Don’t fall prey to investment scams

31/07/2019

From simple cons to elaborate schemes, attempts to prise away your hard-earned money are nothing new. Yet there are arguably more windows of opportunity for scammers today than ever.

Glossary

For explanations of the investment terms used throughout this article.

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In 2018, a total of £354m was known to have been lost through bank transfer scams, mostly from personal accounts, according to UK Finance, a trade association for the sector. Most individual losses run into thousands of pounds.

But is there a way you can safeguard your savings from crafty criminals? The good news is that you can vastly reduce your chance of falling victim to scams by taking a few precautions.

Spotting the warning signs

While some deceptions are very sophisticated, in most cases it won’t take Sherlock Holmes to spot when something is suspicious.

Investment scams come in all shapes and sizes, but approaches generally fall into one of two camps – either involving false promises, or impersonating a company you trust. The tactics used by scammers and fraudsters can vary from cold-calling to authentic-looking emails.

A common trait among fraudulent investments, however they are marketed, is the promise of attractive financial returns that are well above market rates. The risk of losses is usually also played down. Get-rich-quick schemes often involve non-existent stocks and shares, or esoteric assets like art or wine.

A growing number of scams, often promoted on social media websites, involve foreign exchange trading and cryptocurrencies. According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the number of scams involving these two more than tripled in 2018-19, meaning they should be treated with particular caution. Many scams will try to use social proofing, using fake online reviews or fraudulent adverts to look credible.

How to protect yourself

The FCA has recommended four simple steps to help protect yourself from investment-related scams.

  • Reject unexpected offers – If you receive a call or email concerning an investment opportunity out of the blue, there is a very high chance that it is a scam. The best thing to do is to hang up the phone or ignore this kind of correspondence
  • Check who you are dealing with – Literature and websites may appear authoritative, but don’t assume it’s real. You can easily verify a firm’s identity on the Financial Services Register. Use the contact details on the Register, not the details given to you, to avoid ‘clones’ of companies you trust
  • Don’t be rushed – Common strategies employed by fraudsters include pressure to invest before a false deadline or on special terms. Sales tactics like this should always ring alarm bells. Any investment company you would want to deal with won’t pressure you into making important financial decisions
  • Seek impartial information or advice – Rather than take advice from an outfit that has approached you unexpectedly, consider seeking independent financial advice to plan your investment decisions. While you will be charged a fee for this professional service, it could end up being money well spent

Remember, too, that someone could be pretending to be from a reputable investment provider, perhaps one that are already a customer of. They could even pretend to represent M&G.

You can avoid falling prey to this kind of ruse by never giving out personal information like passwords or pin numbers. These can be used to steal your identity and access accounts.

When faced with an investment opportunity, especially one that has come out of the blue or is advertised, always ask yourself: ‘could this be a scam?’ Always take the time to check who you are dealing with.

As the old adage goes, if the opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is.