Every year in the UK, an estimated £1.2bn is lost to investment fraud.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) receives around 5,000 calls a year about suspected investment fraud with the average investor losing £20,000. But only 10% of all crimes are reported, meaning the number of people affected by investment scams is much higher.
Even the most savvy investors fall victim to scammers who appear professional and trustworthy. No matter how much experience and confidence you have with investments and finances, you could still be at risk.
Protect yourself from scams
Know how to spot an investment scam – we’ve listed the tell-tale signs below:
• Check the risks associated with an investment opportunity by using the FCA Warning List tool.
• Always seek advice before investing, ideally from an Independent Financial Advisor who is authorised by the FCA.
• Check the FCA’s list of companies to avoid.
• Contact the Money Advice Service for more information on investments, and read our free guide “avoiding scams” for additional tips which can be downloaded from our website or by writing to us enclosing £2.00 for postage, quoting PDF 327 KB.
What to do if you’re the victim of a scam
Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to admit that you have fallen victim to a scam. Reporting it may help to ensure that further people don’t go through the same thing and there is always the chance that the tricksters could be caught, although this is never guaranteed.
Contact Action Fraud immediately if you think you’ve been scammed.
If you want to seek advice on whether a scheme or investment offer is legal, contact the local Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice.
Investment scams are usually difficult to spot because they’re designed to look like genuine investments. The scammers may have a seemingly professional website and documents too. However, there are some tell-tale signs that suggest the investment opportunity is likely to be very risky or a scam.
Investment scammers may do one or more of the following:
• Contact you unexpectedly about an investment opportunity via cold calls, emails or follow up calls after sending out a promotional brochure.
• Pressure you to invest in a time-limited offer, e.g. offer a bonus or discount if you invest before a set date.
• Downplay the risks of an investment, e.g. they could talk about how you will own the actual assets they may sell if the investment doesn’t work as expected or use legal jargon to mislead you.
• Promise you tempting returns that sound too good to be true, e.g. offer much better interest rates than those offered elsewhere.
• Call you repeatedly and keep you on the phone a long time.
• Say they’re only making the offer available to you or even ask you not to tell anyone else about the opportunity.
If you recognise any of these… You have every reason to be suspicious. Follow the advice from the FCA:
• reject cold calls
• get independent advice
The FCA have a list of companies to avoid. You can access this by visiting http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/warninglist/ or contacting us on 01234 360510 and refer to this article.
Scammers commonly target older people for doorstep scams. In fact, 85% of victims of doorstep scams are aged 65 and over according to National Trading Standards. We’ll show you some simple steps that you can take to help you stay safe on your doorstep.
Doorstep scams are when someone comes to your door with the aim of scamming you out of your money or trying to gain access to your home to steal items from inside.
While there are many legitimate tradespeople and officials, it’s wise to be on your guard when you answer your door. Doorstep scammers can be pushy and persuasive and it can be easy to fall victim. It’s especially important to be vigilant and aware if you live on your own.
Whenever you answer the door remember to lock, stop, chain, check.
Lock: secure all your other outer doors as the person at the door may intend to distract you while an accomplice gets in through a back door.
Stop: think about whether you’re expecting anyone.
Chain: put the door chain on or look through the window or spyhole to see who’s there.
Check: ask for an identity card and examine it carefully – you can always tell the caller to come back another time when someone will be with you. Put up a deterrent sign. You could put a ‘no cold callers’ sign up on your door or window, which should deter any cold callers from knocking on your door.
You can set up a password with your utility companies so you know that they are genuine if they send someone round. In order to arrange this, you may need to ask your supplier to put you on their Priority Services Register, which gives access to extra services if you are of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long-term ill health.
Nominate a neighbour
Find out if you have a nominated neighbour scheme where a neighbour can help to make sure if callers are safe. Contact your local Neighbourhood Watch or your local Safer Neighbourhood police team to find out more.
Check their credentials
You should always check a seller or trader’s credentials before agreeing to purchase their products or services.
Call the police
Finally, remember that you can dial 999 if you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave. Call the police non-emergency number 101 if you’re not in immediate danger but want to report an incident.
If you’ve been the victim of scam
There’s no shame or embarrassment in falling victim to a scam – it happens to lots of people. If you report it, it may help to prevent others from experiencing the same thing.
You can report it to Action Fraud – ActionFraud is the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre. You can call them on 0300 123 2040 or by going to their website which is www.actionfraud.police.uk
Action Fraud may be able to track down the fraudster. You can also contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice.
Nearly half of people in the UK have been targeted by a scam. One of the ways that scammers commonly contact people is through the post. Learn how to protect yourself.
As the techniques that scammers use get more sophisticated, it can be difficult to spot the difference between scam mail, junk mail and offers from legitimate companies.
Here is how you can protect yourself from postal scams:
• Contact the Mailing Preference Service to have your name taken in the UK (this won’t cover mail that is unaddressed or from overseas).
