Stay safe from the financial scammers
This is one of those topics that we’re all aware of, as we hear or read about another unfortunate person who was conned out of their life savings. Pretty much all of us also think that this would never happen to us, and hopefully it never will. But scams are becoming ever more credible and harder to detect, so there’s no harm in a quick reminder of good practices to protect your hard-earned money.
Most of the scams that begin with a phone call can be quickly spotted. When you answer a call and it’s a recorded message from Revenue or the Department of Social Protection warning you of some financial issue, we all know what to do – hang up. Similarly when you get a call from someone with dubious English warning of an issue with your PC and pushing to help you sort it out, you put the phone down.
But some of these scams are becoming more difficult to spot. Now we see phone calls coming from what looks like a credible phone number, with a spiel that is more believable. If the call is unexpected, but you think it could be genuine, you should still terminate the call. Then contact the source yourself, using an email address or phone number that you sourced independently – from Google or the provider’s own website. The key with any of these is not to follow any “helpful” instructions – such as the caller giving you an email address or phone number to use, to verify the call.
The same applies to links that you are sent, whether in an email, a text message or a messaging app. Always be very suspicious, even if you know the sender. If you are not expecting the email / message and one arrives with a link in it, take your time. If you don’t know the source at all, do not click on the link. If you know the person who sent the message, a quick phone call to them to verify the email / message itself and the safety of the link is advised. There have been too many incidents of people’s email / message apps being hacked, and then dangerous links being sent out.
The other challenge with some of these links is that they can bring you through to what looks very credibly like the website of a financial institution or other provider. But of course, it is not a genuine website and is simply an attempt to steal your personal information and access your bank account. Only access websites via trusted and independent sources (eg Google), as opposed to links.
These come in many forms too, but usually play on that most dangerous of human emotions – greed. We all know that if something looks to be too good to be true, well it usually is. But sometimes those “promised” returns just look so attractive! Be very cautious of people offering significant returns in comparison to other more mainstream investments. They are usually in some exotic or opaque investment structure, that you don’t fully understand, but that usually sounds great on the surface. Satisfy yourself as to the regulatory status of the adviser / provider and of the investment product itself.
If you really want to participate in some “racy” investments, one suggestion is to keep a very small corner of your overall portfolio aside for any such schemes – an amount that you willing to lose in its entirety. Instead, time and time again we have seen that investment success comes from a risk-appropriate, long-term investment strategy that is reviewed regularly with your Invesco consultant. It might not be as exciting as some “get rich quick” scheme, but it offers a far better chance of achieving your investment objectives.
I think we also all know at this stage that there is no rich benefactor in some far-flung place waiting to send us €58billion if we just give them our bank details!
As mentioned above, financial scams are becoming more credible, sophisticated and harder to spot. As we all age and maybe don’t stay as up to date as we used to regarding technology, our vulnerability can increase. Have trusted family members and friends that you can talk to about any suspicious activity and about protecting yourself.
You certainly don’t need to live your life worrying about being scammed, but be aware of them, and by default be cautious and suspicious. It’s your hard-earned money to enjoy!