Regrettably, whilst most of us are pulling together to comply with Government guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives, some individuals are looking at theCovid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of the very natural fears and anxiety we all experience.
As a company, we’ve seen scams on the rise in recent weeks, and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau revealed it’s received over 500 reports of coronavirus-related fraud since the start of the outbreak, equating to £1.6 million.
Since the government introduced coronavirus measures, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of people visiting websites for debt advice, for example. One scam involves paying upfront fees in order to get accepted for a loan but the loan never materialises or you end up paying for the advice given, when there is lots of genuine free advice out there.
Social media platforms are more important than ever and are helping to keep us all connected but we need to be careful what information we’re sharing from customer and sensitive commercial data but also from a personal perspective. Lots of the ‘fun’ 20 question quizzes that are being shared ask your children’s name, pet names and favourite place, any of which may relate to your personal passwords or security questions and make you vulnerable to fraudsters gaining access to your accounts.
Avoid being scammed and protect yourself
Here are some hints and tips to help you protect yourself and your finances from fraudsters.
1. Always ensure your computer security software is up to date.
2. Don’t download attachments or click on links in emails unless you’re sure who sent them.
3. A large number of us are turning to video chat. Whichever provider you choose, always remember to use a strong password that you don’t use elsewhere when you sign up and only provide the minimum amount of personal information required for the account. Ensure any chats take place in a “private”, password protected, chat room.
4. Only donate to legitimate charities. You can search for a registered charity in England and Wales on the gov.uk charity register.
5. Avoid completing online quizzes if you’re concerned some of the answers will link to your personal passwords.
6. Be wary of emails or texts claiming to be from the UK Government or other official bodies such as HMRC or the WHO offering refunds, payments, help with claiming new benefits or information about Covid-19.
7. You may experience an increase in illegal cold calls asking you to present a claim for personal injury or other losses relating to a historic accident. If you receive an unsolicited telephone call, report the number to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).
8. “Ghost brokers” will raise their efforts to entice individuals to buy motor insurance with the promise of vastly reduced premiums. Always check that the individual or company is authorised to sell insurance by visiting https://register.fca.org.uk/.
9. Use legitimate websites such as gov.uk to find out up-to-date information on the pandemic.
10. If you have already provided information to a caller or via an email or text link and you’re worried it might be a scam, please alert your bank and/or your card provider and contact Action Fraud as soon as possible.