With interest rates currently so low, people are on the lookout for a better return on their money. So fraudsters are using bonds and ISAs — popular savings and investment products — to promote too-good-to-be-true deals, often with supposedly high returns, to lure in their victims.
Fraudsters are offering often huge returns on fake bonds and ISAs
We've had several reports that criminals have been creating websites for these products which, at first glance, look genuine.
They’ve also set up fake comparison-style sites to get your information and make themselves look legitimate when they contact you. As you've given your details voluntarily on these sites in the first place, you don't suspect a thing.
Criminals are also buying adverts on search engines, which link to their fake sites. These ads appear at the very top of the results page when you search ‘best rates’, ‘best bonds’ and ‘best ISAs’, so they instantly catch your attention.
Once you visit these websites, they may ask for your personal — and possibly financial — information. Some of these fraudsters have even asked people to send a photograph of themselves holding their ID. They may encourage you to set up bonds and ISAs with them, which turn out to be fake. They may also ask you to create an online account on a fake portal to manage your investment — this allows them to steal your password so they can try to access your accounts elsewhere.
Unfortunately, because you think you've gone onto a real website, you're likely to hand your information over before sending money on to the fraudsters.
Some of these criminals have then been getting back in contact with their victims, posing as solicitors, financial advisers, insurance companies etc., and claiming they can recover their lost money. This is known as a recovery scam, designed to extort more money from victims.
Some sites to be wary of
With these sorts of scams, fraudsters tend to use well-known brand names on the website because they know, this way, people are more likely to trust the site.
The sites we’ve found pretending to be part of our business usually include ‘Aviva’, along with some other words which relate to savings or investments.
Here are some examples of websites which have tried to contact customers claiming to be us, even though they have no links to us whatsoever.
See more websites that are pretending to be us below.
We update this list regularly but it doesn't include every fake site created by criminals. So if you come across a suspicious site that includes 'Aviva' but it isn't listed, report it to us.
Real-life examples from investment fraudsters
Here are a couple of example emails that customers have received from criminals trying to sell fake bonds. These emails are completely fake. We’ve hidden any personal information that were in the original emails.
Although we know these emails haven’t been sent by us — these aren’t our email addresses — they may appear genuine. That’s why it’s important you do a bit of investigating yourself, to make sure everything checks out. We’re talking about parting with your hard-earned money, after all.
Warning signs that a site might be fake
These are some signs you can look out for to help you spot fake websites:
- Images on the website — are the images and logos that appear blurry or of low quality?
- Text on the website — is the website poorly written and does it include spelling or grammatical errors?
- Missing contact details — is the website missing contact details, such as an email address or phone number?
- Broken links — are there links to other parts of the website which, when clicked on, take you to a blank page or don’t take you anywhere at all?
- Too good to be true — are there offers advertised on the website which look too good to be true. Remember, with interest rates at an all-time low, you should be suspicious of investments guaranteeing such high returns.
These aren’t all the signs, but they show the trends being used that you need to be wary of.
Do your own research
If you see or hear about a bond or ISA opportunity from any companies, comparison sites, or even friends and family, it’s important to do your own digging.
Check the company’s official website and speak to them directly. If the person who’d originally contacted you isn’t available, speak to someone else in the investment department to confirm the deal you’ve been told about.
You should also take a close look at the website’s disclaimers and terms and conditions. This small print may reveal that these companies aren’t regulated by the FCA or that they pass on your details to third parties and don’t take any responsibility for what happens to your information.
It may seem like a lot of effort, but you’d rather be safe than sorry.
And if you’re interested in our investment products, it’s best to go directly to aviva.co.uk or speak to a financial adviser.
We’re on the case
We know what fraudsters are doing and we’re working hard to combat these criminals. We’ve already identified over 25 sites which we’ve taken down — or are in the process of doing.
Unfortunately, as we take sites down, the fraudsters very quickly set new ones up. So it’s important that you stay vigilant and know what to look out for. For more on how to protect your money, see spot fraud to stop fraud and how to avoid being scammed.