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‘Don’t let your defences down’: the rise of investment scams (and how to avoid them) | Be a money hero

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Investment scams are on the rise, but there are several resources to help keep you protected.
Photograph: FG Trade/Getty Images

Financial fraud is nothing new, but the number of scams soared in 2020 with fraudsters taking advantage of financial uncertainty and coronavirus worries to swoop on vulnerable victims.

According to data published by Action Fraud in November, there was a spike in scams between May and September. The types are myriad, from stereotypical “romance” scams, where people are befriended online then duped, to fake tax emails and impersonation scams.

But one of the most common to plague consumers is investment scams, with Action Fraud reporting that between September 2019 and September 2020 it received more than 17,000 reports of investment fraud, involving £657.4m in losses, up 28% on the previous 12 months.

According to Peter Hazlewood, group financial crime risk director at Aviva, investment frauds are one of the biggest trends when it comes to scams at the moment. He says that around 95% of the frauds reported to Aviva since the first lockdown are in this category, and the company has identified 26 other investment companies impacted by this type of fraud.

Too good to be true?
The scam capitalises on people’s worries about low interest rates by offering too-good-to-be-true investments that appear to offer high returns, and which are designed to lure in savers looking for a safe place for their investments. The highly-complicated schemes, often accessed via online links on popular search engines, present people with appealing “products” with attractive rates of interest purporting to be from trusted names such as Aviva. Mimicking everything from the company’s website to the sales and compliance staff who call to take details, the scams are proving worryingly effective in extracting people’s savings from them, leaving them with nothing.

They come at a time when financial worries are high on people’s list. According to research by Aviva last year, nearly a third (30%) of UK adults aged 45-54 are concerned that the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic is negatively impacting their mental health.

Investment scams prey on people from a specific demographic, says Hazlewood, and play on those worries about financial security. Often aged between 55 and 80, they are people who are nearing the end of their career or are retired and have built up an investment portfolio. “They may or may not be investment savvy but are almost all in the vulnerable category from the point of view of their age group,” he says.

Spot and report
The threat is sinister and very real, but being forewarned is forearmed, and more tools than ever are at consumers’ disposal to help them spot such scams and, should they fall victim, report them quickly.

Aviva has launched its own fraud hub, which offers a range of information about all the latest scams including real-life examples, names of companies that have tried to contact potential victims, and the option to report a scam (whether you’re an Aviva customer or not). It also includes a whole range of tips to help people keep their money safe.

One of the pointers explains how to recognise potentially fake sites. While many are convincing, some telltale signs include poor-quality images and text, missing contact details or links that purport to take you to another part of the website but actually take you to a blank page or nowhere at all. Another key sign is something being too good to be true – yet, Hazlewood says, this is often the very thing that reels people in. “Some of these returns are advertised as between 4-6% per annum, which is unheard of at the moment, but people think: ‘Well, that’s much better than I’m getting, and, oh, it’s Aviva so it must be safe.’”

Aviva isn’t alone in offering resources to help spot scams. The Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart scheme also offers information on potential scams and frauds, as well as what to do if you think you’ve fallen victim to one.

On top of these resources, Aviva’s says it’s vital to do your own research. Rather than seeing an offer on a comparison site or hearing about it from someone else and jumping in feet first, it’s important to check the company’s official website and speak to them directly. You should also take a close look at the website’s disclaimers and terms and conditions, Aviva suggests.

Another layer of security is to go through an independent financial adviser or broker, says Hazlewood. But the biggest weapon is scepticism. “These frauds are designed to bring your defences down,” he says. “They are designed to be credible, so the most important thing is don’t let your defences down. Be sceptical the whole way through. Look on our fraud hub, check out ScamSmart, and just be sceptical.”

Scammed? Act quickly
But what if, despite all that, you do become a victim of fraud? It doesn’t mean all is lost, says Hazlewood, pointing out that in some cases people’s money has been recovered. But it’s often about time. “Speed is of the essence. The most important thing is to tell us. It can happen to anybody, and it’s a natural human reaction to be embarrassed, but don’t be. Don’t sit on it, because then the money is gone. If there is any concern whatsoever, tell us.”

Many financial institutions, Aviva included, have options to report suspected fraud, says Hazlewood, and even the tiniest piece of information could be the “missing piece of the puzzle” when it comes to catching the perpetrators of this kind of financial fraud.

“We’re trying really hard to bring these criminals to justice and we’re all working together along with law enforcement. Criminals do not respect organisational boundaries – we have to work together, so it’s very important that people get intelligence to us and we will support them through the whole process.”

Find out how to harness your money superpower with tips, tricks, and information on managing money in today’s ever-changing world. Read more here

The views expressed in this article do not constitute financial advice. The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount you invested.


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Amanda Gorman signs modeling contract following acclaimed inaugural performance | US news

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Amanda Gorman, whose performance of her poem The Hill We Climb during Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration drew widespread praise, has signed to IMG Models, the same agency as Gigi and Bella Hadid.

The 22-year-old US National Youth Poet Laureate, has already become a fashion sensation. The red satin Prada headband she wore during the inauguration ceremony led to the item selling out, while her yellow coat (also Prada) caused searches for “yellow coats” to increase 1,328% percent (according to fashion search engine Lyst) in the wake of her appearance.

