Avoiding financial scams

Financial fraud is sadly widespread. Rarely a day goes by without a mention of the latest scam in the news, or talk about unsolicited phone calls targeting vulnerable members of the local community.

These financial scams can take a number of different forms.

There’s the authorised push payment scam, where banking customers are tricked into moving money into an account controlled by the criminal.

Or courier card fraud, which involves the scammer sending a courier to collect your bank card and PIN number, which you hand over in the belief you are helping to prevent a crime.

Criminals create fake but very convincing investment companies – tricking people into thinking they are investing their money when it’s actually being stolen from them. They often call you out of the blue or advertise on social media – offering great investment opportunities that seem completely genuine.

These fraudsters can make lots of money with this type of scam, so they make the story as believable as possible: creating fake reviews, literature and brochures.

Companies are faked so well, it makes it difficult to identify a fraudulent company from a real one. The most common types of investment scams that people have become a victim of include cryptocurrency (i.e. Bitcoin), foreign exchange, bonds, shares and early pension release.

While not technically a scam, there are also several forms of investments which we consider to be such high-risk that you are very likely to lose your money. These investments sit outside of UK financial services regulation, which means you have no recourse to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), when things inevitably go wrong.

Cases that we have come across in recent years have involved investments in Offshore Property Bonds and also Storage Pods. In both instances, the brochures were very glossy, with high-quality photography and convincing words. The salesman promised returns of 10-15% a year, which compared with the return investors were currently receiving or the low interest on cash savings, was very appealing.

When we looked at what had taken place in each instance, we raised our concerns with the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Storage pod schemes and other exotic investments might not be a scam, but they are extremely high risk and in the cases we have come across have ended with the investment companies becoming insolvent.

Anything offering such high returns must be treated with a healthy degree of scepticism. The litmus test being, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Apply this rule to any investment or financial offer, and you are usually kept from harm.

There are several steps you should take to stay safe from scams.

Be aware

Your bank will never ask you to move money to another account. Bank accounts can be blocked to instantly stop any transactions – so there is no need to transfer your money to another account.

What to look out for

-If you’re being offered high returns and interest rates – take a moment to think about it. If it seems too good to be true it probably is.

-Sometimes a genuine investment company can be cloned. If you’re making any investments it’s always best to speak to your Financial Adviser or check the FCA investment scam list at  www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/warning-list for all known cloned firms.

-If a company contacts you out of the blue, via phone, email or text and puts pressure on you to make a decision quickly it’s likely to be fraudster. Genuine investment firms will give you time to think things over.

-Investment scammers sometimes advertise their services on social media and wait for you to contact them.

What to do to be sure   

-If someone calls you out of the blue asking you to invest money, just hang up. Wait for at least 10 minutes before making another call as fraudsters can keep the line open. Alternatively, use a different phone. Remember, nobody ever lost money by hanging up on a cold caller.

-Check the FCA investment scam list to see if that company has been cloned by fraudsters. You can also call the number the FCA have listed from a different phone to check it’s the same company. http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/

-Always get independent investment advice from an FCA-regulated firm.

-If you believe you’ve accidentally shared any of your details, get in touch with your bank. Remember it’s best to use a different phone or wait at least 10 minutes in case the fraudster has kept the line open.

Please stay safe out there and remember you can always speak to one of our Financial Planner if you would like a second opinion.

Taking withdrawals from your investments

Taking withdrawals from your investments - article for Brunel Capital Partners

When we review your financial plan each year we discuss with you any requirements you may have to meet planned expenditure in the coming 12 months. We can then make recommendations to ensure that you receive this money from the most tax efficient and appropriate investment in line with your financial plan. We also ensure you receive the funds when you need them.

We understand that even with the best laid plans, life happens and there will be times when unexpected expenditure arises that cannot be met by your cash reserves. In these instances we will still need to make recommendations and gain confirmation that you are happy to proceed on the basis recommended.

So please allow as much time as you can once you know you have a need for extra funds from your pensions or investments to allow for this process. As always we will do our best for you.

Ride for Precious Lives

For the third year running, Damien will be taking part in the Ride for Precious Lives with Children’s Hospice South West. This is a unique annual sponsored 205 mile, 3Damien Rylett day cycle challenge to raise money for short and precious lives. Riding from St Austell to Bristol from 12th -14th July he will cycle through challenging but breathtaking scenery and visit three very special Children’s Hospices along the way: Little Harbour near St Austell, Little Bridge House near Barnstaple, and Charlton Farm near Bristol .

