Whether it’s speaking face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world or paying for your shopping with the swish of a smartphone, our technological age has opened up so many avenues that we thought would never exist even in our wildest dreams.
However, some of these avenues are darker than others. Our technological achievements have created vast opportunities for tech-savvy criminals to make anything from a quick buck to a complete fortune. For us unsuspecting (and possibly less tech-savvy) folk, financial scams are a real threat.
So without further ado, here are the most common financial scams we’ve seen in 2019, and how you can protect yourself.
Duplicate banking websites
One of the more common scams we’ve seen crop up this year are of the phishing variety (‘phishing’ basically refers to scamming via email – it’s the aim of the scammers to trick you into revealing sensitive information like bank details). There have been multiple instances of people receiving emails from what appears to be their bank, with links sending the recipient to a spoofed website that, if done right, will look exactly like your bank’s.
Don’t fall for it! You’ll be requested to divulge your financial and personal information. The clearest sign that it’s a scam is the pop-up window that asks for your information.
Here are a few more signs to look out for:
- The general tone of voice for these phishing emails will be really urgent, as if it’s an emergency. A legitimate bank would never ‘rush’ or panic their customers like that.
- These websites are usually poor quality. Keep an eye out for spelling errors, poor grammar, and glitchy navigation.
- The biggest no-no is the pop-up window. Don’t click on them and never submit personal data on one.
Victims of boiler-room schemes will likely receive a phone call, out of the blue, and be offered an investment opportunity with ‘sky-high returns’ (or such other similar phrases). Again, there will be the urgency that you have with phishing – you’ll be told to transfer your ‘investment’ (i.e all the money you have) as soon as possible.
Because boiler-room investment schemes are not authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), any money you do part with will likely never be seen again.
Here are a few signs that a boiler-room fraudster has targeted you:
- They’ll use aggressive sales tactics (and even threats) to try and coerce you to part with your money.
- They’ll promise high returns with low-risk (or no risk at all). Even the most seasoned of investors cannot make such lofty claims.
- You’ll be pressured to invest quickly. A legitimate investment adviser would never use such pressure tactics.
CEO email compromise
CEO email compromise – otherwise known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) – is when an employee receives an email from their supposed boss or CEO of the company. Usually the recipient of the email is an employee in charge of company finances, essentially, someone authorised to make payments – of course, you can guess what happens next.
The employee is usually asked something along the lines of “did you take care of that invoice?” or “was that payment completed?”. These scams are based on an employee’s eagerness to carry out tasks that are within their remit, and in a scenario where their boss specifically asks them to do it, the employee is more likely to fall for it.
Here’s are the warning signs:
- Pressure and a sense of urgency. Would your boss talk like this?
- Is this an unusual request that goes against your usual processes? Has it come out of the blue?
- They may either threaten you or flatter you. Again, think about your boss – is this how they may act?
- They may also request you be confidential. If this is out of the ordinary, you may have been targeted.
Facebook impersonation scams
Of all the social media platforms, Facebook has been the most popular with scammers in 2019, simply because everyone is on it. There’s also a much higher proportion of older people on Facebook (compared to Instagram, for example) and it is these groups who are at a much higher risk.
What commonly happens is that a duplicate Facebook account will be created, complete with matching profile pictures. The scammer will gain access to family or friends and will proceed to ask them for money or loans. Another common Facebook scam is the common “see who’s viewed your profile” scam where a clickable link entices you away from Facebook and onto some website offering a gift card or survey (into which you’ll be expected to enter sensitive information).
Here’s how you can protect yourself against Facebook scams:
- Don’t share your password with others
- Keep your browser updated
- When logging in, use two-factor authentication
- Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know
Romance / dating scams
These kinds of scams commonly take place on dating websites and apps, although we’ve seen increasing numbers of Instagram users report similar schemes in 2019. What usually happens is that you’ll get a message (via social media) or an email with a link. Don’t click the link! Some will want you to send them money so that you can meet up, while others may use various blackmail techniques.
Here are the signs that you’ve been targeted:
- Their social media isn’t consistent with who they say they are. Or, there are no pictures/statuses whatsoever.
- Their messages are poorly written and vague.
- They may ask you to send intimate photos of yourself.
- They will always have an excuse as to why they cannot meet up/they need more money.
An increasing number of people are giving their pension pots up for any number of ‘high return/low risk’ investment opportunities that very rarely benefit them in the long-run. These investment opportunities are mis-sold to unwitting people and, because of how profitable they sound, they victimise thousands of people every year.
If a pensions adviser has recommended you opt out of a workplace-backed pensions scheme, then you have cause to be suspicious already. Pensions experts like Expert Pension Claims can help with your mis-sold pensions claim.
Here’s how to tell if you’ve been mis-sold:
- The pensions adviser left out vital bits of information – you were not given the full picture
- You were not given the opportunity to shop around and get the best package
- The adviser did not ask about your medical history or any illnesses that could affect your pension
Live your best online life
As you go about your business online, be aware of what information you put out there. As we said, technology has advanced so much that there is a worldwide network of cyber-criminals and fraudsters looking for points of weakness and opportunities.
It’s all about preventative measures, because if for example you have ill-advisedly invested in something that is not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority then you will have a hard time getting that money back. Stay vigilant!