three padlocks on background
Share via WhatsApp Share via Facebook Share via Facebook Share via Twitter Share via Email

Social media scams are on the rise: here’s how to stay safe

Online scams have always been a threat, but fraudsters have become even better at tricking you out of your hard-earned cash and now they are sliding into your favourite social media platforms.

What’s happening

Almost £108m was lost to investment scams in the last year alone according to research by UK Finance, the banking body.

But rather than Ponzi or pyramid schemes that you read about in the headlines, now scammers are using ads on social media to flog bogus financial products like cryptocurrencies, gold or property.

In some cases, social media ‘influencers’ may be used to promote such schemes in order to help the investment seem legitimate or create a sense of trust as it can feel like you’re being approached by a friend.

And it's more common than you might think - figures from UK Finance show it's skyrocketed by 95% since last year.

During a 12-month period 5,039 reports of investment fraud made reference to a social media platform, according to research by Action Fraud, with losses reaching over £63m.

And it seems like it’s not a problem that's likely to go away: convictions in England and Wales have slumped to their lowest level since 2007 with just one in 700 incidents of fraud convicted in 2019.

A third of all social media investment fraud victims are aged 19-25, 61% of which were men

Who is being targeted?

To make matters worse, the victims that are targeted by criminals are younger than usual too.

According to City of London Police nearly a third of all social media investment fraud victims are aged 19-25, 61% of which were men.

By contrast, when looking at investment fraud reports where social media didn’t play a factor in the scam, the average age of victims was over 50.

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is

How to protect yourself

Fraudsters typically promise high returns and use fake celebrity endorsements and images of luxury items to entice people to invest in their scams – here’s how to not fall for the bait:

1. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Be suspicious if you are contacted out the blue about an investment opportunity whether a cold call, an email or a message on social media.

3. If you feel rushed, it should be a red flag. No legitimate organisation will pressure you into making a transaction or committing to something on the spot. Take time to do your research.

4. As with any investment or big financial decision, consult independent professional advice services or even a person that you trust. Even genuine investment schemes can be high risk.

5. Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority – if they’re not, it’s probably a scam.

Always check the Financial Services Register to see if a firm or individual is authorised or registered before you hand over any cash.

But make sure that you always access the Register from the FCA website directly, rather than through links in emails or on the website of a firm offering you an investment.

What to do if things go wrong

Although many banks promise to reimburse blameless victims of this kind of fraud by signing up to the voluntary authorised payments scam code, banks might challenge customers if they think you didn’t take precautions.

For those tricked into sending money to a scammer, there's no such legal protection against losses. While most major banks have signed up to a voluntary reimbursement code on bank transfer scams, according to Which?, many customers are not refunded, or are offered 50% of their money back with decisions made on an ad-hoc basis.

The code states that victims should be reimbursed unless the firm can establish that their customer didn’t have a ‘reasonable basis’ for believing the person or organisation they are sending money to is genuine.

If you have been a victim of a scam, or have spotted a fake website, there are a few steps you should take.

1. Let the company who the scammers are pretending to be know what they are doing so they can take steps to warn other people about the scam.

Often these companies will warn their customers of a scam going around by updating their websites, or emailing their customers letting them know this scam is going around and how they can avoid it.

2. If you think you’ve been a victim of an investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. For more information about investment fraud, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.

3 things to do
right now

1

Keep all your devices as up to date as possible when it comes to the latest operating software and app updates. The same goes for antivirus software.

2

Make sure your computer has a firewall installed and check that the browser you use is set to the highest level of monitoring and security to help reduce the chances of cold-sweat-inducing malware incidents.

3

If you share tech with your kids, make sure that you talk to them about online safety and keep an eye on their accounts.

Meerkat your Life
3 Things
Please share this with someone
who'd benefit from it.

Share via WhatsApp Share via Facebook Share via Facebook Share via Twitter Share via Email
Has this page made you feel better about managing your money?