As technology develops, scammers are coming up with new and sophisticated ways to target you. Indeed, you may have noticed an increase in the number of suspicious emails, calls and texts you’ve received over the last few years. This article offers advice on the steps to take to protect yourself from scams.

As reported by Professional Adviser, 1 in 8 high net worth individuals have fallen prey to scams in the last six months, losing an average of £13,000 each. So, it’s important to be vigilant and to know how to spot these convincing pension and investment scams that can defraud people of many thousands of pounds.

Action Fraud reported a recent increase in the number of reports of life insurance scams

If you’re worried about falling victim to a scam, read on for five valuable tips that can help you to protect yourself.

1. Check you’re being contacted by a genuine party

If you receive an email, text or phone call from someone claiming to be your bank, HMRC, an insurance provider, or some other institution, double check they’re who they claim to be before responding or acting.

Scammers will often imitate companies you have a relationship with to trick you into giving up personal details or transferring money.

Crimes like this are on the rise. For example, Action Fraud reported a recent increase in the number of reports of life insurance scams, receiving more than 800 reports of emails purporting to be from companies selling life insurance.

Messages can often be extremely convincing, at first glance looking like a genuine communication. As a result, if you’re ever unsure about the legitimacy of a communication, don’t respond directly to it, or follow any links included within the message. Instead, contact the company yourself using a trusted method such as their customer service hotline.

If you work with an Amber River adviser and receive a communication claiming to be from us and you’re suspicious about its legitimacy, call your usual contact in the firm, or your local office. They’ll be able to confirm whether the communication was indeed from them.

2. Don’t be pressured into making decisions or performing actions

If you’re ever contacted by someone who pressures you into giving over information, transferring money, or performing some other action, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a scammer.

Reputable organisations will never pressure you into acting immediately or making decisions there and then on the phone.
The advent of online banking means it’s easy for criminals to trick you into transferring money while on the phone with you. If you ever feel pressured, just hang up. Taking a second to stop and think, or to talk to someone about what’s happening, can help you to realise if someone is trying to scam you.

Again, if you’re contacted by someone claiming to represent a company, get in touch with the organisation directly using their advertised customer service channels rather than those provided by the potential scammer.

3. Be wary across all channels

Though most people are familiar with email, text and cold-calling scams, criminals use almost any method they can to target you.

One common avenue used by criminals to run investment scams are platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

FTAdviser reports that UK consumers lost £75 million to scams on social media in 2022 – that’s six times higher than three years previously – with just under 3,600 reports to the police about investment fraud.

As Richard Berry, founder of Good Money Guide, told FTAdviser: “It’s easy to stumble across social media posts offering an investment opportunity that seems too good to be true, and in 99% of cases, that’s exactly what it is.”

If you see an investment opportunity advertised on social media, don’t just follow the link in the ad. Do your own due diligence on the company by looking at sites such as Trustpilot to see how reputable they are.

Furthermore, make sure any finance company you’re considering doing business with is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Check the Financial Services Register – a list of firms that have been approved by the regulator – to ensure you’re dealing with a genuine company.

It’s not just social media you need to be wary of. Criminals will use any channel they can to contact you, and as new technologies arise it could be beneficial to stay vigilant.

4. Update your passwords, keep them secure and use two-factor authentication

An effective way to bolster your online security is to make sure your passwords are secure.

Many people are guilty of using the same password for everything or leaving passwords unchanged for years. Consequently, if a criminal discovers one password, they may be able to access other accounts such as your bank or investment portfolio.

If that’s you, now’s the time to update your passwords.

You may find this an intimidating task – keeping track of lots of passwords can be difficult. However, various online tools known as “password managers” can store your passwords across multiple devices and even warn you when you use the same password for more than one account.

An extra step you can take with some accounts is to enable two-factor authentication. This requires you to enter a code sent to you by text or an app when logging into an account. Even if a criminal does manage to steal your passwords, they still won’t be able to log in to your account without correctly entering a two-factor authentication code.

£42.6 million was stolen from businesses through authorised push payment fraud

5. If you’re a business owner, be vigilant

If you’re a business owner, you and your company could become a target for scammers.

As reported by UK Finance, nearly 1 in 5 small business owners couldn’t always spot a scam, and £42.6 million was stolen from businesses through authorised push payment fraud in the first six months of 2023.

Criminals could target your business in many ways. For example, a scammer could impersonate a supplier you regularly work with and send an invoice with bank details for a fraudulent account. When you send payment, the money will go to the scammer, not your supplier.

Alternatively, they may send you a phishing email which – when opened – installs malware on your system, compromising sensitive client data.

There are several steps you can take to secure your business:

  • Educate yourself and your staff about potential dangers
  • Shred documents containing personal information when they’re no longer required
  • Secure your networks
  • Back up data and systems
  • Develop an action plan.

By increasing your business security, you can protect yourself, your staff and your clients from falling victim to scams.

Get in touch

At Amber River, our expert advisers can help you protect yourself from fraud as we build your financial plan. If you’d like to speak to one of our independent financial advisers, 0800 915 0000, or alternatively use our contact form here.