Watch out for lonely-heart fraudsters, says Laura Shannon on Thisismoney.co.uk. The boom in internet dating is proving a boon for criminals – 230,000 Britons are thought to have been victims of “romantic crimes”, with losses ranging from £50 to £800,000.
The conmen, or women, can run multiple relationships at one time with the simple aim of parting vulnerable people (victims include the recently bereaved and/or divorced) from their cash.
The rules for dealing with this kind of con are simple. Never give away bank details to relative strangers. And if you do meet someone, in person or on the internet, who requests money from you, assume the worst and move on.
• Should couples merge their finances or keep them separate? In many cases, by creating joint accounts a couple can save money, says Rosie Murray-West in The Daily Telegraph. By sharing a joint account at a bank, for example, you could reap hundreds of extra pounds as cashback on spending. Joint insurance policies can also work out cheaper than two single ones, as can other products, such as railcards and mobile-phone cover.
Indeed, insurer Aviva reckons the annual saving for many couples could be as much as £350 a year. But – and it’s a big but – make sure you know your partner’s credit history first. If you apply for a joint mortgage, for example, both histories will be taken into account. If you know that your partner has had debt problems in the past, you’ll be a lot better off keeping everything separate.
• Anyone who has not yet used up their cash individual savings account (Isa) allowance for the current tax year (which ends on 5 April) should make sure they do so. Remember that while you’ll struggle right now to find an Isa that pays much over 2%, if rates rise in the future all the interest earned will still be tax free. So if you can afford to use your allowance, make sure that you do so.
• Do be on your guard for dodgy Isa advice, though, says Lisa Bachelor in The Guardian. The latest Which? survey of 180 advisers from 15 providers reveals that many of the biggest banks are giving out the wrong advice on transfers and even on theannual investment limits.
National Savings and Investments scored highest (72% overall based on the number of correct answers given), while bottom of the pile were HSBC (33%), Yorkshire Bank (35%) and RBS (44%). Even customer service favourite First Direct needs to tighten up, with just 49%.
• Government claims to have cut taxes through big rises in personal allowances (five years ago the basic tax-free income allowance was £5,225, now it is £8,105) are a “myth”, says The Daily Telegraph. Research from accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals that other taxes, such as VAT, national insurance and fuel duties, have gone up to compensate.
Throw in the fact that wages have fallen by an average 8% over the last five years (according to the Office for National Statistics) and prices have leapt by one fifth over the same period, and it’s no wonder most of us feel poorer.