Citizens Advice is using the month of June to raise awareness about potential scams and what you can do if you see a scam.
A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation.
As a result of coronavirus, many people are facing issues with employment, debt, housing and health, and scammers are exploiting the financial pressures this is putting people under. There is evidence that scammers are exploiting the pressures that the pandemic is putting people under including a significant increase in the number of scams relating to financial services reported in the past year. These can include:
- Adverts offering fake “Get Rich Quick” schemes
- Phone calls, texts or emails pretending to be from your bank, asking you to move your money or to provide your personal details
- Scam emails or automated calls pretending to be from the government or an official company
- An offer of a pensions review out of the blue
When making financial decisions, there are some things people can do to minimise the risk of being scammed:
- Don’t give any money or bank details to anyone you don’t know or have only met online. Be wary of unexpected contact
- Be cautious of investment opportunities, particularly if they seem too good to be true. Seek professional advice before making any decisions
- Research whoever you’re dealing with. Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – if they’re not, it’s probably a scam
- Check the FCA’s Financial Services Register to see if a firm or individual is authorised or registered
- Be extra careful if the contact is overseas. If you can’t check the firm is authorised with a regulator in that country, don’t transfer any money
- Use the FCA Warning List to check the risks of a potential investment
Anyone can fall victim to a scam. People of all ages and backgrounds get scammed. It’s important to be on your guard – if you’re not sure about something take your time and get advice.
How to protect yourself from scams
There are some steps people can take to help protect themselves from scams:
- Don’t be rushed into making any quick decisions. It’s okay to take your time
- Never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don’t know, trust or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it’s most likely a scam
- Before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company’s details on Companies House, and take a look at their terms and conditions
- Pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong
- Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website and say all the right things. Take your time to work out if this is a real organisation. Ask them for ID or contact the organisation on a number you know and trust
- Make sure your antivirus software is up to date
- Keep your online accounts secure. Use a strong password for email accounts that you don’t use anywhere else. Choosing three random words is a good way to create a strong and easy to remember password. You can also add in numbers and symbols.
- If you’re not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source
If you think someone might be trying to scam you, it’s important to act straight away.
If you need advice and support you can call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.
You should also report scams or suspected scams to Action Fraud. They will also give you a crime reference number which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you’ve been scammed. You can check recent scams on Action Fraud’s website, and sign up for email alerts to find out about scams in your area at www.actionfraud.police.uk/news