June 10th, 2021
Common Covid scams and 5 practical ways you can stop fraudsters stealing your money
If you’ve been pestered by spam calls and messages in recent months, you aren’t alone. According to figures reported in the Telegraph, Brits face an average of 9,000 scam calls every minute.
While many of these scams are easy to spot, some are much more sophisticated, and millions of people have unwittingly handed over large sums. As Brits have increasingly had to rely on the internet in recent months for basic necessities, these fraudsters have had much more opportunity to part them from their hard-earned money.
While these scams may be concerning, there are some things that you can do to keep yourself safe. Read on to learn more about some of the most common Covid scams, as well as five ways you can protect yourself.
There has been a spike in the number of scams since the start of the pandemic
In recent months, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have forced many Brits to do everything from their banking to their weekly shop online. While this has been helpful for allowing people to get by with their day-to-day life, it has also had downsides.
One of the biggest ones is an increased risk of fraud. According to a report published by the BBC, more than £34.5 million has been stolen in scams since March 2020.
In some ways, the pandemic has brought out the best in people, such as the tireless efforts of healthcare workers or the many Brits who have gone out of their way to help isolated or elderly neighbours. However, the unusual circumstances have also provided a useful opportunity for criminals.
The unusual circumstances of the pandemic have allowed fraudsters to flourish
Given the unusual circumstances in recent months, it can be easy for people to be fooled by requests that would seem out of the ordinary in normal times.
Due to the immense strain that the NHS has been under to contain the pandemic, some scammers have been fraudulently sending emails that ask for donations to buy equipment. Typically, these messages ask for bank details and any payments made will go straight to the fraudsters.
Other scammers send emails that purport to be from legitimate organisations, such as the NHS or World Health Organization. Often, they will demand a fee in exchange for alleged information about local coronavirus outbreaks.
Another way that fraudsters have been taking advantage of the pandemic is by claiming that victims are eligible for a government reimbursement to cover the cost of home working and will ask for bank details.
Finally, one of the more common types of scams are those claiming that people can recover money lost due to events, such as weddings or holidays, being cancelled due to lockdown restrictions. Typically, they will ask for a “processing fee” in order to submit the claim but will then disappear.
Many of these are examples of a “phishing” scam, whereby an email, which seems to come from an official, encourages you to hand over sensitive information.
Many fraudsters have been targeting those with financial worries, such as pensioners
Another significant issue has been an increase in pension scams in recent months. One of the main reasons for this is that many older people have been isolating and so have had less contact with their younger relatives, who tend to be more aware of the tell-tale signs of fraud.
Furthermore, the heightened anxiety that many people feel over money can sometimes lead them to make poor financial decisions. This has been exploited by fraudsters, who encourage people to transfer their savings into dubious investments.
A recent spoof scam, highlighted in a report by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), highlighted how easy it is for fraudsters to operate in the current climate of heightened financial anxiety.
A fake site, claiming to offer bonds with up to 9.5% return, bought advertisements on a well-known social media company and encouraged people to invest. Despite the ad clearly stating that the investments were not FCA approved, it garnered thousands of views in less than a week.
Around half of the people who viewed the ad went on to click through the online form, despite the red flags, and provided their personal details. Thankfully, this was only a spoof of a scam, so no money was lost, but it shows how easy one can be fooled.
If you want to stay safe from scammers, here are a few things you can do:
- Be wary of any unexpected phone calls, emails, or text messages that you receive. If you’re unsure whether they are genuine, get in touch with the organisation directly.
- If you receive a suspicious email, you should check the email address that it came from. Many scams come from addresses that don’t look right, such as with random numbers or misspellings.
- Never provide any personal information or account details in response to an unsolicited message.
- Avoid investment opportunities that seems too good to be true, because they usually are. This is especially true if they claim to be available for a limited time only, as legitimate financial service firms will never pressure you like this.
- If you aren’t sure whether a financial services company is authorised by the FCA, you can check the FCA Register to find out whether they are genuine.
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