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31 October 2022
Investment scammers are exploiting the cost of living crisis – find out how to protect yourself

The UK is facing a cost of living crisis, making Britons anxious about the future and hungry for money saving advice: perfect conditions for scammers to trick savers out of their money and information. But Take Five, the UK anti-fraud initiative that M&G has signed up to, is fighting back with its Cost of Living campaign highlighting the increasing risk of scams and fraud.

We brought together our Chief Information Security Officer Lindsey Bateman and Gary Breadmore, Head of Investigations in M&G’s Financial Crime team to discuss the new types of scams they are seeing and their top tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

Lindsey Bateman: Gary, we’ve come together to talk about scams and how they are becoming an increased risk to the public.  The important work our teams do here at M&G gives us great insight into the sheer scale of the fraud problem – are there some figures you can share that will help give the audience a flavour of this?

Gary Breadmore: In 2021, victims lost £1.3bn to fraud and half of those surveyed by the Office of National Statistics as part of the National Crime Survey for England & Wales had received a phishing scam of some kind in one month. Fraud is now the most common crime in the UK and we know from previous experience that fraudsters will use issues like the cost of living crisis for their own gains. 

Lindsey: You know, I’ve been working in cybersecurity for a long time, and here at M&G we’ve really focussed in recent years on training our employees to be extra vigilant to the growing threat.  But I’m still shocked at the callousness of criminals and their scams – they really are unbelievably cruel in the way they attempt to exploit people. What are you seeing on the fraud side of things?

Gary: The latest thing we’re seeing is scammers exploiting consumers using the cost of living crisis as their hook.  We’ve already had reports in the media of people receiving text messages claiming to be from HMRC asking people to complete online forms for benefits that are automatically being applied – for example the winter fuel payment.  Previous experience of the COVID pandemic suggests that we are also likely to see an increase in scam activity in relation to false or fraudulent investments.

Lindsey: That’s right, the flexibility of scammers to turn a news story or event into a phishing email, text or a scam voicemail is part of their success. So, what are some of the signs that people should be on the lookout for?

Gary: Anything that pushes you to make a decision or provide information quickly. Ask yourself, do you really need to respond immediately if it’s the first time you’ve been contacted?  Are you being told something is a ‘limited time offer’?  Does it promise a return or a loan rate that’s unrealistic based on other companies?  Can you verify the product or rate offered elsewhere or is it ‘exclusive’?  Are you being contacted in an expected way or is it out of the blue – why would a company you have no relationship with email you about a great investment opportunity?  Fraudsters are increasingly impersonating legitimate organisations like M&G or HMRC so you need to make sure that the product you are being offered or the person contacting you is genuine.

Lindsey: These are classic scammer tricks. So simple, but also so easy to fall for, sadly. But the Take Five anti-fraud initiative, which M&G supports, gives out really simple and clear advice on how to avoid becoming a victim, doesn’t it?

Gary: The key message from Take 5 week is Stop, Challenge, Protect.  Stop and take a moment to consider what’s being offered or asked of you, does it seem legitimate, are there things that might make you a little suspicious of the request.  Challenge what you’re being told or asked to do, could the request be fake?  Only a criminal will try to rush or panic you when making a decision.  Protect yourself and others, if you think that you’ve been a victim of a scam please immediately contact your bank and report it to Action Fraud.   

Take 5 have a great website with lots of hints and tips at General Advice | Take Five (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk), M&G also have Fraud prevention (mandg.com) information available on our website.

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M&G plc, incorporated and registered in England and Wales. Registered office: 10 Fenchurch Avenue, London EC3M 5AG. Registered number 11444019. M&G plc is a holding company, some of whose subsidiaries are authorised and regulated, as applicable, by the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

M&G plc is a company incorporated and with its principal place of business in England, and its affiliated companies constitute a leading savings and investments business. M&G plc is the direct parent company of The Prudential Assurance Company Limited. The Prudential Assurance Company Limited is not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc, a company whose principal place of business is in the United States of America or Prudential plc, an international group incorporated in England and Wales.

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M&G plc is a company incorporated and with its principal place of business in England, and its affiliated companies constitute a leading savings and investments business. M&G plc is the direct parent company of The Prudential Assurance Company Limited. The Prudential Assurance Company Limited is not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc, a company whose principal place of business is in the United States of America or Prudential plc, an international group incorporated in England and Wales.