Lisa Hamer – Compliance Director
As if it’s not enough that the Coronavirus has had a sweeping impact on us all in one form or another, there are always disreputable people (scammers, fraudsters) looking in such periods of uncertainty to prey on our fears and insecurities to make money.
Whether this is by setting up fake websites to sell face masks, hand sanitiser or gloves or pretending to be in one ‘trustworthy’ guise or another to steal from us.
Nowadays, scammers are increasingly sophisticated, opportunistic and will try to get personal details or money from us in many ways. In the current climate, with many more people being at home and wishing to protect themselves or their assets, the opportunity for scammers has increased significantly.
What should we look out for?
The Financial Conduct Authority has published to following examples of current scams on its website:
• Exploiting short-term financial concerns, scammers may ask you pay an upfront fee when applying for a loan or credit that you never get. This is known as loan fee fraud or advance fee fraud.
• ‘Good cause’ scams. This is where investment is sought for good causes such as the production of sanitiser, manufacture of personal protection equipment (PPE) or new drugs to treat coronavirus – with scammers using the promise of high returns to entice consumers.
• Using the uncertainty around stockmarkets, scammers may advise you to invest or transfer existing investments into high return (and high risk) investments.
• Clone firms – firms must be authorised by the PRA and/or FCA to sell, promote, or advise on the sale of financial products. Some scammers will claim to represent authorised firms to appear genuine. In particular, be aware of life insurance firms that may be cloned.
• Scammers may contact you claiming to be from a Claims Management Company (CMC), insurance company or your credit card provider. They may say they can help you recuperate losses by submitting a claim, for the cost of a holiday or event such as a wedding cancelled due to coronavirus. They will ask you to send them some money or your bank details.
• Cold calls, emails, texts or WhatsApp messages stating that your bank is in trouble due to the coronavirus crisis, and pushing you to transfer your money to a new bank with alternative banking details.
All of the above prey upon our normal fears or disappointments during these unprecedented times and we should all be very aware of that.
How to protect yourself
• Use the Financial Services Register and Warning List on the FCAs website to check who you are dealing with.
• Reject offers that come out of the blue, where you have never contacted the person calling you.
• Beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online.
• Do not click links or open emails from senders you don’t already know.
• Avoid being rushed or pressured into making a decision.
• If a firm calls you unexpectedly, use the contact details on the Register to check that you’re dealing with the genuine firm. Call them back on the number detailed in the register, not on any number the caller has provided.
• Do not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details).
• Look carefully at the full email address of the sender and consider whether it looks ‘right’
You can report the firm or scam to the FCA by contacting its Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using the reporting form on the FCA website.
It is shameful that individuals will prey on our fears and losses at any time; by being extra vigilant and ending any contact if we are at all unsure, we can cut these scams off before they succeed.