Top Money News

nigel woollsey

Nigel Woollsey

Online Writer
Published: 21/05/2019

A warning has been issued today by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) together with Action Fraud regarding the rising number of crypto assets and forex investment scams. Reports of this kind of criminal activity tripled last year to over 1,800 recorded instances, with more than £27m lost to scams of this nature in 2018/19. However, in an alarming new trend, fraudsters are using bogus celebrity endorsements in order to dupe unwary investors into parting with their cash.

 

Social media platforms are being increasingly used to promote ‘too good to be true’ online trading platforms, accompanied by images of high-cost, luxury items, such as expensive watches and cars. Once an innocent investor has been enticed into clicking on a web link, they will be taken to a professional-looking website where they will be encouraged to invest. At first, the customer is assured by the fact that the first investment has made a profit, before the scammers then approach the victim to invest yet more funds as well as introducing friends and family to the bogus scheme. Eventually, however the returns stop, the account is closed without warning and the criminals disappear with the victim’s money. It has been estimated that the average loss due to this kind of fraud is around £14,600 per victim.

 

The introduction of fake celebrity endorsements is a relatively new development that has added an additional lure for the unwary on social media platforms. This is a ploy designed with the sole intention of lending credibility to the scammer’s offers.

 

Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, said: “People need to be wary of fake investments on online trading platforms. It’s vital that people carry out the necessary checks to ensure that an investment they’re considering is legitimate.

“Action Fraud is pleased to be partnering with the FCA to raise awareness of online trading scams, and we hope it will help prevent more people falling victim. Remember, if you think you have been a victim, contact Action Fraud.”

 

This advice was echoed by Mark Stewart, executive director of Enforcement and Market Oversight for the FCA: “'We’re warning the public to be suspicious of adverts that promise high returns from online trading platforms.

“Scammers can be very convincing, so always do your own research into any firm you are considering investing with to make sure that they are the real deal. Before investing online, find out how to protect yourself from scams by visiting the ScamSmart website, and if in any doubt – don’t invest.”

 

The FCA has also produced a simple series of rules for would-be investors encouraging people to stay safe while scrolling:

  • Don’t assume it’s real – professional-looking websites, adverts or social media posts don’t always mean that an investment opportunity is genuine. Criminals can use the names of well-known brands or individuals to make their scams appear legitimate.
  • Stay in control – avoid uninvited investment offers whether made on social media or over the phone. If you’re thinking about making an investment, thoroughly research the company first and consider getting independent advice.
  • Make the right checks – firms providing regulated financial services must be authorised by the FCA. You can check whether they are authorised on the Financial Services Register. Use the contact details on the Register, not the details the firm gives you, to avoid ‘clones’.
  • Every report matters – if you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to Action Fraud.

 

Moneyfacts.co.uk also has a number of helpful online guides, which can help you steer clear of online financial scams as well as ideas on how to keep your online banking safe.

You may have the best intentions of saving up money – perhaps your countdown to Christmas has started, or maybe you've started planning next year's holiday – but it can be hard to find the time to sit down and really take charge of your finances. That's why Moneyfacts.co.uk finance expert Rachel Springall has come up with seven top tips to save money using only your smartphone.

1. Start with the basics

Even if you have just £50 to put aside, it's a good idea to open an easy access savings account as this will reduce the temptation for you to spend that cash. Many of the top-paying easy access accounts are online-only, which means you should be able to get an emergency pot going easily enough via a browser or proprietary smartphone app.

"Starting a savings pot can be done in just a few minutes online, and today some of the best easy access accounts are online-exclusive," said Rachel. "Easy access accounts overall are improving, as the average rate of 0.63% is the highest seen since February 2016 when it was also 0.63%, so they are worth reviewing."

2. Make sure loyalty pays

While many may feel reluctant to give a store their personal details, some loyalty programmes can certainly be worth it. With free cash, discounts or presents on offer, loyalty can pay out, and now with technology to help, you wouldn't even need to lug around a whole bundle of loyalty cards.

Rachel tested one of these "free and simple ways to have these cards at the ready, in the form of the Stocard app. It scans each barcode on your loyalty cards and logs them so you can access all your cards quickly using only your mobile phone." If you remember to take your mobile phone with you, you could quickly and easily save up enough for a free coffee or discounted shopping experience.

3. Cashback is your friend

You don't need to switch current accounts to get some welcome cashback for your spending. "Cashback websites have boomed in recent years and it's easy to see why," Rachel explains. These sites, which are often free to sign up to, allow customers to earn something back every time they make a purchase.

"As there is less than three months to go until Christmas, shoppers may as well try to earn a bit of cashback when buying gifts," added Rachel, with most of these sites such as Quidco and TopCashback now offering cashback from thousands of different brands through their own mobile apps.

