Seven tips for keeping safe from scammers

Posted by Liz Rees in Latest insights category on 21 Apr 20


Fraudsters are clever and they spend their time looking for ways to relieve you of your money. Falling victim to a fraud is a lot easier than you might think. The best protection against fraudsters is constant vigiliance; below we consider some habits that will help you remain in control:

1. Hang-up on cold callers

Cold calling is perfectly legal although there are some exceptions; for example the British government banned cold calling on pensions from January last year. However, this  won’t stop calls from overseas. The simple rule of thumb if receiving a cold call is better to be safe than sorry and to just hang-up.  

2. Check credentials

Check the details of the company you are liasing with. If you are buying a financial product, only use a firm authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which you can check for on the FCA register. Legitimate financial organisations will often use security questions to verify your identity when contacting you but will never ask you to reveal your password, pin or full bank details.

3. Are they who they say they are?

Take care when dealing with people who claim to be from official bodies, represent financial services firms or government organsations such as HMRC; fraudsters go to a lot of effort to be convincing. For example, a recent scam has involved fraudsters pretending to be from the World Health Organisation.

Treat unexpected calls, emails and text messages with caution. Don’t assume they’re genuine, even if the originator seems to know information about you. Check if an email address corresponds with a company’s email format and websites are secure. Go to the website directly rather than through a link.

4. Avoid giving personal information

Fraudsters use fake emails, letters and calls to phish for your data. Such scams can cover a wide array of topics from vaccines for coronavirus to job offers to investment ideas. If you are unsure about an email don’t open any attachments or click on links. Never give anyone you don’t know access to your computer to ‘solve’ an issue. Once a fraudster has access to your data they can steal your identity and open accounts in your name.

Make sure all your accounts have a strong password and change it regularly. Keep your virus protection software up-to-date as any updates can often include protection against new threats.

If you receive a suspicious e-mail you can forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk and the National Cyber Security Centre will automatically check it and shutdown any criminal sites.

5. Don’t be pressured

Forcing people into a quick decision is often a very good way to relieve them of their money. Scammers often put pressure on people into acting quickly by promising a special offer requiring immediate action. Take the view that if someone needs a decision right away it’s probably a scam.

6. Be careful with push payments

A push payment is where you input the account details – name, sort code, account number and how much to pay a third party. As such you take on the liability for the transaction and have no legal right to compensation. The name included in the push payment may not be the name on the account as this is not automatically checked. So you might think you are paying one party but in fact have paid the money to a criminal.

Some banks have started introducing processes to check the name matches the account details to reduce the risk of this type of fraud. 

7. If it looks too good to be true it probably is

Scammers are skilled at tempting us with opportunities which could transform our lives or our finances and the offers look so appealing that it is hard not to feel the temptation to take the risk. When it comes to investing, there are no short cuts and no easy ways to make a quick profit. Promises of high returns are either extremely high risk or more likely a complete fabrication and a scam.

Fraudsters and the scams they run are getting more and more sophisticated so a little extra vigilance could save you a lot of money in the long run. Read here about why Willis Owen offers a secure home for your investments.