There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about personal information being obtained by hackers and passed on to criminals.
Undoubtedly, many people will need to be very cautious when contacted by someone requesting financial information or offering financial products.
We have a highly regulated financial system in the UK that governs how financial products are recommended and advised on. Unfortunately, fraudsters do not abide by the rules and as a result there is no consumer protection if money is lost through fraud.
Helpfully, the Financial Conduct Authority provide an online register at www.fca.org.uk/register that can be searched.
It has a list of all of the firms and all of the individuals who are authorised to give financial advice in the UK.
So it is vital before any advice is sought, that this register is checked.
Regulated advisers must now have advanced qualifications in order to advise and they must have insurance in place that covers any incorrect advice they might give.
Regulated advice is also covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service in the case of disputes and by the Financial Services Compensation scheme in case of insolvency.
As well as checking the register, word-of-mouth and personal recommendations from friends can be very useful.
There are over 20,000 regulated advisers in the UK, so there are certainly plenty of people to choose from. Website www.vouchedfor.co.uk lists advisers that have verified recommendations by their clients.
Other websites such as www.unbiased.co.uk and www.thepfs.org/yourmoney/find-an-adviser provide a more comprehensive list of sources of regulated advice and can be searched by postcode.
Despite the many ways that advice can be sought, we still hear on a regular basis of people who respond to investment scams based on cold telephone calls and lose in many cases tens of thousands of pounds without any hope of getting any of it back.
So never part with any financial information unless you are absolutely sure of who you are dealing with.
David Hill is a Chartered Financial Planner and Independent Investment Adviser at Hills Financial Planning, 15 Agnew Street, Larne. He can be contacted on 028 28276814, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.hillsfinancialplanning.co.uk