Scamwatch: most common scams of 2016

Were you tricked by fraudsters this year?

Scamwatch: the most common scams of 2016

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we concentrate on three of the most common scams criminals used to try to steal your money in 2016, including pension investment fraud and bogus social media posts.

How does it work?

The 2015 introduction of a more flexible pensions regime has had one unfortunate consequence: the number of criminal gangs trying to con savers into investing in fraudulent schemes has gone through the roof.

Many of the scams involve fraudsters from so-called pension liberation companies cold calling potential targets and trying to convince them to take money out of their pension funds and put it into investments that promise larger returns - but actually leave them vulnerable to huge losses.

Elsewhere, the popularity of social media websites such as Facebook has led to numerous fraudulent attacks.

Common types include links that automatically upload malicious software when they are clicked on, begging messages that appear to be from people you know, and so-called romance scams designed to trap those looking for love into parting with their cash.

Email scams also remain a big problem, with tech support scams that claim you need pay for "services" to repair a device one of the big new trends for 2016.

Popular email scams this year have also included payment requests sent by hackers posing as company executives or suppliers.

How can I avoid being caught out?

To avoid being taken in by pension fraudsters, it is important to always take independent advice from a trusted source before making any big changes to your investments.

The Pensions Regulator also recommends checking that companies are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority before agreeing to invest.

When it comes to avoiding social media fraud, meanwhile, the basic rule is simple: if a link looks suspicious, don't click on it.

You should also be wary of any approaches from strangers and double check your friends' accounts have not been hacked before responding to any unusual messages.

Finally, ignore any unsolicited emails you receive claiming that you need tech support, and always double check payment requests by calling the company or individual involved on a separately sourced number before transferring any cash.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you have fallen victim to pension fraud, call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 to find out what to do next.

If you think your computer has been the subject of a malicious attack, run an online virus scanner such as the Microsoft Safety Scanner, and change your passwords and login details to prevent hackers accessing your accounts.

You can also report scams of any kind to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.