With the recent changes to daily life brought about by the Coronavirus, fraudsters are finding new ways to target people. Taking some simple steps can protect you from being affected.
Here are some of the things you can do to avoid falling victim of a scam.
Take your time to make all the checks you need.
If a company calls you unexpectedly, check the credentials of the person you are dealing with by getting a name and contact details. You can check the Financial Services Register to make sure you are dealing with a regulated company. Hang up and call them back on details you can verify, such as the phone number from their website. You can also use this Warning List to check who you are dealing with.
If you need to call your insurer or pension provider, always use the contact details on your documents. If you use a search engine to find their contact number, you could get caught out by another new trick.
If you receive an email you’re not sure of, don’t assume all online sites are genuine, nor click links or open emails from senders you don't already know. Follow our 10 simple steps to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.
Don’t share your personal details
Never give out your personal details, such as: bank details, your address, insurance or pensions policy number or other account details.
Avoid being rushed or pressured to agree to offers or deals on insurance, pensions or investments that seem too good to be true, and reject any offers that come out of the blue.
Report scams or suspicions
If you or someone you know has been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime, then report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, and obtain a crime reference number. You can do this at any time using Action Fraud’s online reporting tool.
If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about – including those claiming to offer services related to Coronavirus – don’t reply to it and forward it to the government’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service at firstname.lastname@example.org. That way, you can help protect yourself and others from scammers.
Now that you know what steps you can take to keep scammers at bay, here are some of the most common tricks to be aware of:
- Fake insurance: fraudsters claiming to represent legitimate insurance companies try and sell you fake insurance products or offer to help recover losses for the cost of a cancelled event, such as a holiday or wedding.
- Bogus investments: scammers may advise you to invest or transfer existing investments or savings into high return (and high risk) options.
- Free school meal scam: some parents have received an email saying ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’. The Department for Education has warned this is a scam and the emails should be deleted.
- Pension cold calls: it is illegal for firms to contact you out of the blue about your pension. You should hang up if you receive this type of call.
- Fake lockdown fines: people have been sent text messages, purporting to be from the government, demanding they pay a fine or face a more severe penalty for going outside during the coronavirus lockdown.
- Phishing emails: emails attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or reveal personal or financial information online. Some have targeted people’s fears over the Coronavirus.
- False insurance cancellation: scammers call to say your insurance has been cancelled and they promise to reinstate it if you pay an additional fee over the phone.
- Loan fee fraud or advance fee fraud: scammers ask for an upfront fee – usually between £25 and £450 – to apply for a loan or credit that you never receive.
- ‘Good cause’ scams: scammers offer high returns in exchange for investment in good causes such as the production of sanitiser, personal protection equipment (PPE), or new drugs to treat Coronavirus.
- Fake bank transfers: cold calls, emails, texts or WhatsApp messages stating that your bank is in trouble due to the Coronavirus crisis, and pushing you to transfer your money to a new bank with alternative banking details.
- NHS donations: scam emails purporting to be from the government asking for donations to the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Bogus healthcare workers: fraudsters knock on people’s doors, claiming to be offering 'home-testing' for the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Following these simple security steps and knowing what to look out for can go a long way in keeping you and your family safe during these unprecedented times.