Recent data from Action Fraud revealed that consumers lost more than £78 million during 2020 having been tricked by fraudsters imitating genuine investment firms in financial scams. This boils down to an average of £45,242 each.

This is backed up by findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) highlighting that adults in England and Wales were more likely to become the victims of fraud than any other crime during 2020.

Covid-19 has also played a significant role in recent increases in online scams. Victims of fraud have reported receiving convincing emails appearing to be from HMRC, the World Health Organisation, and even companies claiming to sell face masks.

With the pandemic and advances in technology assisting fraudsters and the fact that more than 96% of fraud cases go unsolved, it would seem that prevention is better than a cure. There are a number of ways you can protect yourself against financial scams in any climate.

  1. Keep an eye out for suspicious emails and other communications

Suspicious emails can be a sign of a phishing scam, designed to trick you into divulging sensitive information. There are signs you can look out for.

  • Check the email address it’s coming from rather than just the name it appears under in your inbox. Does this look unusual?
  • Is the email addressing you in a strange way, e.g. referring to you by either your email address or your full name?
  • Does the email include the sender’s normal email signature?
  • Phishing scams usually try to instil a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly without checking the details, e.g. urging you to click a link to avoid losing access to your online account.
  • A potentially harmful email will usually have a link or an attachment included – never click or open these if you are unsure.
  • Scammers will also pose as trusted reliable sources, such as the government or NHS websites, particularly in light of the pandemic. If you are unsure, go to the source directly.
  1. Always ensure that sensitive information is shared securely

Financial or personal details can be dangerous when in the wrong hands, so it’s important not to take risks when sharing this type of data.

  • Wherever possible, use secure methods to send information to a company you’re dealing with, such as their online portal or Docusign. If this isn’t initially offered, ask if this is an option.
  • Data breaches often arise from emails because emails are not secure by default. Encrypting your emails means that even if they’re intercepted, they are scrambled which can make reading them very difficult if not impossible.
  • Password protecting and emailing a document should only be used as a last resort. If you do decide to use this option, use a password generator to produce a strong password and make sure it is communicated via a different method – ideally over the phone or in person.
  1. Be wary of disclosing too much information on social media
  • Sharing a photo of your holiday probably won’t cause problems, but never divulge information which can make you easily traceable.
  • Be wary of posting images containing personal data, e.g. a credit card bill you’ve finally paid off, or an acceptance letter you’re proud of, or details of life events that could leave you vulnerable.
  • Identity theft is all too common, and whilst sharing one particular detail about yourself in isolation may not appear to be a problem, when combined with other pieces of information, it can make you vulnerable to fraud.
  1. Practice good security habits

As well as being careful when you’re communicating, it’s important to also make sure you have good security measures in place across all the devices and services you use.

  • Set strong passwords for your devices and any online services that you use, and don’t use the same password for every service. Otherwise, if a hacker gains access to one of your passwords, they could gain access to everything.
  • Where possible, use ‘multi-factor authentication’. This entails using a password and another method, such as a code texted to your mobile phone, every time you log in. This means that even if somebody does crack your password, they still can’t access your account as they don’t have access to your phone.
  • Make sure you lock your devices if they are ever going to be out of your sight and, if your device supports it, set up the ‘Find My Device’ feature. This allows you to find your device if you lose it and remotely lock and wipe it should it be stolen.

How we help protect our clients against financial scams

It’s more important than ever to protect our clients’ data and ourselves as a business, which means being on the front foot when it comes to financial scams.

As part of our commitment to keeping client data safe, all our team members complete cyber security training every year, with regular refreshers, as well as a range of workshops and training events. This means that everyone who comes into contact with client data has a good understanding of how financial and cyber criminals may try to gain access to client data for illicit means. We have a robust reporting system operating alongside this so that anything suspicious or unusual can be reviewed quickly, which is vital to the protection of the firm and our clients.

When it comes to sending data, Progeny Client Portal allows you to share and sign documents and other information securely. Any sensitive emails are also sent using Mimecast, which encrypts information all the way from sender to receiver. If anything were to be intercepted, our clients can be reassured that their sensitive information would be unreadable and therefore useless to a criminal.

Staying on top of security measures and protecting against constantly evolving threats is of paramount importance. We hold regular cyber security meetings to make sure that all departments in the business are focusing tirelessly and collaboratively on delivering the highest level of protection when it comes to client data.

By working together, we can all stay one step ahead of financial scams.

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and the value of investments can fall as well as rise. No representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.