“I’m a black woman with a powerful pen and a big heart, and I like my look to reflect that pride,” Gorman told Harpers Bazaar, speaking about her love of style. She told the magazine she loves “loud, regal-looking dresses embroidered with flowers – a nod, I think, to my Afro-flower-child upbringing in Los Angeles. I’m also a fan of Victor Glemaud’s super stylish and comfy knitwear.”

The signing of Gorman is seen as a shrewd one by fashion insiders. As labels struggle to adapt to the changes in the fashion industry as a result of the pandemic, Generation Z shoppers are disengaging with fashion labels who do not reflect their own social, political and environmental concerns.

Gorman, who founded the charity One Pen, One Page, which supports underprivileged young people through writing, is perfectly poised to be the face of a fashion label which would want to do more than sell a piece of clothing, but to connect on a deeper level with its customers.

Earlier this month tennis player Naomi Osaka, who publicly made a stand against police brutality and racial injustice through her choice of face masks during tennis matches became the face of Louis Vuitton. “(She) represents her generation and is also a role model for everyone. Her career and convictions are inspiring,” said Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere in a statement.

At IMG Models, which also represents Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne and Ashley Graham, Gorman will “be represented by the modelling agency for brand endorsements and other fashion-adjacent opportunities,” according to industry publication The Business of Fashion. The appointment was praised by Gigi Hadid who wrote in Instagram stories: “Werk @amandasgorman @imgmodels faaaaam! Major.”



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7 common dinner habits that are shortening your life

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Gulping down your dinner too fast can make you fat and harm your heart, says research presented at an American Heart Association scientific conference in 2017.

Fast eaters are 11.6 per cent more likely to have metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster disorder including high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high triglycerides levels. Eating fast is also associated with weight gain.

When you eat fast, you do not chew the food properly, which can also affect the number of nutrients you are getting from healthy food.


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Kim Jones Fendi show: Kate Moss and daughter Lila grace catwalk | Fashion

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One has been a British fashion superstar for 30 years; the other is a British designer who is becoming fashion’s next global power player.

A rare catwalk turn by Kate Moss marked the moment that Kim Jones, lauded with industry awards but a little-known name in the wider world, took his place at fashion’s top table with his first womenswear collection, for Fendi haute couture. Moss was joined by her daughter Lila, 18, the first time the pair have walked a catwalk together. The actor Demi Moore opened the show in off-the-shoulder black satin; Naomi Campbell closed it in a silver cape with cathedral-length train. Such stellar casting, on a show filmed behind closed doors with no live audience, was an unmistakable flexing of strength.

Demi Moore opened the show in off-the-shoulder black satin.
Demi Moore opened the show in off-the-shoulder black satin. Photograph: Stéphane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty

Jones is a sneakerhead who also collects first editions of Virginia Woolf. He has five trophies from the British Fashion Awards, has been awarded an OBE, was mentored by Alexander McQueen, and counts the Beckhams as well as Moss in his circle of close friends. By aligning with Supreme during his tenure at Louis Vuitton and with Air Jordan at Dior, he pioneered a pivot to streetwear which transformed and energised the menswear world. His talents have long been recognised and rewarded by his bosses at LVMH – as is attested by his personal art collection, which includes a Francis Bacon and a Rene Magritte.

Jones has arrived to design women’s clothing at a house with a strong heritage of matriarchal leadership and female creativity. Silvia Fendi, the current menswear and accessories designer, is the fourth generation of Fendi women at the helm of the brand. Jones has enlisted Kate Moss as a consultant on accessories at Fendi, as well as a model, and the mother-and-daughter Moss casting was his way of honouring the Fendi tradition.

Kim Jones walks the runway after presenting his Fendi spring-summer collection.
Kim Jones walks the runway after presenting his Fendi spring-summer collection. Photograph: Stéphane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty

Jones said before the show: “Fendi is all about family … I am surrounded by strong, powerful women who I love and respect, and want to bring their energy into what I do.” He describes his own role at Fendi as “guest starring”.

Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando was Jones’s jumping-off point. The gender-blurring classic novel has become a go-to reference point in modern fashion, a book that is to the early 21st-century catwalk what the film Breakfast at Tiffany was to the late-20th. It has been the touchstone for collections by Christopher Bailey at Burberry, and Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy.

Jones grew up near Charleston, the Sussex home of the Bloomsbury group, and has amassed a collection of first editions of Woolf’s Orlando, which includes those owned by Vita Sackville-West and Vanessa Bell, two of the most important women in Woolf’s life.

Naomi Campbell closed the show in a silver cape.
Naomi Campbell closed the show in a silver cape. Photograph: Stéphane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty

“I admire the way they lived their lives, the freedom they created for themselves and the art that they left behind for the world,” Jones says of his connection to renegade Bloomsbury energy. This manifested itself in ways both straightforward – as with lines of Orlando inscribed into tiny mother-of-pearl minaudière handbags – and more oblique. The model Adwoa Aboah’s look was inspired by a sketch in the Fendi archives from Karl Lagerfeld’s tenure at the house, a nod to the time-travelling that is central to Orlando.

After walking the catwalk, each model struck a pose inside glass rooms which slotted together in the shape of Fendi’s double F logo. A chic take on the Covid-secure “bubble” – or perhaps on Woolf’s passion for a room of one’s own.


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