• Put a ‘no junk mail’ sign on your door.
• If you receive something you think may be a scam, don’t respond, as this can cause you to get more letters.
• If you have received or are receiving something that looks like scam mail, talk about it to someone you trust such as a friend or family member, or call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65.
• For more information about postal scams Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 to order a copy.
What to do if you’re the victim of a scam
Although many people feel embarrassed about falling for a scam, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Fraudsters have a range of techniques to trick people and are trying new scams all the time.
Contact Action Fraud immediately if you think you’ve been scammed, so they can try to track down the fraudster, and ensure that other people don’t go through the same experience.
If you’re concerned about whether a scheme is legal, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice.
Phone scams are on the rise and are a common way to con people out of their money. Nearly £24m was lost to phone scams in 2014, which was treble the amount in 2013, according to Financial Fraud Action UK.
Not only are phone scams a real problem, but many people also suffer from cold calls, such as unsolicited sales calls, which can feel pushy and intrusive too.
It’s sometimes difficult to work out when a call is a scam or simply a cold call.
What if you fall victim to a scam
Fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to trick people – anyone can be a victim of a scam and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about reporting it. Your report could help to ensure that other people don’t become victims of the same scam.
Contact Action Fraud if you think you’ve been scammed. You can report to them on their website or via their helpline, and get advice on what to do and how to protect yourself from scams.
If you’re concerned about whether a scheme or offer is legal, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice.
Telephone scams you should know about It’s good to know about some of the typical tricks that scammers use so you can be prepared if you ever get a call like these.
1) The computer scam A type of telephone fraud where scammers will call you claiming to be from the helpdesk of a well-known IT firm, such as Microsoft. They’ll tell you that your computer has a virus and will charge you to upload ‘anti-virus software’. This turns out to be spyware, which is used to get hold of your personal details. Never respond to an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming that your computer has a virus. If you receive a call like this, hang up straight away. Legitimate IT companies don’t contact customers this way. Read our guide to staying safe online for more tips and advice.
2) Bank scams It’s a common scam to be called by someone claiming to be from your bank and saying there’s a problem with your card or account. They may ask for your account and card details, including your PIN number, and may offer to send a courier to collect your card from you so they can resolve the problem. They may also suggest transferring your money to a ‘safe account’ to protect it. If you get a call like this, hang up immediately, even if they try to persuade you that your card has been cloned or your money is at risk.
3) Number spoofing Scammers now have the technology to mimic an official telephone number so it comes up on your caller ID display (if you have one on your phone). This can trick you into thinking the caller is really from a legitimate organisation, like a bank or utility company. Remember if you are in any doubt about whether or not the call is genuine, hang up and call the organisation directly on a different phone. If you’re using the same phone, wait 10 minutes in case the scammers keep the line open.
4) Pensions and investment scams You may get an unsolicited phone call about an ‘unmissable’ investment opportunity, or offering pension liberation and legal loopholes to access your pension cash earlier. Hang up on unsolicited calls like these.
5) Anti-scam scams You may get phone calls claiming to be from a charity supporting scam victims, a company selling anti-scam technology, or from someone demanding money to renew your Telephone Preference Service registration, which is actually free. Be wary of anyone asking you for money or financial details over the phone, and don’t give them the information they ask for. You can check a charity’s registration with the Charity Commission to find out if they are genuine.
6) Compensation calls You may get calls from companies asking about car accidents you have had and offering you compensation. Alternatively, you may have received calls about the mis-selling of PPI (payment protection insurance). Either way, don’t engage with them directly and call your insurance company if you have had an accident and want to find out more about how to claim on your policy. If you have actually been mis-sold PPI, then check out our page on PPI and what to do.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Are you the victim of a scam?
More than 3 million people a year in the UK are victims of scams, and only 5% are reported so the actual number could be much higher.
If you have fallen victim to a scam, it can be devastating. Scams can have serious financial and emotional consequences for victims, and can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear, and anxiety. Please know that you are not alone in falling for a scam.
Here are some things that you could do:
1) Report it As soon as you think you have been scammed, report it to Action Fraud. Reporting the fraud could help them catch the perpetrators and prevent other people from falling victim.
2) Talk about it It’s really important to talk to someone if you are left feeling anxious, fearful, or guilty after experiencing a scam. Victim Support can help support those who have fallen for a scam.
If you are feeling low or depressed, talk to your GP, who may be able to refer you to a counsellor to talk to.
You can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 at any time if you feel low or anxious and need someone to talk to.
3) Get advice If you have lost money or gotten into debt through a scam, contact your local Age UK for advice. They may be able to identify savings or benefits you could receive to help you.
If you are having trouble paying your bills and are worried about what to do, contact us.
Our telephone number for all enquiries throughout Bedfordshire and Luton is 01234 360510.