It’s a sad fact scammers are making the most of the pandemic as an opportunity to trick people and steal from them. It feels particularly repugnant at the moment as many of us feel more worried than usual, while being flooded with lots of information about what to do and not to do keep safe from Covid-19.
Some current scams are outlined below. We urge you to not to trust offers, emails, email links, cold calls or letters from people or companies you do not already know. If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are in any doubt about a source of information, go www. gov.ukto check it.
The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers reminds us scammers have no interest in you, only in taking your money. Anyone can be a target for scammers, although they often target older people, people they think are lonely or isolated and people who are at home most of the time. They may come to your home or target you online, via social media, by phone or text or post a letter or flyer to you.
GOLDEN RULES TO STAY SAFE:
• Don’t click on any links in junk or unsolicited email
• Don’t click website links unless you are sure of what they are. Don’t click on pop up offers.
• If you receive cold calls on your phone, never ring a number they ask you to. If it is something you want to follow up, hang up, then, look up the organisation’s number and call them later.
• Never let anyone into your home who comes to your door selling or purporting to be checking something. Don’t buy anything, take their details and check before you follow things up.
Authority (FCA) is urging consumers to remain vigilant and aware of potential scams, particularly financial scams which prey on people’s fears around Covid-19 and its impact. Hand sanitizer and face mask scams are already happening, but with a downturn in the economy, scammers might exploit people worrying about money.
CHECK FCA’S POTENTIAL COVID-19 SCAMS WEBPAGES SO YOU ARE KNOW WHAT TO AVOID BUT HERE IS A QUICK SUMMARY OF SOME TACTICS:
• Loan fee fraud or advance fee fraud. Scammers ask you to hand over an amount upfront when applying for a loan or credit you never get.
• Good cause scams, where investment is sought for causes such as the production of sanitiser, personal protection equipment (PPE) or new drugs to treat coronavirus.
• Using the uncertainty around stock markets, scammers may advise you to invest or transfer existing investments into high return (and high risk) investments.
• Clone firms – firms must be authorised by FCA to sell, promote, or advise on the sale of insurance 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 claiming to be from a Claims Management Company (CMC), insurance company or your credit card provider, offering to help you claim for losses, such as cancelled holidays or weddings. 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, pushing you to transfer your money to a new bank with alternative banking details. Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has a list of current Covid-19 scams. Full details are on their website; we urge you to read them. General scams to be aware of include:
• Fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims
• Emails offering ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
Official looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website used to access personal and financial information.
Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
• Criminals are preying on an anxious public by sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
• Fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months of free TV license because of the coronavirus pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.
• Amid a rise in the use of online TV subscription services during the lockdown, customers have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.
• Criminals are using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims
In order to spot a scam, people should be on high alert if:
• A website address is inconsistent with that of a legitimate organisation
• The phone call, text or emails asks for financial information such as PIN, passwords
• You receive a call or email out of the blue with an urgent request for your personal or financial information, or to make an immediate payment
• You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product compared to the original price
• There are spelling and grammar mistakes, or inconsistencies in the story you’re given.
If you think you might be affected by scammers
(don’t forget they are criminals), our Advice Centre will be happy to talk to you about what you should do next. Contact them 01424 234460 or if you prefer, email esussexadvice@ possabilitypeople.org.uk
Scams can be very believable, and can happen to anyone. Don’t be embarrassed to ask someone else to check something for you if you feel unsure about it and don’t feel pressured to make a decision about something until you are sure. You can call us for advice too. If you think you’ve been targeted, contact Action Fraud or the police who will want to know.
LINKS TO WEBSITES MENTIONED
www.actionfraud.police.uk Action Fraud reporting
www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime FCA www.fca.org.uk
FCA Avoid Covid-19 scams https://www.fca.org.uk/
avoid-coronavirus-scams Research Institute for Disabled Consumers
RIDC Keep safe tips