personal data and to certain other supplementary information that this policy is already designed to address
• Require us to correct any mistakes in your information which we hold
• Require the erasure of personal data concerning you in certain situations
• Receive the personal data concerning you which you have provided to us, in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format and have the right to transmit those data to a third party in certain situations
• Object at any time to processing of personal data concerning you for direct marketing
• Object to decisions being taken by automated means which produce legal effects concerning you or similarly significantly affect you
• Object in certain other situations to our continued processing of your personal data
• Otherwise restrict our processing of your personal data in certain circumstances
• Claim compensation for damages caused by our breach of any data protection laws.
For further information on each of those rights, including the circumstances in which they apply, see the Guidance from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on individuals rights under the General Data Protection Regulation

HOW TO COMPLAIN

We have that we or our Compliance Director can resolve any query or concern you raise about our use of your information. The General Data Protection Regulation also gives you right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority, in particular the European Union (or European Economic Area) state where you work, normally live or where any alleged infringement of data protection laws occurred. The supervisory authority in the UK is the Information Commissioner who may be contacted at https://ico.org.uk/concerns/ or telephone 0303 1231113.

COOKIE POLICY

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TYPES OF COOKIES USED

The website uses cookies for a variety of reasons but with the main purpose of ensuring the website runs as efficiently as possible.

We use all or some of the following categories of cookies on our website:

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CONTACT

All questions, comments and requests regarding this Privacy and Cookies Policy should be addressed to Robert Bowers rob.bowers@bluewealth.co.uk or write to us at 3 Westbury Mews, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS9 3QA. Alternatively, please contact our Compliance Director at Best Practice IFA Group Ltd, Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 4QP. Tel 01403 334455 or via email at info@bestpractice.co.uk