This exceptional event attracts cyclists who are committed to ride between 65–80 miles each day incorporating several hills the South West has to offer!

Ahead of the ride Damien commented “This year’s ride will be particularly challenging as I am having to train while recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Every year the children and families you meet along the way are truly inspirational and this is what drives you on” A number of you have asked how you can make donations to support Damien’s efforts – here is a link http://bit.ly/2w7Bsvt to the JustGiving page.

Sara MatherHis ride is hot on the heels of a wonderful achievement by Sara Mather in Paraplanning team. Sara ran her first Marathon in Newport at the beginning of May raising over £1,000 for Children’s Hospice South West.

Talking about her experience Sara commented “I was delighted to raise funds for the Children’s Hospice South West and was blown away by people’s generosity. Raising funds for this brilliant charity kept me going and it was an amazing day I won’t ever forget”.

First Female Adviser

Veronica Devereux - First Female Adviser at Brunel Capital Partners

The Brunel Group are pleased to announce their first female adviser, Veronica Devereux. Veronica joined the Wells Office 3 years ago. Having worked as a paraplanner she has gone on to qualify as an adviser offering full Financial Planning. As well as managing a portfolio of her own clients she has been working closely with Arnold Wills as he transfers his clients ahead of his retirement at the end of June. Veronica commented “I joined the Group because of their strong ethics and values and the high level of expertise they provide.” Damien Rylett Managing Director commented “I know Veronica will bring a wealth of experience to her role and we are pleased to be able to offer clients a  wider choice when it comes to choosing their adviser.”

Making a Difference

Making a Difference - article for Brunel Capital Partners

At both Brunel and Pilgrim, our core values are to continually improve, to care, to be fair, accountable and authentic and these inform what we do. They also motivate us to get involved in activities in our wider community through fundraising and charity work.

Helping where we can

We are actively encouraged to get involved with causes that matter to us whether it be by giving time and energy to volunteer, donating money to the charities that touch us or sponsoring colleagues. As a company the Bristol office supports several very worthwhile causes which include Children’s Hospital South West and in Wells we support Dementia through the Wells Dementia Action Alliance.

But it is not only us who contribute to worthwhile causes, many of our clients also support charities and not for profit organisations again through giving time, expertise or financial support and they tell us how rewarding this can be, and they often feel they receive more than they give by helping others.

Is Charitable giving one of your financial goals?

The act of giving money away has often been seen as the reserve of few who have great wealth which allows them to be philanthropic. However, we now see an increasing number of clients who list charitable giving as one of their financial planning goals.

Giving now or when I die?

Leaving a financial legacy in a Will has historically been the most popular option as the notion is that, when you die, affordability is no longer an issue. However, for clients who have gone through the financial planning process and where we have been able to demonstrate affordability, they have often chosen to make charitable donations during their lifetime. This has given them enormous fulfillment as they are able see the good their money can achieve firsthand.

And there are Tax Benefits too

In addition to making a difference in society, charitable giving comes with some significant tax advantages. For the income taxpayers among us, most donations (there are a few exceptions) can be gift aided to the charity. This means that for every £1 you donate, the charity you donate to can gross this payment up to £1.25 i.e you receive tax relief at the basic income tax rate of 20%. For higher rate and additional rate taxpayers, additional income tax relief can be claimed through their self-assessment tax return.

There are a number organisations that are able to receive shares and units in collective investment schemes. This has the added advantage of wiping any Capital Gains held within the investments you donate.

For those wishing to leave a legacy in their Will, all gifts to charity are free of inheritance tax (IHT) and since April 2012, anyone willing to bequeath a minimum of 10% of their net taxable estate to charity, can apply for a reduction in the rate of IHT applied to the remainder of their estate from 40% to 36%. The result is that a 10% gift of your net estate to charity has an effective tax relief of 76% if your estate has an IHT liability.

If you are interested in finding out more about making charitable gifts – whether you can afford to do this and the tax benefits – discuss this with your Financial Planner at your next review, they will be able to illustrate how this would work for your personal situation.

High achievement

An ongoing commitment to professional development is important for all Financial Planners, however Neil Pinney of Pilgrim Financial Planning in Wells has taken this commitment to the highest level by becoming a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society (PFS). This is the highest qualification awarded by the PFS and underlines Neil’s technical knowledge, experience and professionalism. Neil commented that “professional development is important for Financial Planners as regulations are constantly changing and we need to ensure we have the ability to deal with clients often complex affairs”.

