A few days before the Prime Minister had announced the lockdown in March, the City of London Police had reported a 400% increase in scams due to COVID-19 creating an ideal environment for fraudsters to take advantage of people and take their money.
Although it’s important to always stay safe and be aware of scams that are happening, it’s essential that you take extra precautions given the situations with the Coronavirus. Your personal information is out there and scammers are now using this pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of your uncertainties. To avoid falling for these scams, we should all be learning more about what kind of scams are taking place and how you can recognise and report them.
Scams to look out for
Phishing Scams – Phishing refers to the fraudulent practice of sending emails pretending to be from established companies in order to try and gain personal information from unsuspecting individuals.
These can be in the form of emails or text messages and they often contain links to websites that appear to be official and they will ask you to type in your details. These fraudsters can sometimes pose as a government department or the NHS, so it’s crucial that you check these emails carefully before clicking on any links.
Phishing may also include an unexpected visit to your door with someone offering to do a favour or how you could earn some money by handing over your bank card and pin.
How To Spot Phishing Emails
- If you think you have received a suspicious email, firstly, check the content. Real emails from real companies often will not include links for the customer to click on to enter personal information.
- If you are a customer with this company, then the email will not address you as ‘Dear Customer’ or ‘Hello Customer’. The email should greet you with your name.
- Another sign of a fake email is the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Some scammers that produce these emails may not be native English speakers and as such, their written English may reflect that.
Example of a Phishing Email
Sometimes, scammers can be crafty and send emails purporting to be from a reputable company. They might ask you to reset your password for an account as they claim there has been ‘suspicious activity’. In these emails, they will include a fake link that directs you to a website that looks similar to the official website and ask you to enter your current password and a new password.
To get around this, don’t click on the link provided in the email and simply type in the official website yourself into your browser and reset the password yourself.
If you receive emails or texts about COVID-19 from someone that you don’t know or from an unrecognised address, do not click on any of the links or buy anything. Don’t give your personal details or money to anyone that you do not know or trust. If someone knocks on your door to offer help, check who they are first. If you have a family member that is supporting you during these times, then be sure to make arrangements so you can be sure it is them.
Other Types of Scams
There are other types of scams happening currently, including the following:
- Fake lockdown fines – Do not fall victim to text or email message stating that during the coronavirus lockdown you’ve been fined for stepping outside. The spam message appears to be from the police, warning the user that their movements have been tracked via their phone and that they have to pay a fine or face a more serious punishment.
- Free school meals – Recently, the Department for Education has issued warnings about email scams stealing bank details. These emails will explain that as schools are closing, they will be entitled to free school meals and ask parents to send their bank details to ensure they are supported.
- Whatsapp request, forwarding your code – Scammers could be granted full access to your WhatsSpp messages, photos and videos, someone who knows your number could request to register your account on another device. The scammer will then try to message and coax you to forward the verification code to them which could lead to stealing money from contacts in your phone.
If you have experienced a scam, how can you report it?
Firstly, to report a scam you would need to visit the website – Action Fraud. This website is run by the City of London Police and they track and keep records on the different kinds of fraudulent activities. They have an online reporting tool which enables you to report scams online.
Alternatively, you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
If you notice suspicious activity on your bank or credit card statement, do speak to your provider immediately and they will be able to help and give you the best possible advice.
Finally, the FCA offers an information website where you can read more about spotting a scam as well as a section where you can report a scam.
About Stuart Mosley
Stuart Mosley (CeFA, CeMap, CLTM) founded SJ Financial Solutions in June 2005 having spent 12 years with big corporates such as Halifax and Santander. He felt the personal touch and straight speaking was missing from financial and mortgage advice services and set up SJ Financial Solutions to change this.
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