Eight ways to protect yourself from financial scams and prevent fraud
You may think that you could spot a scam a mile away, but it isn’t always that easy, as some of the methods used have become more and more sophisticated. It is no longer a phone call claiming to be your bank or an email from a long lost relative. The fraudsters design their scams to look and sound legitimate, catching out even the most savvy.
In our ‘Safe Hands’ report, we surveyed 2,000 over 70s and found that one in four admitted to being a victim of financial abuse and more than half feared they are at greater risk of theft, scams and fraud due to Covid-19.
The pandemic, financial pressures and social isolation have created a ‘perfect storm’ – with older people now even more dependent on carers, family and friends and at greater risk of financial abuse from loved ones, rogue traders and professional scammers.
Scams went up by 33% in the year to April 2021 – compared to 8% the year before. Here are a few tips for protecting yourself against scammers and preventing fraud.
- If it sounds ‘too good to be true’ then it probably is, remember there are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes.
- Don’t be rushed, if there is a time limit, or you are being encouraged to move quickly, this is a red flag. Scammers will often pressure you, so that you don’t have time to look and make a considered decision. Remember, no reputable company will ever pressure you to make any financial decisions.
- Don’t hand over money or sign any documents until you’ve checked the company’s credentials. Visit review sites such as Trustpilot or Smart Money People and tread very carefully if they don’t feature anywhere.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know or trust, also don’t use methods of payment you’re not comfortable with. The same goes with banking or personal details, don’t share these with anyone you don’t know or trust. This information is valuable so make sure you protect it.
- If you receive a call or email asking for personal information of any kind that you were not expecting, don’t share it. It is very rare for a legitimate company to ask you to share bank details over the phone or via email. If you are concerned, end the call and try calling them back using the number on their website.
- Emails are a very common technique used by scammers, and that can be very deceiving, often appearing to be from companies such as HRMC or Royal Mail. Always log on to a website directly rather than clicking on links in an email.
- You can search the FCA register to check that a company is registered and see their credentials. If a company is not registered, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service, or Financial Services Compensation Scheme if things go wrong.
- Don’t be embarrassed about reporting a scam. Because the scammers are cunning and clever there’s no shame in being deceived. Scams are crimes and should be reported to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre (0300 123 2040). By reporting it, you’ll make it more difficult for them to deceive others.