Three tips to help protect you from scams this tax year end

With tax year end fast approaching, it is important to learn to recognise scams and fraudulent activity to protect you and your finances as fraudsters are known to increase their attempts at this time of year.

We are likely to see an increase in scam emails, texts, phone calls and online ads during the run up to tax year end, all of which can often be difficult to identify – particularly as fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in their attempts. For example, they are likely to send messages impersonating Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and requesting your account details.

Google told the Treasury Committee that they removed three billion scam ads in 2020, including 123 million that related to financial services. This is likely just a drop in the ocean considering the number of other platforms that are available, where no such policy exists.

Here are three useful tips to help you identify scams and avoid being the victim of fraud:

1. Recognise the warning signs

Fraudsters will try all manner of techniques to persuade you to part with your personal information, so it is important that you are able to recognise the warning signs and identify when something is not quite right.

Unexpected contact or repeated calls - If you are cold-called, the safest thing to do is to hang up. Equally, if you are unexpectedly contacted via email and believe it is suspicious, forward the email to report@phishing.gov.uk and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) will investigate it.

Requesting personal details – A genuine bank or organisation will never ask for personal details such as your PIN number or password. Never give these details if prompted. Additionally, never give personal details or financial information if it is not for a service you want.

Too good to be true – If an investment offer sounds too good to be true then it is highly likely that it probably is. Do not proceed without checking with a financial adviser first. Additionally, if you are told an offer is exclusive, or there is unnecessary time pressure placed on an offer, then the offer is likely not genuine. Keep in mind that a genuine bank or financial services firm will not pressure you into deciding and will give you time to think.

2. Filter the good from the bad

Fraudsters will often attempt to impersonate real companies, so it is important you learn to spot the fraudsters from the real deal.

Clone emails – Fraudsters will often set up email accounts to impersonate real companies, and they can be difficult to spot – often with small spelling errors or characters which look like actual letters. If you are unsure whether an email is from a real firm, always use the contact details on the FCA register. You can also check the company’s details with directory enquiries or Companies House to make sure they are the same.

Unofficial websites - Make sure you are visiting official websites, as fraudulent sites are often designed to look indistinguishable from the original and have the potential to collect your data, payment details or even download harmful software to your computer. It is a good idea to double check you have entered the web address correctly, look for the official website through a trusted search engine such as Google and use the padlock icon to check the website has a legitimate security certificate.

Fraudulent apps – Apps can be impersonated on non-official app stores. While businesses often proactively search for potentially malicious apps and websites, it is important to remember that official apps are usually only available for download from official stores such as Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

3. Protect your personal details and payments

Being a victim of fraud can lead to a significant loss of money. To help protect yourself, you should take extra care when providing personal and payment details.

Sharing personal details – You should always be wary when entering your personal details online, particularly on social networking sites, as this sort of information can make it much easier for a criminal to steal your identity. If you do use such sites, you should reveal as little personal information as possible, and ensure you review your privacy settings. Set different passwords and PINs for different accounts and be particularly careful when using public computers to access your personal information; and make sure to log out.

Online payments – Make sure any online payments are made through a secure site or in an encrypted mode. The site is secure if the web address begins with https and a padlock symbol is displayed. Also, when shopping online you must check that the retailer is genuine. Look out for the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau online seal which show the seller is thought to be trustworthy.

Sending money If you receive a request to send money to a new company bank account, it is likely to be a scam. Fraudulent bank accounts can be set up in the name of a legitimate company, and it is very rare for established companies to set up new bank accounts. If you are asked to send money to a new bank account, do not proceed. Contact the company directly or, if possible, check with your financial adviser.

For more information on how to protect yourself against financial fraud, visit the government-backed Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. To see all of Quilter’s official email addresses and websites, visit https://www.quilter.com/about-us/stay-safe-online/quilters-websites-and-email-addresses/