4. Don't forget about vouchers

The days are long gone when you had to rely on cutting out vouchers from your local newspaper. If you find yourself out and about considering a purchase or eatery, you can use sites such as Groupon or VoucherCodes to see whether you'd be able to get a discount – no scissors required.

"Consumers don't necessarily have to go into a store to pick up vouchers or find out about discounts these days; in fact, shoppers can gain access to thousands of vouchers and deals online for free, or even at the touch of a button via a mobile app," said Rachel. "Sites like Groupon and VoucherCodes allow shoppers to earn an array of cashback or discounts and even help them save cash on home delivery, and it doesn't cost a penny to download the apps."

5. Flexible savings to the rescue

Not everyone wants to put away the same amount every month into a savings account; especially those with a variable income would be reluctant to set up a standing order to their savings pot. However, that has traditionally meant remembering to transfer the money manually each month.

Thankfully, there are now several smartphone apps that can help people who don't want the hassle of remembering to save. One example is Chip, a free app that automatically puts away a flexible amount of cash every few days. "Chip works out how much money users could save and sends a text message as a notification before transferring the cash to a separate pot," Rachel explains. "Users can even see how long it would take them to save towards a certain goal, making it effortless to start building a savings fund."

6. Save your change, but digitally

A well-known savings trick is to put aside your loose change throughout the year and then deposit the whole lot into a savings account for a welcome savings boost. With the advent of contactless and fewer people now using cash to make purchases, this trick may be falling into disuse, but Lloyds Bank has come up with an alternative.

"Customers can 'Save the Change' using their Lloyds Bank current account to grow their savings," Rachel has found. "When customers are in credit, a single purchase is rounded up to the nearest pound, with the difference transferred into a separate account by signing up online. Bit by bit these transactions can build up over time; if a purchase for £1.25 is made, Lloyds will transfer 75p into their savings account, which could see them save £5.25 in a week if this is spent every day."

7. Budgeting made easy

Even if you don't want to automate the savings process, you might want some help figuring out where you can save. Instead of going through all your outgoings manually, there are now apps that can go through your financial statements for you and point out where you could make some cuts.

One of these apps, highlighted by Rachel, is Money Dashboard, which allows customers to "determine what spare cash is left to put towards a specific savings goal," among other things.

What next?

Even if none of these tips or apps sound exactly like the one for you, there's a good chance that if you are looking for something specific to help you save money, there's an app for that. To get the best interest rate on any type of savings account, however, you may still want to refer to the Best Buy charts, as by the time you read this it might be the case that the top-paying account isn't an online-only product.

­

There are few people that look forward to and enjoy financial planning, but it is important to help your future self as best as you can. Indeed, recent research shows it is as popular as putting out the bins, but it's also just as crucial.

Spring cleaning

In Lemonade Money's recent 'spring clean' online poll, it was revealed that sorting out personal finances was not even on many people's radars, as only 4% of the 73% who had chosen one major job to do at the start of spring had picked it, compared with 18% who had picked sprucing up the garden and 16% who were planning to de-clutter the house or clean the windows. The only things less popular were re-seeding the lawn and cleaning out the pond (1% each).

In slightly better news, finances didn't come out on top as the most dreaded chore. That honour was reserved for deep cleaning the bathroom, which 36% dreaded the most. In second place came ironing (25%), while sorting out personal finances came joint-third with dusting and putting out the rubbish bins (8% each). Luckily for those who were planning to tackle the garden, this was the least dreaded chore on the list.

Financial dread

So, the above shows that people are reluctant to sort out their finances, and many may not even be aware they need sorting. You may be thinking that if you're not self-employed and therefore probably don't need to file taxes yourself, there's nothing you need to do. However, there are certainly questions worth asking, such as: Have you any savings? If you have a savings account, is the rate competitive enough or could you do better? Could you save on any of your regular outgoings? Have you any outstanding debts? Are you doing all you can to repay your loans?

While everyone's situation is unique, the top financial concern from the survey was not having enough savings to fall back on (24%), followed by not having enough for retirement (20%), not being able to save on a regular basis (18%) and not having enough money to live on each month (16%). These are all valid reasons to take a close look at your finances and try to improve things.

Where to start

But where do you start? More than a third (37%) of respondents struggled to know what to tackle first, with most (37% overall) turning to financial websites for help, and 36% turning to their family or friends first of all. Only 8% thought to go to a financial adviser with their financial concerns.

In general, it's important to tackle debts before you can start to think about savings, and there are plenty of debt charities willing to advise those struggling to stay afloat. If you're not sure what to do, our guides can be a good starting point, particularly our 12 steps to get debt-free.

If debt isn't your concern, but you are finding it hard to form a savings habit, you could start nice and easy with either an easy access account or a regular savings account. The former will give you plenty of access for a rainy-day fund, while the latter will help you save a little bit each month, getting you into the habit. Each type will have different advantages and disadvantages, and you might even decide you want both. Whatever you do, don't forget to compare products on all their features so you can find the perfect Best Buy for your needs.

