Investment fraud and pension scams can have a detrimental impact on your pension savings. This page provides helpful information on steps you can take to avoid fraud and scams, plus useful links to third party organisations who can provide further support.
Investment Fraud - What to look out for
Investment fraud is increasing and it’s getting harder to spot scams. We hope this information will help you spot a scam.
Did you know?
- The majority of victims of scams are experienced investors
- The Financial Conduct Authority estimates £200 million to £500 million is defrauded from victims in the UK each year
- The average victim of an investment scam loses £20,000 and some lose much more.
Scottish Widows won’t sell you an investment or savings bond directly
If you’re offered a new investment or savings bond from us, always be suspicious. Out of nowhere you could receive emails, letters and phone calls claiming to be from us, but they may not be genuine.
Any investment opportunity that promises a high return with little or no risk is likely to be a scam and your money is at risk.
Here’s an email that was sent to one of our customers, trying to sell them a fake bond. This email is a scam.
Emails can appear genuine but sometimes they’re not. They might even include one of our employee’s names. That’s why it’s important not to take anything at face value.
Any email sent by us, which includes personal information, even just your name, would either be sent securely so you’ll need a password to open it. Our emails also have;
- A unique ID, for example the last few digits of your postcode or account number
- Be personally addressed, for example, Dear Mr Smith
- Won’t include a link to a logon page.
Emails: There are several ways to return important documents, like your proof of identity, to us. You can use email, go into a branch of Lloyds Bank, Halifax or Bank of Scotland, or send them by post. This scam restricts the customer to returning documents by email only, which is suspicious.
We’ve listed some of the email addresses used by criminal gangs below. These are just some of the examples we’ve found:
Phone numbers: This scam had a phone number that could have looked familiar to you. It’s straightforward for phone scammers to disguise their actual phone number to one showing a chosen area code, this is called ‘spoofing’.
In this case a number with the prefix 0131, the area code for Edinburgh, where we’re based, was used. Some of these numbers may even look like customer service numbers you’ve used before.
What to look out for
Fraudsters can pretend to be a genuine adviser, company or website as part of a fraud. And they can set up fake financial companies.
They may advertise online or send you a message out of the blue with a deal. It’s easy to become a victim of fraud if you click on an advert or reply to a message. Use the FCA website instead to find genuine contact details for a company and links to their site.
Well informed callers: Often the fraudsters will give details that only a genuine investment company will have. They may have details of previous investments made, shares held, and details of personal circumstances. They will do their homework and make it their business to know as much about the victim as they can.
Websites: Fraudsters can also set up fake companies and websites. Fake websites can be good copies of the real thing. So look out for these tell-tale signs before you use a website, log on or fill in any personal or banking details:
- Low quality images or out of date company branding
- Spelling and grammar mistakes or poorly laid out information
- Is important information missing? E.g. Contact numbers, addresses
- Broken links – are there links to other parts of the website which, when clicked on, take you to a blank page or don’t take you anywhere at all?
- Ask yourself. Is it too good to be true? You should be suspicious of investments guaranteeing such high returns
- Read the small print, is the company authorised by the FCA? Terms and conditions will tell you a lot about the authenticity of a company.
We’re not currently offering new investment or savings bonds. But this hasn’t stopped the fraudsters from creating glossy brochures to tempt unsuspecting investors. These may appear genuine at first as they include a mix of real information and website address. One thing to check is the correct spelling of Scottish Widows Ltd within the email and all literature sent to you. Please look out for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, which may suggest the documentation isn’t real.
In this example, they’ve used the front cover of an existing Fixed Income Bond brochure. It looks different from the genuine version; our logo is squashed, and it is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes.
If you suspect you have been sent a letter or brochure that isn’t real, there are several ways to check if it is genuine or not:
- You could visit our contact us page and phone a number you find there
- You could get someone you trust – a family member or friend – to help you make the call
- If you have a financial adviser, you could get them to contact us
- Check to see if you can find a previous letter that you know is genuine.
Criminals are constantly thinking of new ways defraud. So, it's important to be vigilant. We’ll never rush you into an investment decision, so if you suspect something isn’t real, take the time to consider any information you’re sent, or have been told, before committing.
What you can do to protect yourself
- Fraudsters may also approach those who have already fallen victim to investment fraud and claim they can recover money. They will request an upfront fee but will not be able to recover any money.
- Customers should be alert to the fact that a fraudster may have gone to some effort to make things appear legitimate – such as having a prestigious address, free phone number, impressive website or glossy brochure.
- The fraudsters will often call a number of times, slowly developing a friendly relationship. If the victim responds in any way, they will persist, build trust, and eventually persuade them to part with money. Having obtained some money, they will probably call again and try to obtain further money, perhaps in a different commodity.
- Customers should not respond to callers trying to sell investments but simply hang up the telephone.
- Reject pressure into buying because the offer won’t be there tomorrow. Hang up and take a day or two to consider options and take independent advice.
- Exercise considerable caution when investing money, especially in land, carbon credits, wine, jewels and stocks and shares.
- Do your own research – if you hear about an investment bond or ISA opportunity from any companies, or comparison websites, it is important to do your own digging. Independently check the company’s website, and contact them via a telephone number from this official site.
- Always seek independent financial and/or legal advice before committing to any investment.
- Never send money to anyone you do not know.
Report an investment fraud scam
If you think you may have been approached, or are a victim of Investment Fraud, please contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 for details on how to report to the authorities.
The Financial Conduct Authority regulates stockbrokers based in the UK. You can check a stockbroker's authenticity by visiting the FCA's: Register of authorised firms.
Alternatively, call the FCA's consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768.
Reporting crime, including fraud, is important. If you don’t tell the authorities, how do they know it has happened and how can they do anything about it? Remember that if you are a victim of a scam or an attempted scam, however minor, there may be hundreds or even thousands of others in a similar position. Your information may form part of one big jigsaw and may be vital to completing the picture.
Protect yourself from a Pension Scam
Pension scams are on the rise. They often start with an unexpected call, text or email. Increasingly, online fraudulent websites and social media are also being used to target people. If you’re taken in by a scam you could lose all your pension savings. Read 6 signs of a pension scam to spot what to look for.
You can get straightforward, impartial advice on how to avoid scams from Take Five.
You can report a crime or get general advice from Action Fraud. They help banks and other companies combat fraud.
They offer advice on how to keep yourself and your devices safe from fraud.
The FCA is there to make sure banks work well so customers are protected and get a fair deal.
CIFAS can help to protect your identity. They can stop fraudsters from using your details to apply for things in your name.
This is a government site that gives advice on how to stay safe online.
This is part of the FCA site. You can use it to check on an investment or pension deals to help you avoid scams.
Scottish Widows does not control the content of third party websites linked to on this page.