Official bodies are warning consumers of an increase in scams designed to prey on people’s coronavirus fears. Statistics from Action Fraud reveal that over £16m was lost to online shopping fraud during lockdown. In some scams consumers purchased goods online that never arrived. Others targeted animal lovers who lost nearly £300k in just two months after putting down deposits on non-existent pets advertised online.
Get scam savvy
Being familiar with the most common scams is essential to recognizing the danger signs. Recently, UK Finance released a list of the most common scams relating to COVID-19.
Financial support scams
Victims report receiving official-looking emails purporting to be from government departments or local authorities, offering financial assistance in the form of grants or ‘COVID-19 relief funds’. These emails contain links to websites encouraging victims to enter their personal and financial details. Other examples include emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’ as well as scams targeted at Universal Credit recipients.
These scams prey on victims’ fear of contracting COVID-19. They include fake Test and Trace emails informing the victim they’ve been in contact with somebody with COVID-19, containing links leading to websites that steal the victims’ personal and financial details, as well as fake adverts for PPE.
These scams include fake emails that look like they are from TV Licensing or an online streaming provider, informing victims that they need to update their payment details. Other fraudsters are using online dating websites to take advantage of isolated people and manipulate them into handing over cash, while some are tricking victims with fake investment opportunities.
Stop and think
Spot the warning signs – If you’re contacted out of the blue, if the investment risks are downplayed or they are using pressurised selling tactics which offer a bonus or discount, it should set off alarm bells. And if the offer is ‘one time only’ or you’re asked not to share the details of the ‘opportunity’, there is a high risk of a scam.
Check the Financial Services Register – register.fca.org.uk or 0800 111 6768 – If an individual or company is not on the register it’s probably a scam. A good rule of thumb, with all scams if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you think you are being targeted by a scam hang up the call, delete the email, rip up the letter. If you think you have been the victim of a scam already contact action fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, immediately on 03001232040.
To find out more about how to protect yourself from financial scams visit
• FCA ScamSmart fca.org.uk/scamsmart
• Take Five takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/
• Pension Wise pensionwise.gov.uk/en
• The Pension Advisory Service pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk/