How expats can guard against scams

This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, it is subject to change and we are not responsible for any errors or omissions.

Living abroad brings wonderful opportunities for work, travel and enriching experiences. Yet it can also leave British expats vulnerable to scams – especially for those surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language. In the UK alone, 3.5m fraud offences were recorded for the year ending in March 2023. Fewer statistics are available for expats, but it is reasonable to assume that the risk of victimhood is higher.

In this guide, our Murcia financial advisers here at Scottsdale offer a list of common scams occurring in 2024. We also provide ideas for British expats to protect their wealth and finances. We hope these insights are useful to you. If you want to discuss your financial plan with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation financial consultation, at our expense:

+34 966 460 407

Guard your pension

Many British expats move abroad to places like Spain to retire. This can be an exciting adventure for many people. Yet the preparation process is complex (e.g. organising your pension) and fraudsters often target individuals’ life savings, hoping to snare it as money is moved around. Working with a reputable financial adviser will be vital to help protect your interests during the retirement planning process.

Remember the steel plant scandal in Port Talbot? Workers were told that their pension scheme was about to change to their detriment. Scammers then mobilised, convincing many worried workers to move their life savings into high-risk investments. Many people lost a lot of money, with one worker (Darren Reynolds) reporting a £50,000 loss.

The case highlights the importance of educating yourself about pensions as an expat and doing proper due diligence when picking a financial adviser.

Practice internet security

The rise of mobile banking, internet-based investment platforms and financial apps (e.g. accounting apps for digital nomads) has made it easier than ever for expats to manage their financial affairs from overseas. However, technologies like these can also act as “weak points” in your financial plan if you do not consistently follow good “internet hygiene”.

In particular, be very careful when connecting to public WiFi (e.g. in a cafe) – especially “open” networks. Scammers can easily spy on your internet connection and intercept data transferred from your device, such as login information to your bank. Here, you can protect yourself by relying on your mobile data for the internet and using a reputable VPN (virtual private network) which routes all of your user traffic through an “encrypted private tunnel”. This also makes it far less likely that you will accidentally visit a cloned website or virus-laden domain.

Be careful with communication

Expats not only need to watch their internet connection but also be diligent when sharing financial or personal information by phone, email or other means (e.g. social media messaging). Naturally, you should avoid sharing sensitive information with unknown persons or sources, such as a “professional” messaging you out of the blue. However, sometimes it can be difficult to discern who is a legitimate contact.

For instance, a scammer might impersonate your bank in an unsolicited email or social media message – providing a link to a fraudulent website which tries to steal your login information. Another approach is to receive an unwanted phone call about resolving an urgent pension problem. Pressure tactics are then employed to try and get the victim to part with sensitive information over the phone.

To protect against such tactics, avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails or online messages. Instead, visit the website of your bank – or other financial services provider – directly by typing the URL into your browser. Put down the phone if you get a cold call about your pension.

Keep everything locked up safely

How strong is your password (e.g. for your mobile banking app)? Do you use the same password across all financial accounts or do you have separate ones? Are you set up with multi-factor authentication (MFA) when logging into sensitive apps or online services?

These practices can seem like a hassle, admittedly. Yet you will likely thank yourself for them in the future if you are ever the target of a scam. One idea to manage your online security is to consider a “password vault”. This can generate regular new passwords for you and store them safely in one place. Enabling MFA also requires a scammer to have your device when attempting to hack into your account (a much taller order than simply stealing your password).

Device security is also very important. Make sure you keep your security software and operating systems up to date to patch any vulnerabilities. Consider anonymising your device name and turning off Bluetooth and AirDrop unless you are using them at that moment (scammers can utilise these connections to intercept your device).


If you are interested in discussing your own financial plan or inheritance tax strategy with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-commitment financial consultation at our expense:

+34 966 460 407


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