The internet is a great tool for people who want to get better at managing their money, full of tips, tricks and advice articles (just like this one!). It’s also great for people who want to find a good deal, bag a bargain, or jump on the next big financial opportunity.
Unfortunately, it’s also a good tool for scammers, who can use the internet to get their cons out to a wider audience. And while you might be too smart to fall for some of the more stereotypical tricks, sometimes scammers are hiding behind better tactics. The recent news that Martin Lewis will be suing Facebook over a string of scams featuring his name and supposed endorsement has shed some light on the practice. As one of the country’s leading financial experts, it’s not hard to see why people might be tempted by a supposed get-rich-quick scheme if they thought it had his support.
So, how do you stay safe whilst using the internet for financial advice? Here are a few ways to make sure you’re not falling for a scam.
If it smells like a rat…
… Then it probably is one. Most legitimate financial advice will look at helping you create a more sustainable lifestyle for yourself. In other words, they’ll involve some work on your part. So if you stumble across a too-good-to-be-true money-making scheme, then chances are it’s time to look the other way. These can run the gambit from obviously fake to surprisingly authentic, but if you’re being offered all the wealth with none of the work then something is amiss.
Read the reviews
If you come across something that looks interesting, then don’t simply rely on a few testimonials that have been cherry picked (or totally made up) by the advertiser. Instead, turn to google to find out whether other people have tried the same technique. Did it work for them? The key here is to look for independent sites.
Check for sources
When you read an article on this site, it will often include links to other websites where you can read more on the same topic. This means that you can see the research that has gone into creating an article, and check that the facts are right. Advice should either come from a true expert, or be backed up by sources that help you understand why a claim is being made.
Be risk adverse
Legitimate financial advice will usually encourage you to keep a safety net of savings, or to make sure that you have enough money for your living costs before using money for other purposes. So, if you’re being encouraged to put more money than you can afford into some sort of investment then, at best, your adviser is being irresponsible. At worse, it’s a scam – and either way, you might not see a penny back.
Beware of lookalike sites
One of the common features seen across several of the scams using Martin Lewis, was the use of websites that are designed to look like other, more reputable sources. This might involve, for instance, a website being created that has the same style and colour as the BBC site. If you click a link, make sure you check thoroughly before assuming what site you’ve landed on.