The world may have changed, but it’s business as usual for fraudsters. They’re still using a lot of the same tactics, albeit in slightly different ways, to get their hands on your money.
These criminals are using things like vaccine rollouts, job losses and uncertainty around investments to their advantage. Action Fraud reported that there was a 28% increase in investment fraud reported between September 2019 and September 2020, compared to the same period the year before. To help fight back, we’ve listed some of the main tactics scammers are using — particularly when it comes to pensions, investments and insurance — so you know exactly what to look out for.
And for practical tips on protecting your money, see the steps to take to avoid being scammed.
We want to help you keep your finances safe from fraud
Here's some ways you might avoid scammers
Spot and report phishing emails
Designed to tempt you into clicking links or attachments to launch viruses that steal your info and identity
Verify robocalls and texts
Some banks or government departments may send you notifications this way, but always question any automated offers or requests.
Hang up on cold calls about your pension, savings or investments
Its illegal to call you to offer advice or higher returns
Be wary of (un) trustworthy sources
Fraudsters pretend to be from reputable companies - watch out for unexpected and urgent requests for info.
Verify website addresses
Some website addresses might look real but could be fake – check how they’re spelt and if in doubt, find the real company address via an internet search.
Threats to watch out for
Robocalls and automated texts
These calls and messages may appear to come from legitimate companies — but they’re far from it. They might suggest a delivery company is holding a parcel for you and they’ll only deliver it once you’ve paid a fee. Or that you can have early access to the vaccine at a cost. Don’t fall for it — these scams will leave you out-of-pocket.
These messages are often related to something which is likely to affect you on an emotional level — such as offers of financial support if you’re struggling because of COVID-19. Or they can create intrigue, such as an email about equity release saying you have an encrypted message to open. They might even appear to be from legitimate companies (we’ve had reports of scammers sending emails with our branding from non-Aviva email addresses).
Because these emails target your emotions, you might be tempted to click on the link or open the attachment — that’s exactly what fraudsters are hoping for. If you receive anything like this, remember when things look a little too good to be true, they probably are (particularly if they’re sent to you out of the blue).
Cold calls about your pensions or investments
You might hear from a stranger claiming that they can guarantee you higher returns than your current savings. They might suggest they can help you access your pension before 55. Or they may offer you a so-called ‘free pensions review’.
It’s illegal for any firm to call you out of the blue about your pension. So, no matter what the person on the other end of the line is offering, hang up.
Misleading domain names
Scammers are tech savvy. They know exactly how to make things look real. They often include real, well-known company names when setting up fake sites, knowing people are more likely to visit them if they’ve heard of the brand.
We’ve seen several examples of criminals setting up fake bond and ISA sites with similar names to ours, in a bid to convince people they’re connected to us in some way. You can see a full list of some of the fake sites we’ve taken down too. Scammers use these tactics to make their sites look genuine, but we need to avoid falling into their traps.
Unless it’s a web domain you recognise and know to be safe, don’t open it.
Supposed trustworthy sources
Fraudsters know people are more likely to open messages from names they can trust. Another thing they’re doing is imitating insurer’s branding to sell fake insurance products to supposedly protect against the effects of COVID-19.
Be wary if you receive an unexpected request from one of these sources.
Watch how you’re being asked to make payments
Another thing to be wary of is how you’re being asked to pay for something. Nowadays when you make a new payment online, some banks tend to tell you whether the bank details you want to make a payment to match the details for the account you’re sending your money to. If your bank alerts you that the bank details don’t match up, you should think twice before making the payment.
You should also be suspicious if someone asks you to:
- pay a person instead of a business — when you’re making an online payment, you may be asked if it’s going to a person or a business. A scammer might ask you to say you’re paying a person or that it’s a ‘payment of services’. We’d never ask you to do this — this is because all our payments are for ‘business’ or ‘investments’
- pay in instalments — instead of making a lump sum payment, you might be asked to pay in smaller chunks. A scammer might do this to avoid drawing attention to large transactions
- let them talk you through the payment — a scammer might insist on staying on the phone to you as you’re making a payment online to make sure the payment reaches them. We’ll never do this — we’ll ask you to speak to your bank if you need support.
- use an escrow account — if someone asks you to make a payment into an escrow account (in other words, a holding account), rather than paying them directly), it might be a scam. Think twice before making the transfer. Just so you know, we’ll never ask you to do this — so if someone claims to be part of our business and asks you to do this, don’t.
- make a payment in cryptocurrency e.g. Bitcoin — we don’t accept payments in this way, so if someone asks you to pay like this, you can be sure that it's a scam.
We’re keeping an eye out for you too
We want you to know that we’re doing everything we can to tackle the scammers so we can focus on being there for you when you need us most. See more on what we’re doing to protect you from fraud.
It’s best to be certain in uncertain times
Sometimes you can just tell when something seems a little off. If you hear or see anything from us which you’re not completely sure about, tell us about it. You might wonder whether it’s worth reporting a suspicious email, text or call. It really is. That’s because it could stop others being scammed by the same criminals in the future.
So if you’re unsure about something that looks like it’s come from us, let us know so we can check whether it’s real. The information you provide will give our financial crime experts an even greater understanding of the tactics fraudsters are using. And we can then use this information to better protect you.
Contacted by a fraudster or fallen victim to a scam?
Report this to us right away. We'll take it from here and let you know what you need to do to stay safe.