Warnings from a number of UK bodies, including the Bank of England, Financial Conduct Authority, National Crime Agency and Action Fraud have urged people to be vigilant about scams by fraudsters who are taking advantage of people’s fears and capitalising on the COVID-19 crisis.
Huge increase in cases
Action Fraud has released figures showing that reports of scams had increased by 400% in March. The majority of reports concerned online shopping scams, with victims purchasing protective products (such as hand sanitiser or face masks) that failed to arrive.
Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.
Financial scams could take many forms such as pensions transfers, high-return investment opportunities or health insurance supplements. Criminals have been using phishing (emails) or smishing (texts) to impersonate other organisations to trick people into giving away their personal and financial information or money. These scam emails and texts often claim to be from government departments, banks or other trusted organisations.
All consumers are reminded to follow the advice of UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. This campaign reminds you to:
- Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse, or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
Be a Scam Smart Investor
To avoid investment or pension scams, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has an online scam checker where you can check an investment or pension opportunity. This can be found here www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart
The government has released advice to help you keep yourself and your money safe from fraud. This includes checking the company’s credentials via a reliable source such as the FCA’s Financial Services Register, not clicking on links from unknown senders, being wary of deals that sound too good to be true, not giving out personal details and seeking professional financial advice before making any decisions.
The government advice can be found here www.gov.uk/government/news/be-vigilant-against-coronavirus-scams