We're often told of the importance of saving for the future, yet it seems that today's younger generation may not be taking it on board, with research from VoucherCodes showing that millennials are choosing to spend their disposable income on the here and now rather than saving up for bigger life purchases.

The research found that those aged 18-34 put just 9% of their monthly disposable income away for future savings, with 29% claiming that they prefer spending their money on 'enjoying the moment' instead.

For many, it's all about experiences, with almost half (46%) of those surveyed saying they prioritise spending on brunch or dinners out, while 29% choose to spend their disposable income on travel. This is far beyond the typical idea of the boozy millennial, with this generation spending just £37 a month on nightlife, compared with £76 per month on eating out and £63 per month on travel.

Even a weekend of home improvement beats a night out on the town, with the typical millennial spending £56 each month on DIY, gardening and homeware-related purchases. Clothes are also high on the list of spending priorities (£71/month), with other must-have expenditure including streaming services such as Netflix (£30), beauty products and treatments (£29), entertainment (£29) and mobile apps (£28).

"Daunting mortgage rates and rising house prices seem to have prompted young Brits into enjoying their money rather than worrying about what they can't afford," said Anita Naik, Consumer Editor at VoucherCodes. However, this desire to live for today means that most aren't thinking about tomorrow, with only 21% saying they enjoy spending money on things to set themselves up for the future.

Indeed, another 21% believe that they'll never be able to buy a property of their own, and just 4% expect to do so in the next five years, perhaps highlighting that they see no point in saving for the future when they could enjoy their cash today instead.

Yet that doesn't mean they're not making sacrifices to fund their instagrammable lifestyles, with 86% saying they've traded other luxuries to make up for their spending. Four in 10 live with their parents to cut back on rent, while 34% walk or cycle to work to reduce transport costs – but what if those cutbacks were put towards the future instead?

By putting that extra money into a savings account that's dedicated to the future, rather than spending it all on the present, it wouldn't take long to build a suitable fund that could be put towards a house deposit, or even to save for retirement if you're thinking really far ahead. This is where the Lifetime ISA could come in, which is specifically designed to save for a first home or pension, and could therefore be ideal for the millennial age.

It may seem like an insurmountable task, and of course everyone wants to enjoy themselves while they're young, but a bit of foresight can go a long way to ensuring that you're ready for the future as well as enjoying today.

Cash has long been king when it comes to payment methods, but new figures from UK Finance suggest that its crown may be starting to slip – and it's largely expected to fall further in the years ahead.

Cash strapped

The figures show that the number of cash payments fell by 11% between 2015 and 2016, with consumers and businesses making 15.4 billion cash payments in 2016, down from 17.2 billion in 2015. Despite this, cash remains the most frequently-used payment method in the UK – it was used 25% more often than debit cards, the second most frequently-used method with 11.6 billion transactions.

Even so, cash accounted for 44% of all payments made by consumers over the 12-month period, marking the second year in a row where consumers used cash for fewer than 50% of all payments. The value of that spending is also dropping, with cash payments totalling £240 billion, accounting for 15% of the total value of consumer spending, a decline of 5% year-on-year.

Cash usage is expected to fall even further over the next decade, with the number of cash payments forecast to fall by 43% to 8.7 billion in 2026, and the total value of those payments predicted to fall by 23% to £185 billion.

Contactless revolution

Much of the shift away from cash is thought to be driven by the rise of contactless technology, with more and more people migrating to this convenient method of payment. Still, 26% of consumer cash payments last year were for a value of £1 or less, and 61% were for £5 or less, so it's clear that people still like using up their small change at the till.

However, cards are increasingly being used to make low-value payments, too, so much so that there were 2.9 million consumers who rarely used cash in 2016, equating to around 6% of the UK's adult population. This trend is particularly prevalent among younger consumers, with more than one in 10 of those aged 25-34 making just one cash payment each month, or no cash payments at all.

At the other end of the scale, 2.7 million people (or 5% of the adult population)
relied almost entirely on cash to make their everyday payments last year, so it's clear that for many, cash has kept its crown.

"It is clear that over the past few years we have witnessed a significant shift away from cash use in this country, with contactless cards undoubtedly causing a decrease in the use of notes and coins," said Adrian Buckle, chief economist at UK Finance.

"However, we don't believe that the UK is on the verge of becoming cashless, as some reports have claimed. People will always want to choose the payment methods that best suit them and, for the foreseeable future, in lots of cases that will continue to be cash."

What next?

Make the most of your payment method, no matter which one you choose. If you're focusing on cash, why not get the best savings account to boost your spending power? Alternatively, if you prefer card payments, make sure you've got the best current account (and debit card) possible, or consider a cashback credit card to get more from your spending. Just make sure your credit score is as good as it can be, and that you can pay the balance off in full each month.

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