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Citizens Advice Manchester have this week launched resources which will help debt agencies to utilise WhatsApp as an effective tool for delivering money advice.
After receiving Innovation Grants funding from the Money Advice Trust in 2017, Citizens Advice Manchester ran a successful pilot delivering debt advice via WhatsApp. People were able to get in touch with the project via a unique number, and then communicated with an adviser through text and photo messaging to provide details of the issue and receive personalised advice and support.
In its year-long pilot, the project successfully supported 490 individuals, and 88% of people did not need any additional support following contact on WhatsApp. Users have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the service, with one user saying:
“They got back to me straight away… They gave me a lot of information, gave me a few options, and were very empathetic to my situation and that always helps because I feel like the problem has been shared with someone.”
Key benefits of using this channel include free access, a recognised platform used around the world, a quicker advice process, and a feeling of anonymity helping users to feel more comfortable disclosing the problems they are facing. Citizens Advice Manchester have now taken the learning from this project and developed a toolkit for other agencies looking to deliver money advice in this way; these can be accessed via Wiser Adviser, part of the Money Advice Trust, which provides training and support to the free debt advice sector.
Dan Pye, Head of Specialist Advice & Legal services at CAM said:
"Receiving an Innovation Grant provided us with an exciting opportunity to use WhatsApp to deliver debt advice has been invaluable in allowing us to provide support to groups of clients who may not otherwise have used our service. This has proved incredibly popular, and we will embed this into our service for follow-up support to our clients where needed."
Joanna Elson, Chief Executive at the Money Advice Trust said:
“We are delighted to have funded the WhatsApp debt advice project and I want to congratulate Citizens Advice Manchester on their work.
“Testing new advice channels, like WhatsApp, helps us to continue learning and broadens the options available to access debt advice.
“One initial finding shows that the use of WhatsApp was particularly helpful in engaging people whose first language was not English.
“I encourage advisers and advice agencies to look at the project resources available via Wiseradviser to see how they may be able to use this approach in their setting.”
Citizens Advice Manchester is calling for people in Greater Manchester to be on their guard against pension scams.
A new report from national Citizens Advice found nine in ten people (88%) miss common warning signs - such as unusually high investment returns, cold calling and offers of free financial advice - despite feeling confident they can spot fraudsters’ tricks.
The findings reveal a mismatch between people’s confidence in spotting a scam and their ability to do so. Three in four (76%) said they are confident they can identify a pension scam but just 12% were actually able to do so when a scam was presented to them.
Citizens Advice Manchester says scammers’ tactics are shifting away from pension liberation schemes offering high rewards and moving towards free pension reviews and advice as a first step towards tricking people out of their pension pots.
To help people avoid becoming victims of a pension scam, Citizens Advice Manchester has shared warning signs to watch out for:
1. Ignore any contact you receive out of of the blue about your pension. This could be in person, online, on the phone or in the post
2. Watch out for any promotion offering you more than 8% return on your pension investment
3. Be wary of any offer to access your pension before 55. Accessing your pension early can mean you are hit with a high tax bill of 55%, as well as losing any pension savings in a scam.
4. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision about your pension straight away, instead take your time
5. Watch out for extravagant sounding investments based overseas
6. Check the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) online register to make sure the company approaching you is legitimate. Anyone giving financial advice should be registered
7. If you are making an investment, check the FCA ScamSmart warning list for known investment scams
8. If you are transferring a pension, ask your current pension provider to check the HMRC registration of the new scheme to check it is legitimate
The report also reveals people are particularly at risk of scams from phone calls, post and emails which come out of the blue. As many as 10.9 million consumers have received unsolicited contact about their pension in the last year.
Alun Jones (Pensions Guidance Specialist) at Citizens Advice Manchester said:
“Fraudsters are changing their tactics to rob people of a financially secure retirement.
“While scammers continue to use offers of unusually high returns and lucrative overseas investments as a way to fool victims, more people are being approached with free pension reviews or financial advice as a first step towards tricking them out of their hard earned pension savings.
“You shouldn’t feel pressured to make a decision about your pension so take your time and make sure the offer is genuine. Before considering any kind of pension review or investment, you should check the Financial Conduct Authority’s website to make sure the company is legitimate. If you are are worried that you may have been targeted by scammers Manchester Citizens Advice can help.
“If you are over 50, Pension Wise guidance can help you understand what warning signs to look out for and avoid falling victim to a pension scam. Manchester Citizens Advice can help you book a Pension Wise appointment.
We now operate an ‘Information Hub’ at Manchester Town Hall – Monday to Friday 9.30am – 2pm.
Clients visiting this venue will be assessed by a gateway assessor and appointments will be arranged as appropriate. In addition there is Freephone access to our Adviceline, digital support for people accessing online services and access to our live webchat service.Read More