Billions of pounds are lost to fraud in the UK each year. Research from consumer body Which? found that in the year to April 2021 as much as £2.3 billion was lost to a "devastating surge" in scams.
There were 413,553 instances of fraud reported in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - an increase of 33% on the previous 12 months, with online shopping scams coming out on top as fraudsters took advantage of locked-down consumers buying more on the web.
Despite the huge rise in scams, there are ways that you can protect your money. In this article, we take a look at some clever services you can use in order to protect your finances.
How to protect against scams and problem spending
Kalgera is an app designed to help prevent fraud on older and vulnerable people's finances. The app connects via open banking to the user's bank account and then notifies a family member or trusted person when a suspicious transaction occurs. Kalgera is currently being released in a beta version and there is a waiting list to sign up. You will be notified via email when it is time to set up your account.
Consumers - or someone acting on their behalf e.g. via power of attorney - can register with the Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS) and choose to have credit agencies and companies take their vulnerability into consideration when they are assessing the suitability of a product or service. Users can choose to have their application automatically denied if they apply for credit. Or alternatively, they can have their name 'flagged', which means the company will contact them to discuss their application.
GAMSTOP is an online service that allows consumers to register and exclude themselves from online gambling, including apps. A name, address, and email address is required and there is the option to be excluded for a period of 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years. Each individual has to sign up on their own accord and the restrictions can be lifted at any time - however, GAMSTOP would need to be contacted and the necessary protocol would need to be followed and met.
Cold Turkey is a browser add-on that is designed to increase productivity by blocking distracting websites, games, and apps. However, it can also be used to block problem spending websites such as gambling or online shopping sites.
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) allows you to opt-out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls that could increase a vulnerable person's risk of being scammed. You can simply register the relevant telephone number on its website.
Banks that currently offer gambling blocks
Scams aren't the only way you could find your finances at risk. Gambling can eat away at your money and leave you in immense amounts of debt before you even realise it. Fortunately, some banks have gambling-block options, which restrict known gambling sites and services so that you cannot access them.
If you are unsure if your bank offers a gambling block, it is best to contact them directly. We've rounded up a list of banks which currently offer gambling-block services:
Where to get free debt help and advice
Should you end up in trouble as a result of scams or gambling, there are many charities and websites that offer free debt and financial advice. We've listed some of them below: