Beware of the scammers


Derek Adam

Derek Adam

Financial Planner


Sadly, it is a fact of life that there have always been fraudsters looking to take advantage of other people for their own financial gains.

Scammers are continually looking for new opportunities and schemes to earn their crust and it would be impossible to cover them all in one blog. Suffice to say that opportunities exist for them within the multitude of communication channels available in this modern world: telephone, text messages, e-mails, websites and numerous social media platforms.

Sometimes those who fall victim to scams are vulnerable, however this is not always the case. None of us are exempt. All it takes is that split second to be caught off-guard or distracted and to give away information we shouldn’t. Whether it be information that will result in an instant financial loss or giving away information that could lead to consequences in the future.

Looking after your personal information

I am sure many of us have seen various threads on Facebook or Twitter asking us what our superhero name is, or what our ‘quintessentially British’ name is?

Typically, the name is made up from a combination of your first pet’s name, the name of the street where you grew up, your mother’s maiden name and other apparently innocent information.

Other links simply ask “What was your first car?”. A nostalgic trip down memory lane you might think?

Not always - you may just have divulged the answers to security questions for your personal banking accounts and allowed scammers access to your finances, to spend as they wish.

New opportunities

The increase in on-line shopping, even more so in the last year, has seen another scam become more common. This is where you receive a text message purporting to be from a delivery firm and you are required to make a payment before you can receive your goods. It can be very easy to think you are waiting on such a delivery. Not only does this result in the small initial financial outlay but it could lead onto further contact from the scammers targeting more significant amounts.

Boiler Room scams

‘Boiler room’ scams are typically run from offices where out-bound calls are made to individuals in an attempt to sell investment into assets which may not even exist.

Sometimes the boiler room will create interest via advertisements on fake websites or social media accounts, often falsely using well known celebrities as the face of the advert.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated area and unfortunately, I learned of one such boiler room scam in recent times. Having responded to an advertisement, the individual was contacted and presented with an exciting opportunity and an amount of money was supposedly invested.

On experiencing a significant return in a short space of time, the investor was contacted by the company again and was made aware of a new, limited opportunity that existed to purchase additional bitcoin at a reduced price. The expectation was that this would be sold within a few days once the value had returned to where it should be on the market, and again at a significant profit.

Having made this additional investment, the investment then turned sour and the investor was advised of the loss of everything that had been invested. The scammers actually called the investor and gave their explanation as to what had gone wrong in this instance, so as still appearing to be above board.

In reality, there was never any investment at all and the whole process was a scam.

Recovery Room scams

You may think that would be the end of this particular tale, however, it wasn’t. After some time had passed, the company got back in touch with the individual and stated that they were looking to become a regulated firm and in order to do so, they needed to re-imburse the lost investment.

They attempted to have this reimbursement completed with some urgency and wanted to complete matters at that very point in time. An attempt was made to access the individuals bank accounts via the use of a remote desktop application, a quite legitimate software system that enables someone to access another computer from anywhere in the world.

Fortunately, in this instance it was a case of once bitten twice shy and after the individual took some precautionary steps to delay matters, the subsequent fraud was prevented entirely.

Hallmarks of a scam

Scammers have evolved over time but there are some key themes to look out for:

  • Contact coming out of the blue.
  • Never heard of the company before or had any connection (although scammers will pretend to be from known organisations also!).
  • Pressure to make a quick decision.
  • A too good to be true opportunity being offered. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is!
  • Asked to provide personal information.
  • Asked to make payment up front.

Future vulnerability

Unfortunately, once you have been caught out by a scam you are likely to continue to be approached.

The personal information of anyone who has fallen foul of a scam becomes very valuable and can be sold on to other scammers. In the instance of the bitcoin scam, numerous further contacts have been made with the individual along a similar vein, though it will not be exclusively these scams that will be offered.

Reporting

If you have been scammed then you should report this by telephone to Police Scotland on 101 or if you reside out with Scotland, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their online reporting tool.

You can also report certain scams to The Financial Conduct Authority

However, prevention is better than the cure, and, where there is doubt, there is no doubt. 

If you find yourself, or hear of friends or family members looking at an investment opportunity that you/they are not entirely clear about, then I would encourage contacting your trusted financial planner without hesitation.

To coin a phrase that has become even more prevalent in recent times: Stay Safe.

If you would like to discuss anything in this blog, please contact me or your usual Johnston Carmichael Wealth Financial Planner.

 

Johnston Carmichael Wealth Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. 

This communication is intended to provide a general review of certain topics and its purpose is to inform and not to recommend or support any specific investment or course of action.