7 top tips to help keep your money safe from scary financial scams

Lady worried she may be victim of financial scam

Two years into the current cost of living crisis, many people are feeling the pinch with persistent inflation and rising interest rates squeezing their household budget.

Among the difficulties created by tough economic periods is that they tend to create fertile hunting ground for fraudsters looking to take advantage of people who may be struggling financially.

In August 2023, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) warned that more scammers were even pretending to be the regulatory body.

According to a BBC report, the FCA said impersonators were trying to get unsuspecting people to hand over money or personal information, such as their bank account PINs or passwords[1].

While UK household continue to feel the financial squeeze, and in response to the increasing number of worrying reports, the FCA has been “ramping up” scrutiny of scams.

This is welcome news, especially considering that UK Finance found that a whopping £1.2 billion was lost to fraud during 2022. To put this into perspective, that immense sum equates to £2,300 every minute[2].

Fraudsters can target victims at any age or stage of life and pension scams are rife

Experienced fraudsters can be highly convincing and work hard to hone their skills at drawing people in. Often preying on people's anxiety, scammers may promise higher returns or offer the prospect of extra money.

Pension scams can be a particular problem. This is because fraudsters know that pension pots are often a very valuable asset, with people having saved all their lives to afford a comfortable retirement.

Fraudsters attempting to carry out a pension scam may try to persuade you to transfer your pension pot into a non-existent or high-risk scheme, or encourage you to release some or all of your pension pot.

Bad actors will often try to tempt unsuspecting victims with promises of better returns, one-off opportunities, or a unique ability to access their pension savings before the minimum pension age of 55.

Unfortunately, if you fall victim to a financial scam you're likely to find it very difficult to get your money back. So, it’s crucial that you’re on your guard and know the tell-tale signs to watch out for.

7 tips to help keep your money safe from scammers

1. Know how fraudsters operate

Financial scams often start out-of-the-blue with an unexpected email, letter, direct message on social media, or phone call.

The fraudster might introduce themselves as an adviser or pretend to be a representative from a government agency, legitimate financial services firm, or well-known personal finance expert.

They are also likely to strike when you are most vulnerable. In the evening, for example, when you’re likely to be relaxing after dinner in front of the TV with a glass of wine in hand.

2. Never trust an unexpected call, text, or email

Whether contact arrives in the form of a phone call, email, or text, be sure to check the authenticity of anyone who reaches out asking for any personal data, especially if it's of a financial nature.

3. Don’t be rushed into making a decision

Be on your guard if someone deploys pressurised sales tactics. Scammers might refer to opportunities being “time limited” or “one-off”.

If you’re being pressured into making a quick decision, it's possible that you are being targeted. So, take a beat and be sure to take your time and do some research before making any decision.

4. Do your own research

Scammers may sound very credible when answering your questions. Instead of simply allowing yourself to be sucked in by their candid-sounding answers, do your own rigorous research.

A simple Google search can show if a company:

  • Has a website
  • Is registered on Companies House
  • Has a registered address and telephone number that matches up with where you’re receiving correspondence from
  • Has any negative reviews.

A few minutes carrying out these simple checks could help eliminate any obvious red flags and give you more insight into the organisation.

5. Use the FCA’s ScamSmart service to find out if an investment opportunity is genuine

The FCA’s ScamSmart campaign provides a wealth of guidance and help on how to protect yourself against scams. Crucially, they also have a variety of interactive scam checkers, including a ScamSmart Investment Checker[3].

6. Check the FCA’s Financial Services register

This is the most important check you can do when thinking about entrusting others to look after your hard-earned wealth.

The financial services profession is highly regulated, so make sure you're working with individuals and companies who are registered and authorised to do this type of business.

Failing to do this may mean you’re not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Sometimes, a person providing advice might be with a registered firm in the UK but is actually giving advice in the name of an overseas company that’s not FCA-registered. So, make sure you check if there are any non-UK addresses involved.

7. Speak to your financial planner

If you're considering making an investment outside of your financial plan, consult your financial planner first. They are always available to discuss your options and help you make sound decisions that are appropriate for you now, and in the future.

At Aspira, we encourage all our clients to pick up the phone and talk to us. If you're keen to explore a new investment opportunity, speak to us first. We'll help you understand if an opportunity is appropriate based on your appetite for risk, current circumstances, and future life goals.

How we’ll communicate with you

Professional fraudsters can be very convincing, making it hard to tell if something is a scam.

Not only can they appear entirely credible, but they are also constantly evolving and adapting how they target victims. One popular move they make is to send emails and text messages that look as though they come from a company you trust.

At Aspira, we’ll only ever contact you in the following ways:

  • A phone call from your personal financial planner or support team member. Please save these numbers to your mobile phone so you know it’s us.
  • Arranged video call or face-to-face meeting.
  • Email from your financial planner or support team member or from a centralised email system. Please check the domain names of any e-mails received as they should be from “aspirafc.co.uk”.
  • Secure messaging through the Personal Finance Portal.

If you don’t already use the Personal Finance Portal, watch this short video to find out more.

Remember: do not give out private information (such as bank details), reply to text messages, download attachments, or click on any links in emails if you’re not 100% sure they’re genuine.

Finally, please report any suspicious phone calls, emails, or text messages you receive by getting in touch using our contact details that you know are real.

Ring your personal financial planner, email info@aspirafp.co.uk, or call us on 0800 048 0150.

Please note

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Aspira and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation to any investment or retirement strategy.

You should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-66650783

[2] https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/news-and-insight/press-release/over-ps12-bi...

[3] https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart

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