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Be switched on to scams: tips to protect your money

Don’t let the scammers get you down! By being vigilant and taking steps to protect yourself, you can spend time with confidence online, on email and your phone while keeping your money safe from fraud.  

Scam-keyboard-web

We’re all annoyed by unsolicited calls, texts or emails trying to sell something we don’t want or make us claim for an accident we didn’t have. Spam is certainly a nuisance, but scams are just as widespread, and far more harmful – UK Finance says over £1.2 billion was stolen by scammers in 2022.

Think scams are easy to spot? As scams evolve and become increasingly sophisticated, that’s not always the case. Citizens Advice research found that only 12% of people who felt confident they’d be able to spot a pension scam could do so – that means nine out of ten got it wrong! Millions of individuals and businesses – from all areas, age groups and walks of life – fall victim to email, phone and online fraud. So, even if you think you’re smarter than the scammers, it’s worth taking a moment to review what you can do to protect yourself.

Some common scams

Most scams involve tricking people into sending money under false pretences, known as ‘authorised fraud’. Tactics are varied but include:

  • Impersonation scams – where money is transferred to a ‘safe’ account, for example, a bank, HMRC, or mobile phone provider. Often starts with a ‘problem’ that needs to be addressed.
  • ‘Hello Mum’ scams – messages on WhatsApp, text, or Facebook Messenger that appear to be from someone you know (often family) asking for financial help.
  • Investment scams – get-rich-quick opportunities, such as exotic investments or cryptocurrencies. These are often links on social media to a cloned website of a known financial provider.
  • Purchase scams – selling items or services that don’t exist (tickets, holidays, cars, etc.)

Some scams carry out transactions without the person’s knowledge using stolen bank or credit card details. Hackers who gain access to an email account can intercept messages and reset banking login details using a false email address, for example, or steer payments into a criminal account. With identity theft it’s personal information that’s stolen, usually to open new financial products like credit cards or loans. 

Citizens Advice found that 2023’s most common scams focused on fake parcel delivery texts and emails, followed by banking, online shopping, investment, and tax or government ‘support’ scams.

Tips to protect yourself

Common sense and gut instinct go a long way, but many scams are layered and difficult to recognise. Take extreme care when it comes to anything to do with your money or sensitive information.

General protection

  • Treat all unsolicited contact or unknown phone numbers with caution.

  • Take your time and be wary of pressure to complete a transaction, especially if there’s a ‘limited offer’.

  • If a financial or other opportunity sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

  • Offers to ‘liberate’ or access your pension early are usually scams – always take regulated financial advice here.

  • Check credentials for providers before you hand over any personal information or money – see the FCA register for financial providers or gov.uk for other UK companies. Browse Trustpilot or similar for consumer reviews.

  • Don’t share any personal information with anyone unless you’re confident you can trust them. Shred sensitive documents you don’t need instead of throwing them away.

  • If something's 'off' with an email or message from someone you know, speak to them directly to check if it's legitimate before replying or taking any further action.

Online protection

  • Log in to your accounts using the recognised website or app rather than an email or social media link.

  • Use different passwords (that can’t easily be guessed) for every login and change them regularly. Never share them.

  • Set up two-factor authentication to verify logins with your phone or email.

  • Install the latest security updates for your device and think before downloading new software or apps.

Protection on the phone

  • If you’re called or texted from an unknown number, check they’re who they say they are, for example, by calling back using a verified business number (a genuine caller should be happy for you to do this).

  • You can expect to confirm security information, but NEVER give out your bank card PIN or login passwords to anyone. If they ask for it, it’s a red flag – hang up.

Be prepared for checks on you too!

Protection works both ways, so if you request a major financial transaction, expect checks from your provider. They should flag any activity that might look suspicious – for example, if it’s a large sum, is made from a different location than usual, or just appears to be out of kilter with your previous behaviour.

At Goodmans, we’ll take steps to make sure any instructions we receive are genuine before actioning them, which may include waiting until we can speak to you. For your own protection, we won’t act until we’re absolutely sure it’s a legitimate request. 

What if you think you’ve been scammed?

First, don’t be embarrassed, as millions are taken in by scams every year. Report any scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 204, and talk to your bank or financial provider immediately if you’ve handed over any financial or personal information, made a payment, or see anything unusual in your account. You can also contact Citizens Advice for help with what to do next.

Playing safe

Although you can rest assured that banks and regulated financial service providers like Goodmans work hard to protect you and prevent fraudulent activity, remember you have a key part to play in keeping your money safe. Scams will always be out there, but that shouldn’t knock your digital confidence or stop you enjoying the benefits of emailing, banking, shopping and interacting online if you want to.

As long as you’re fully switched on, there’s no reason to switch off.

Fernanda de Gouveia