A PENSIONER came close to being conned out of a “considerable” sum of money through a savings bond scam – and is warning others to be wary.

Peter Fairchild, of Hilden Street, Bolton, visited an online comparison website looking to move some of his money into bonds and filled in his personal details.

Days later the 77-year-old received a call from someone claiming to be from multinational company Aviva and made him an offer.

Peter signed up for it and went to his bank branch to transfer money to the scheme – but alarm bells rang with eagle-eyed staff and he was told it was a scam.

He reported the incident to Action Fraud and called the real Aviva, with the company confirming this type of scam has been reported since July.

Two months ago Aviva published details on its website of a new savings bond fraud known as “impersonation fraud” which has emerged during the pandemic.

The Investment Association said several firms including Aviva have been affected and around 300 incidences of this fraud have been reported, with an estimated total loss to savers of approximately £4m.

The fraudsters set up imitation websites which look like well-known financial services brands – often using the legitimate company name within the domain name – through which to sell bogus bonds to unsuspecting retail investors.

Fake comparison-style websites have also been established, which encourage consumers to provide details about themselves and the bonds they are interested in buying, under the guise of getting the best deal.

Peter said: "They were so sophisticated when they called me and made me feel like everything was above board.

"I was just on the verge of transferring a considerable amount of money when the bank manager told me it is a fraud.

"They are evil and very crafty. I do not know how they have a conscience to speak to you over the phone.

"I would like to warn other people not to do this, they prey on vulnerable people. It is scary.

"I am grateful that my bank was very vigilant about it.

"The bank also told me Aviva don’t do the type of bond I was asking for and I decided to phone the fake company back and the person backtracked and said they stopped doing it about two weeks ago even though that’s what they were selling to me."

Aviva has condemned the scam, which has blighted many lives at such a difficult time.

Group financial crime risk director at Aviva, Peter Hazlewood, said: “These fraudsters are exploiting the situation which the coronavirus pandemic has brought about, taking advantage of people who have large amounts of cash at their disposal and which is currently making low returns in a low-interest environment.

"The victims tend to be people approaching retirement age who have access to their pension pot and are looking for higher returns.

“The advice we would give to people is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"If you’re approached by anyone offering a great deal and the chance to unlock cash in your pension or a fantastic investment opportunity with guaranteed returns – be very cautious.

“We’re working round-the-clock with the authorities to have these types of websites taken down.

"Unfortunately, as soon as one is taken down, a new one inevitably pops-up.

"It’s important that people stay vigilant and report any concerns to either their financial services provider, Action Fraud or the authorities.”

Aviva has issued the following advice for potential customers to watch out for:

The websites are often sophisticated and professional. However, there are some warning signs to look out for:

• Images on the website which appear blurry or low-quality.

• Writing on the website which is poorly written and includes spelling or grammatical errors.

• Missing contact details.

• Broken links that when clicked on, take you to a blank page.

• Advertising offers which appear too good to be true.

How to protect yourself online:

• Installing software and system updates when prompted – outdated software and apps could leave a device open to security flaws.

• Setting strong passwords – a weak password could make it easier for the wrong people to gain access to your accounts and devices.

• Installing antivirus software - these viruses could take over a device to steal information.

• Reducing digital footprint – limiting information shared on social media platforms and locking down privacy settings on these accounts.

To report a case of fraud contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Peter also added that the Financial Conduct Authority can be contacted on 0800 111 6768 if people want to check a company is regulated by them.