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Fraud continues to become ever more sophisticated; people are still getting caught out by traditional scam letters and phone calls.
Being vigilant is key.
Fraudulent schemes can fool people into parting with their personal details and/or cash. They’ve been around for as long as we can remember, but modern scams are often far harder to spot than in the past. Scammers now frequently target people through emails, online banking systems, text messages and online transactions some of these are detailed below:
Fake Delivery Text Messages
61% of people have received fake delivery texts over the past year, which will surely come as no surprise with the increase in home deliveries during lockdown as many of us have been at home – something the scammers have exploited. Thankfully, nearly 80% of people have recognised these texts to be fake, but that still leaves about 20% vulnerable to these scams. Sadly, 3% of people have lost money to them.
Typically, the scammers purport to be from Royal Mail, DPD, Hermes, DHL or other well know delivery firms. You will usually only get a legitimate message from a legitimate delivery company if you’ve ordered something and are expecting a delivery – but be careful, as the scammers are hoping that you’ll assume the text is legitimate because you are waiting on something.
Royal Mail remind people that where customers are needing to pay a surcharge for an underpaid item (where someone has not paid the correct postage), they’ll leave a grey ‘fee to pay’ card. They wouldn’t request payment by email or text.
HMRC phishing scams
These scams were up 90% in 2020/21 and relate to tax rebates and refunds. The preferred route for these scams is by email, but SMS scams of this nature are up by over 50% and phone scams by 66%.
If you receive an email from HMRC, for example if you’re self-employed, complete a self-assessment tax return or if you’ve paid insufficient tax, go on to the HMRC Government Gateway portal and see if there are any messages there.
Don’t be tempted to click on any links in the email!
For phishing in general, we are aware that clients may be targeted via an email purporting to come from a Financial Adviser when they haven’t.
Opus Gold would never request payments to be made or request that sensitive information is provided by email. Should you ever received a request which you feel is suspicious please contact us immediately via telephone.
Mortgage free or empty properties fraud
Fraudsters target properties to secure mortgages against them. Listed below are some types of properties or people that are most vulnerable to this:
- Mortgage free properties
- Vacant properties
- Properties not registered on the Land Registry (normally where the property is mortgage free).
- Where the owner lives elsewhere, for example buy-to-lets or holiday homes
Scammers will attempt to transfer the property into their own name by falsifying various documents, using stolen identities etc. They’ll then raise money against the property leaving victims with huge debts and at risk of losing their home.
You can protect your property by taking a number of steps:
- Register your property on the Land Registry if it is not already registered.
- Sign up for the free Land Registry Property Alert Service. You can get alerts for up to 10 properties, meaning you can help protect vulnerable family or friends as well as yourself.
- Put a restriction on your title: this will stop the Land Registry registering any sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the application was made by you. This restriction:
- Costs £40 if you live at the property
- Is free if you do not live at the property but you own it privately
- Is free if a company owns the property.
Renting out other people’s homes
Fraudsters copy adverts from legitimate websites and pretend to be the owners of the property to secure deposits and rent from would-be-renters.
Be extra vigilant when looking at ads placed on social media marketplaces, or the likes of Gumtree. The fraudsters tend to look for homes that are for sale, and market them as being available to rent – so if you’re looking for a property to rent, check sites like Rightmove of Zoopla to ensure that it’s not listed for sale.
Make sure that you’re able to visit the property to ensure that it is available to rent or go through a well-known or reputable agent. Most importantly, don’t be pressured into parting with money because the supposed landlords have others interested.
If they ask you to pay a deposit online to secure the property, before being able to view it – this should be a red flag!
If you’ve not yet heard of ghost broking, you’re probably wondering what it is and how you might be affected. Here we explain how people are being scammed, what to look out for and how to protect yourself.
Firstly, Ghost broking is a type of insurance scam run by fraudsters (known as ghost brokers). They will often advertise online (on social media, within online forums and sometimes with paid adverts on google) with the promise of cheap insurance. They typically target those with potentially higher premiums, to entice people to save themselves some money.
The ghost brokers will often appeal to clients by convincing them that they have a relationship with an insurance provider and have negotiated a special scheme to get them cheaper insurance. Naturally, this is what a legitimate insurance broker will do but a ghost broker won’t actually be working with an insurer, they’ll just tell you they are.
Fake documentation – if you hand over your details to a ghost broker, you’ll firstly receive a fake quote that will seem too good to be true (because as the saying goes… it is). You might then get fake insurance documentation and certificates of insurance.
The fraudsters do this in a number of ways – either by buying real car insurance policies using fake details or amending them to sell on to their victims or by designing their own false documents that appear to be from the insurer. These fraudsters will then take your money, not only leaving you out of pocket but without the right insurance or with no cover at all.
Fake no claims bonus – if you’ve gone a number of years without any claims, you may get a no claims bonus and a letter or certificate to prove this from your previous or current insurer. Some ghost brokers will try to ‘sell’ you a no claims bonus certificate to help bring down the cost of your insurance.
But don’t be fooled.
You don’t need to pay for these – the no claims are earned, and your previous insurer will be able to provide you with a letter detailing this, which you can pass on to your new insurer.
How to avoid these insurance scams:
- If you’re using a broker – check their website – does it look professional, are there any typos or grammatical errors, do they have a footer at the bottom of the page saying that they’re registered with the FCA?
- Check the FCA register to see if the company name is registered with the FCA. There will be details of key people and the address that is registered.
- What’s the process for getting a quote?
Typically, an insurance broker will ask a number of questions to get all the details they need, sometimes around 30 questions, depending on what you need cover for. Ghost brokers only ask a few.
- Check whether they’ve given you fake documents.
You should either receive all of your documents in the post, via email (check the email address of the sender) or from a secure document portal, which you have to log into. If they’re sending documents via another method, e.g. whatsapp or direct message through social media channels – be very wary.
- Check your policy details
If you’ve received your documentation, check that they’ve captured all the information correctly, i.e. name, address, occupation, date of birth, type of cover etc. Is everything correct as per the information you provided? If not, contact the insurer directly.
Reporting a ghost broker
Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. If you’re a victim of ghost broking, you should notify Action Fraud as soon as possible via their website.
The content of this email is for information only. It does not represent advice or a recommendation and should not be interpreted as such. Please do not act upon any part of it without first having consulted an Independent Financial Adviser.
Contact Opus Gold by calling or e mailing us
London 020 7871 5387
Brighton 01273 457100
Horsham 01403 333666
Opus Gold is a trading style of Best Practice IFA Group Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.