We’ve listed the top five financial scams to look out for in the UK. It’s important to protect yourself from scams so you don’t let a lifetime’s savings and investments be lost in moments.
1. Boiler-room Schemes
These scams promise investors impressive returns, but they deliver nothing apart from a great big loss. More than 5,000 investors lost a combined £1.73 billion through boiler-room schemes reported to the Action Fraud crime-prevention centre in 2014.
Victims will receive a telephone call out of the blue and be offered an investment opportunity with sky-high returns of as much as 40%. You will most likely be told that you must act fast and asked to transfer your money straight away. It’s common for victims to part with tens of thousands of pounds. Boiler rooms are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This means that if you hand over your cash, it might be the last you will see of it.
Take Action – Check the FCA status of any firm you intend to deal with for investments. Call 0800 111 6768 or go to www.fca.org.uk/register.
The most common scams come from fraudsters posing as someone official, such as your bank or building society. Typically, you receive an email or text asking you to click a link and verify login, account and password details. The communication received is from a fraudster who will be able to read the information you type in, should you fall for their trick.
This information is then used to raid your account, if you lose money this way, you won’t get it back.
Take Action – Your bank will never ask you to disclose full security and password details, so alarm bells should ring. If in doubt, call your bank and ask them if they have tried to contact you.
3. Pension Liberation
Scammers are bombarding people aged 55 and over with bogus investment opportunities to try to get hold of their pension savings.
One of the most common scams since the pension freedoms were announced involves alleged investment opportunities abroad.
Low interest rates are tempting to some people to take extra risks, so they are vulnerable to such fake investments. Fraudsters can approach you by post, email or telephone.
Take Action – If you’re offered a ‘must-have’ investment or a free pension ‘review’ out of the blue, be wary. Also, be concerned if you’re warned that the deal is limited and you must act now. Choosing the right retirement income product is a big decision and shouldn’t be done quickly or under pressure. Consult a registered professional financial adviser. If you think that you may have been made a fraudulent offer, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit the FCA’s Scam Smart site to see if the investment you’ve been offered is on their warning list: http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/warninglist.
4. Homebuying Fraud
This con intercepts cash transferred as a home deposit to a solicitor in the lead up to exchange and completion. It’s all done via the internet where a computer hacker monitors emails sent between a solicitor and a client. When a bank transfer is about to be made, the fraudster emails the homebuyer pretending to be the solicitor, telling them the details of the law firm’s bank account have changed. The unsuspecting homebuyer sends their cash to the new account, where it is withdrawn by the fraudsters.
Take Action – If you’re buying a property, watch for any emails about payments, such as a chance in bank details at the last minute. Many victims are told that the account is being ‘audited’, and so another one must be used. Ring your solicitor if you’re in any doubt.
5. Freebie Scams
Seemingly free trial offers for products are duping consumers out of millions of pounds a year. To get the freebies, you need to either enter your card details – although told you won’t be charged for the introductory period. In fact, you are often signing up to an expensive monthly subscription that is very difficult to get out of. Once this type of billing is approved – known as ‘continuous payment authorisation’ – up to £100 a month can be taken without any further contact.
Take Action – Report such free trial offers to The Advertising Standards Authority contact 020 7942 2222 or to make a complaint visit https://www.asa.org.uk/make-a-complaint.html