Neil and his colleague Dan Hiles in Bristol, who is also a Fellow, are part of a select group across the world who have attained this prestigious qualification.

Sporting excellence at Bristol Bears Academy

We are proud to sponsor an initiative which provides Bristol Bears Rugby Academy under 14 and under 15’s with the opportunity to play competitively at a number of inter centre festivals across Avon and Somerset.

Gary Townsend Academy Development Manager commented “This initiative allows (the boys) to play with the freedom to express themselves without any pressures on outcome and to benchmark their progress in an informal representative environment”

Damien Rylett explained the reason for Brunel Capital Partner’s involvement. “We are glad that with our contribution, more boys are getting an opportunity to be the best they can be and play the game they love. One of our values as a firm is to be continually improving which dovetails nicely with the ethos of the Bristol Bears Academy”.

Fundraising for Dementia

A grand total of £1,534.50 was raised by all those taking part in the Memory Walk around Wells. Some of these funds have contributed to Christmas Parties for those living with Dementia and their carers at the Lawrence Centre and local mental health charity “Heads Up”. We were also pleased to help with the costs of setting up the Memory Café in Wells which launches on Wednesday 30th January, If anyone would like further details please contact the Wells Office.

Arnold Wills, Director of Pilgrim and Chairman of the Wells Dementia Action Alliance said “Well done to all those that took part in the walk and made it such a successful event. Its fantastic that we are able to increase the services available to those living with Dementia and their carers in our local community”

Investing is easy!

Investing is easy! (it’s staying on track that is hard)
Let’s start with some cold hard facts.

  • 1. Typically, within every calendar year, the FTSE All-Share will experience a peak-to-trough
    temporary decline of around 15%.
  • 2. Typically, every five years or so, the FTSE All-Share will experience a longer-but-still temporary
    decline of 30% or more.1

How would you react when faced with these events?
Fortunately, once we know these events are not only likely they are inevitable, we can start to
accept them as a normal part of investing and plan accordingly. Indeed, we should (with time and
experience) come to embrace them as evidence that the system continues to operate normally.
That doesn’t mean we can all sit there with big smiles on our faces as we watch our valuations fall
but it does mean we can be better prepared to control our actions in response to the falls.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to want to be proactive in these situations and somehow protect
ourselves from the ‘hurt’ of seeing the paper value of our investments falling, however the potential
impact of acting at these times can be devastating to financial outcomes.

click here to read the full article

So how important is performance?

We have previously talked about the importance of having a sound financial plan in place – which will be unique to you and your life’s journey. What will also be exclusive to you are the underlying investments that help you achieve your plan. Without a plan you cannot determine what these investments will look like or how you need them to perform. These investments and their inherent performance will vary for each of our clients, what is right for some clients won’t be for others, that is why we say don’t look at performance in isolation.

You will always hear a lot of background noise in the press and the media regarding performance but like a lot of news this is a distraction from the important facts and can lead people in the wrong direction.

Chasing performance is a trap that many people fall into without knowing what they really need to achieve. It is important to take time at the outset to really understand your goals and how and if you can achieve them.

Focusing on performance doesn’t tell you if you’re on target to achieve your financial goals. It’s one of many indicators to help direct you, but without a good financial plan, you have no idea if you’re heading in the right direction. You might be happy with your portfolio’s current performance, but that doesn’t mean you are prepared to ride the wave when the markets fall.

You may often hear fund managers being hailed as heroes based on the performance they have achieved. While this maybe outstanding, it is with good reason that we always state past performance is not a guarantee of future performance. It may be an indicator but not one you can rely on.

Many people compare the performance of their investments with benchmarks such as the FTSE 100, however investments aligned with the FTSE 100 may not be appropriate for you. It may not have the right combination of shares, gilts and bonds that will help you to achieve your goals or that you are comfortable with. So, save yourself the worry and focus on what’s important for you and what you can control.

Another discipline a financial plan provides is taking a long term view and not making impulsive decisions based on what is going on around us. Several studies have shown that investors as a group tend to underperform because they chase performance. This can mean they will buy investments that have recently performed well and are therefore at a high price and sell those that have not performed well when their value maybe at rock bottom. Making knee jerk decisions can often contradict your long term goals, it is much more beneficial to stay with your lifetime plan.

Of course, we will always consider performance however the main focus must be on what is important to you. This will mean that you are more likely to reach your personal goals with less to worry along the way …………….and as a result enjoy life!

Brunel Capital Partners is a sister company of Pilgrim Financial Planning