As the Covid 19 (Coronavirus) seeps into the world’s consciousness, scammers are still out in force, trying to take advantage of consumer’s panic to make a quick buck.

Consumers should stay alert, keep their guard up and protect themselves from financial scams. Here is a breakdown of how to protect yourself, your family, and money.

Consumers should be skeptical about any claims they hear, especially form strangers. As the old adage goes, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

As banks, lenders, regulators, government agencies, and financial institutions seek to connect with consumers about potential changes to any financial agreement (including taxes and fees), consumers should always double check official websites, social media pages, and official phone numbers for most up to date information.

Legitimate callers, for example, should be willing to provide official marketing information to back up their claims. Also, financial institutions should never ask for things like account information, birth dates, or National Information Numbers. If you get a call asking for these, you are most likely talking to a swindler.

What is a Financial Scam?

A financial scam is when a fraudster uses deceit or theft to make money from a consumer. This comes in many forms, but the basics are that a scammer gets information to make money .

What are the Different Types of Financial Scams?

  • Investments – We have all seen movies like the Boiler Room, where corrupt sales professionals call unsuspecting investors and pitch them on fantasy like returns, often guaranteed. Consumers should be skeptical of any promised outsized investment return
  • Phishing scams (AKA “identity fraud”) – A scammer uses emails or phones an unsuspecting caller to pry personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, National Insurance Number or bank account information. This information can then be used to impersonate and potentially take out loans on the behalf of the unknowing consumer.
  • Pension frauds – Pensioners usually have access to large amounts of money and can be easier targets for scammers. Sure tell signs are similar to investment schemes and often involves unsolicited calls or emails.
  • Credit Cards – Typically a fake website is set up to “skim” credit card numbers which in turn can be used for online purchases.
  • In person fraud – Watch out for unsolicited visitors to your house. They can disguise their scam in stories around raising donations or other stories. Always ask for official documentation before providing donations or personal information. 

How Much Does Financial Crime Cost the UK?

The Financial Conduct Authority estimates that financial crimes cost consumers £197 million pounds annually and close to 17,000 scams were reported last year.

What are the Best Ways to Avoid Being a Victim of Financial Crime?

Financial crime can be hard to spot, but consumers can always safeguard themselves by:

  1. Never giving out personal information to an unsolicited call or email. Financial institutions will never ask for this information.
  2. Never sending money to a stranger, even if they claim to represent your bank. Always check with your bank by calling them on their official phone number before proceeding.
  3. Cross referencing the financial institutions with their  Financial Conduct Authority’s Reference Number on the FCA’s official website.
  4. Checking the financial institution’s social presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and the institution’s website. Typically, banks release information across different marketing channels. If you get a phone call and there is no information on their website, be aware.
  5. Always asking for official documentation like employee badges and numbers, financial reference numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers 

How to Report Financial Crime to Regulators

If you ever suspect you are a victim of financial crime, take these steps immediately:

  1. Call the police by dialing 999 and provide as much information as possible.
  2. Call the Financial Conduct Authority by dialing 0800 111 6768 or emailing them at [email protected]. You can also file a complaint on their website.

How to Report Financial Fraud to Your Bank

Other Resources

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