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Financial Fraud - How can you protect yourself?

At the end of the tax year, it is prime time for the 'scamming' financial advice and tax savings emails again.  At this time of year, we will all typically be getting emails urging us to 'reclaim our tax' or 'review your pension and ISA needs' and these apparently come from the 'HMRC' and a host of other banks or building societies, some you may bank with, others you may not.  Either way, these emails are getting more sophisticated by the day so sometimes it can be very hard to spot real emails from those that are fraudulent.  Some offer a link which will then embed viruses and software designed to obtain your personal details, some will offer a call back to review your circumstances and some may be an introduction from a 'Boiler Room' offering you fantastic investment opportunities.  Whatever the reason, it is important to look for some vital signs and here are 5 important things to look for;

No 1 - Common Sense Check

This sounds obvious but look for the obvious signs.  An email from a financial institution you have never dealt with saying they need to confirm your details, an email address that doesn't quite look right (the HMRC do not use gmail.com email addresses!) an email logo that doesn't look genuine.  Look for the obvious signs that all is not as correct as it should be.

No 2 - Check the Details

Once the obvious signs have been checked, then it is down to the little things.  A lot of emails come from outside of the UK, so something to check for is any date formats that are in the email.  For example, the date today is 25/02/2018.  Other areas of the world would write this as 02/25/2018 so if the email is purporting to be from the UK, then this is a clear sign to beware.  Other details to check are any telephone numbers that are on the email.  Firstly, are the telephone numbers real, and a quick google check can tell you that, secondly, are they even using the right country dialling code.  As stupid as it sounds, I have seen an email asking the recipient to call the 'UK Call Centre' with a +34 dialling code, which is for Spain.  Another give away is how you are addressed in the letter.  Some emails will use your prefix and your first name. So for example if you name is John Smith, the email will be titled Dear Mr John. In a few emails apparently from Natwest and the HMRC which turned out to be Scam emails, and also, it is fairly obvious that an email written in complete capitals should be deleted immediately.

No 3 - Who is it From?

With the ever-evolving world of financial fraud, the email addresses that are being used are looking more and more genuine.  Many people have had an email that looked as though it had come from one major government department and even had a .gov.uk email address, but upon investigation this as just a way of making the email look like it had been sent from that email address.  Typically there will be another email address in brackets, and usually with a series of numbers or letters, for example x000000000 and this should make you suspicious.  Also, look at the name and job title of the person sending the email.  Most business people are on linkedin now, so again a quick search of this will help in identifying if the email is fraudulent or not.

No 4 - Watch for Phishing Links

We have all had them.  This is where you receive an e-mail that appears to be from a company you may have accounts with or have done business with. It will tell you that you need to update your information or they are verifying your current information and it will include a link that will take you to a fake copy of the company's website or a different website altogether. There, you'll be asked for your personal information which will then be used against you.  As a rule, do not click on any links that may come from an unsolicited email address.  Remember, no self-respecting company will ask you to confirm your details via an email!

No 5 - Do not buy into the URGENCY!!

Some emails will try and push you into acting on them by trying to create some urgency.  'We have been trying to contact you for the last 4 weeks and this is the last time we can try before your refund of £1127.36 will expire by midnight tonight' or 'Your account will be suspended if you do not verify this email address by clicking on the below link' are both typical examples of the type of urgency that is attempting to be created and pressure you into acting on the email that you have received. With the sheer volume of emails that we now receive in our daily lives, it is getting harder than ever to keep track of the real emails from the fraudulent and scam emails, but if you follow the above few rules, it will help you to not become a victim of these fraudsters, but, what if you do become a victim, what can you do?  Firstly, you need to speak to the legitimate company of where your personal details may have been compromised.  Have you given your Halifax bank details to someone you thought were Halifax?  Call the real Halifax and inform them as soon as possible.  Secondly, you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via this link http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/scam-emails and they will not only log it as another instance helping others, but will be in contact with you to discuss further.  They will also advise you to speak to your local Police Constabulary and get a crime number if you feel a crime has been committed against you.

As always, if you want further information on this, please do not hesitate to contact us at Fortem Financial Education on 01256 345630 or info@fortemfinancialeducation.co.uk

#financialeducation #personalfinance #blog

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