Scams can be sophisticated, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Find out how to spot the warning signs of investment, pension and other financial scams.First published: 09/08/2017 Last updated: 11/08/2023 See all updates
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Spot the warning signs
Scams can be difficult to spot. Fraudsters can be convincing and knowledgeable, with websites and materials that look identical to the real thing.
But if you’ve been contacted unexpectedly, or are suspicious about a call or text message, make sure you stop and check the warnings signs.
- Is it unexpected? Scammers often call out of the blue. They may also try and contact you via email, text, post, social media, or even in person.
- Do you feel pressured to act quickly? Scammers might offer you a bonus or discount if you invest quickly, or they may say the opportunity is only available for a short time.
- Does the offer sound too good to be true? Fraudsters often promise tempting rewards, such as high returns on an investment.
- Is the offer exclusively for you? Scammers might claim that you’ve been specially chosen for an investment opportunity, and it should be kept a secret.
- Are they trying to flatter you? Scammers often try to build a friendship with you to put you at ease.
- Are you feeling worried or excited? Fraudsters may try to influence your emotions to get you to act.
- Are they speaking with authority? Scammers might claim that they’re authorised and often appear knowledgeable about financial products.
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, or you’re unsure if a contact is genuine, follow the steps below to protect yourself.
Check the firm or individual
Check if the firm or individual is authorised
Almost all financial services firms in the UK must be authorised or registered by us. To find out if a firm or individual is authorised, you can check our Financial Services Register:
Make sure you always use the website address above to visit the FS Register. Never click on links in emails or on company websites. It could be part of the scam.
Check that the firm reference number (FRN) and contact details you’ve been given match the details on the FS Register.
If there aren’t any contact details listed on the FS Register, or the firm says they’re out of date, call us on 0800 111 6768.
Remember, some firms pretend to be authorised firms, so always use the contact details on the FS Register.
If you’re struggling to check the details of a financial firm or individual, find out how to contact us.
Our team can check the details you’ve been given and tell you if the firm is genuine.
How to protect yourself
- treat all unexpected calls, emails and text messages with caution. Don’t assume they’re genuine, even if the person knows some basic information about you
- hang up on calls and ignore messages if you feel pressured to act quickly. A genuine bank or business won’t mind waiting if you want time to think
- check your bank account and credit card statements regularly
- consider getting independent financial advice or guidance before a big financial decision (MoneyHelper has information on how to find a financial adviser)
- check overseas regulators if you’re dealing with an overseas firm (you should also check the list of scam warnings from overseas regulators)
- give out your bank account or credit card details unless you’re certain who you’re dealing with
- share your passwords with anyone (including your social media passwords)
- give access to your device by downloading software or an app from a source you don’t trust. Scammers may be able to take control of your device and access your bank account
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you’re worried about a potential scam or you think you may have been contacted by a fraudster, report it to us. This could help prevent others falling victim to the same criminal.
Call us on 0800 111 6768 or use our contact form to get in touch.
For anything we don’t regulate, or if you’ve lost money to a scam, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website.
Be wary of future scams
It’s important to be extra careful if you’ve already been scammed. Fraudsters could try and target you again, or they may sell your details to other criminals.
The new scam might be completely different, or it could be related to the previous scam. For example, you could be contacted with an offer to get your money back or to buy back an investment after you pay a fee. These are known as recovery room scams.
If you have any concerns at all about a potential financial scam, contact us immediately.