This content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as financial advice or investment advice. To receive tailored, regulated advice regarding your investments and financial goals, please consult an independent financial adviser such as ours here at Suttons IFA in Sale, Cheshire.

Every Christmas there are some unfortunate people who are conned out of money during Christmas. In 2017, Action Fraud reported that over 15,000 shoppers were tricked out of their money the previous December, totalling over £16m in total losses. Much of the misfortunate occurs online as people use their bank cards to make digital purchases, so it’s important to be careful with which websites and security measures you use.

At Suttons IFA, our financial planning team is primarily concerned with preserving and growing our clients’ wealth. So this is an area of great importance to us. In this short guide, we’ll be sharing some practical thoughts to help protect your family’s finances this Christmas. We hope you find this content helpful, and if you’d like to discuss your wider financial plan with us through a free consultation, please do get in touch via:

T: 0161 969 1703

E: [email protected]

#1 Avoid bank transfers

Some retailers might not transact with you unless you agree to pay by bank transfer. Be very careful here, as you have very few financial protections once you hand the money over. If things go wrong, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to get back; especially if the vendor is based overseas. If you must use a bank transfer, make sure you trust the person implicitly.

#2 Don’t click on the links in emails or texts

If you get an unexpected email from a seller offering a great Christmas deal, then be wary of clicking on any links. Instead, type their URL into your browser directly and check whether you can find the offer that way. The reason for this is that links can be cleverly disguised. For an example of this, try clicking on this link here: 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (it will take you to the BBC).

#3 Keep apps and software updated

Hackers often like to target smartphones, tablets and desktop devices which do not have the latest security software installed. They can often exploit weaknesses that might have been “covered” up in the most recent security updates. As such, make sure your phone apps, firewall protection and other sensitive software are all fully up-to-date this December. This is especially important for apps and programmes which might contain your personal data or banking details.

#4 Be careful on public WiFi

Many of us will happily log into the WiFi connection offered by a restaurant or cafe. Many of these connections (especially “open networks”) are vulnerable to hackers, who can intercept insecure transmission between your smartphone and the router as you make Christmas purchase. Be very careful, therefore, when making a Christmas payment whilst connected to a public WiFi network. It would be very unfortunate if someone nearby was able to intercept your card details as they travel across the connection to the vendor. If you want to make online payments whilst on-the-go, consider using the secure connection of your mobile network.

#5 Separate passwords and double-authenticate

Many of us recognise the foolishness of using a password such as “password” on our computer, phone or online logins (e.g. Amazon). However, too many people also use the same password across all of their devices. This can leave you especially vulnerable; all a hacker needs to do is crack that one password and they can access everything. It can be mentally-cumbersome but consider remembering four or five different strong passwords for your accounts. If this sounds like too much, then a secure “password vault” tool such as LastPass might help you.

Another important layer of security to consider is double-authentication, or two-factor authentication (2FA). Here, a notification is sent your phone or device if you (or anyone else) uses your payment details, for confirmation. This can be especially useful for countering hackers. After all, if they do steal your payment information after you’ve tried to make an online purchase, they’d need to also steal your device to cause more damage (assuming you are using 2FA across all of your accounts). If you are unsure how 2FA works, check out Google’s 2-Step Verification tool and app to get started.

#6 High-value item scams

As financial advisers, this is an area where we often offer counsel to clients. Certain stocks and other investments, for instance, are sometimes presented to clients which look “too good to be true” – and they typically are! Quite often, these come about via an unsolicited phone call offering an urgent, once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity which is typically presented as having a “guaranteed return” in an unregulated area (e.g. gold, hotels, parking). These sorts of scams happen all-year-round, but often they become more prominent during holiday seasons such as Christmas. 

If you get a call like this, the important thing is to not be pressured into an immediate decision and to not disclose any disclosing any personal information over the phone. Take the company’s details down as well as the “opportunity” they are offering. Say you will take the matter to your financial adviser (if it’s a scam, quite often they will have hung up down by this point!).

Invitation

If you would like to know more about equity release or to discuss your own financial plan with us, then we’d be delighted to hear from you. 

Please get in touch using the details below, to arrange a free, no-commitment financial consultation with a member of our team:

T: 0161 969 1703

E: [email protected]