The MAM Blog – Extra care against scammers in these times


Lisa Hamer – Compliance Director

As if it’s not enough that the Coronavirus has had a sweeping impact on us all in one form or another, there are always disreputable people (scammers, fraudsters) looking in such periods of uncertainty to prey on our fears and insecurities to make money.

Whether this is by setting up fake websites to sell face masks, hand sanitiser or gloves or pretending to be in one ‘trustworthy’ guise or another to steal from us.

Nowadays, scammers are increasingly sophisticated, opportunistic and will try to get personal details or money from us in many ways. In the current climate, with many more people being at home and wishing to protect themselves or their assets, the opportunity for scammers has increased significantly.

What should we look out for?
The Financial Conduct Authority has published to following examples of current scams on its website:

• Exploiting short-term financial concerns, scammers may ask you pay an upfront fee when applying for a loan or credit that you never get. This is known as loan fee fraud or advance fee fraud.
• ‘Good cause’ scams. This is where investment is sought for good causes such as the production of sanitiser, manufacture of personal protection equipment (PPE) or new drugs to treat coronavirus – with scammers using the promise of high returns to entice consumers.
• Using the uncertainty around stockmarkets, scammers may advise you to invest or transfer existing investments into high return (and high risk) investments.
• Clone firms – firms must be authorised by the PRA and/or FCA to sell, promote, or advise on the sale of financial products. Some scammers will claim to represent authorised firms to appear genuine. In particular, be aware of life insurance firms that may be cloned.
• Scammers may contact you claiming to be from a Claims Management Company (CMC), insurance company or your credit card provider. They may say they can help you recuperate losses by submitting a claim, for the cost of a holiday or event such as a wedding cancelled due to coronavirus. They will ask you to send them some money or your bank details.
• Cold calls, emails, texts or WhatsApp messages stating that your bank is in trouble due to the coronavirus crisis, and pushing you to transfer your money to a new bank with alternative banking details.

All of the above prey upon our normal fears or disappointments during these unprecedented times and we should all be very aware of that.

How to protect yourself
• Use the Financial Services Register and Warning List on the FCAs website to check who you are dealing with.
• Reject offers that come out of the blue, where you have never contacted the person calling you.
• Beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online.
• Do not click links or open emails from senders you don’t already know.
• Avoid being rushed or pressured into making a decision.
• If a firm calls you unexpectedly, use the contact details on the Register to check that you’re dealing with the genuine firm. Call them back on the number detailed in the register, not on any number the caller has provided.
• Do not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details).
• Look carefully at the full email address of the sender and consider whether it looks ‘right’

You can report the firm or scam to the FCA by contacting its Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using the reporting form on the FCA website.

It is shameful that individuals will prey on our fears and losses at any time; by being extra vigilant and ending any contact if we are at all unsure, we can cut these scams off before they succeed.

The MAM Blog – Five Million Pensioners – How Many Scammers?

Murray Asset Management – Investment Management Team

A recent headline from an FCA press release caught my attention and it was: –

‘5 million pension savers could put their retirement savings at risk to scammers’

Even if it is the life savings of only a small number of pensioners that in the end fall victim to fraudsters, the sum involved could be very significant and the consequences are obviously devastating. The average sum involved in a pension scam is £91,000. Some other numbers for 2018 are worth highlighting: –

• Fraudulent ‘Cold calls’ relating to pensions exceeded £10 million.
• There were approximately 60,000 phone scams relating to HMRC.
• Investment scams cost their victims £197 million.

The fastest growing crime is ‘cybercrime’ and it seems likely that frauds and scams relating to savings and investments are going to become more common and complex. It is worrying that only half of all adults are confident about protecting themselves online. Generally, people are not interested in learning about the practical steps that can be taken in order to reduce the risk of fraud and being scammed and the fraudsters and scammers continue to take advantage of this ignorance.

The FCA through its ScamSmart campaign together with many banks and financial institutions are taking steps to raise awareness and to educate people. The FCA guidance can be found at:-

Click here for FCA guidance

However, the basic advice is: –

• Treat all unexpected calls, emails and text messages with caution. Don’t assume they are genuine, even if the person seems to know some basic information about you.
• Don’t be pressured into acting quickly. A genuine bank or financial services firm will give you time to think.
• Be careful before providing personal information. Scammers will be keen to get their hands on your personal details. Be wary of any emails or calls asking you for this information and, if in doubt, call the company the contact claims to be from. Generally, companies do not ask for personal details and passwords via email. This is particularly applicable to bank details like sort codes and account numbers.

If in any doubt just contact us to discuss your concerns. It is a sad fact that people become very interested in the steps that they could have taken to protect themselves online after the event.