In recent weeks, there has been a rise in the number of fraud cases involving pensions, investments, and the sale of fake vaccines, as scammers prey on people’s anxieties surrounding the coronavirus. These scams can involve significant amounts of money, so it’s important to stay alert.
It can sometimes be difficult to spot these scams, so if you’re concerned about them, read on for some tips to keep yourself and your finances safe.
More than 6,000 coronavirus-related scams have been reported since April
In recent weeks, the NHS has been able to access to the vaccines it needs to protect the population of the UK from the coronavirus. While this is the first step in returning life back to normal, it has also provided an opportunity for scammers.
One notable example was the scam email that required users to “register” for a vaccine, requiring bank details to confirm their identity and make a payment for it. While the NHS provides the vaccines free of charge, thousands of people have fallen for it.
This isn’t the first coronavirus-related scam that the UK has experienced. According to a report in the Guardian, more than 6,000 similar scams have been reported to the police since April. Despite this increased awareness, many new scams continue to pop up in light of the NHS’s recent vaccination drive.
Be wary of any suspicious offers that you may receive
There have been a variety of new scams in recent months, but some of the most common are deployed via email and text.
One particular example, which was reported in the Telegraph, claimed that a tax refund was now available to support people financially through the economic impact of the virus. As it claimed to be from the government, it seemed more credible to victims.
Scammers could then use the sensitive information provided, such as bank details, to access their money.
Another common tactic used by scammers is sending emails which claim to be from well-known institutions such as the NHS or World Health Organization.
These emails offer fake health advice or claim to provide a list of infected people in the victim’s area. The links provided then usually redirect the victim to a malicious website or ask for payment.
Alternatively, other scams involve companies offering goods or services which they do not deliver when the victim has paid. Some of the most common goods involved in these scams are face masks or coronavirus tests.
More seriously, some sophisticated scams have also been reported which involve fake investment schemes that encourage people to take advantage of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Use your common sense and always do some research if you’re concerned
While fraudsters will attempt scams no matter the market conditions, disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic allow them to capitalise on people’s anxieties more effectively.
If you’re concerned about being scammed, then there are a few things you can watch out for:
Unsolicited calls, texts, and emails
One of the safest ways to protect yourself from fraudsters is by ignoring any unsolicited offers that you may receive.
If you think a text or email is suspicious, don’t click on any attachments or links as these may contain malware which could allow fraudsters access to your sensitive information.
Some sophisticated phone scams can display their numbers on your phone to look like legitimate organisations. If you’re concerned that a call or text may be a scam, get in touch with the organisation yourself to confirm it.
As the vaccination drive continues, it’s likely that there will also be an increase in vaccine fraud over the coming months. Remember that while the NHS will get in contact with you for your vaccine, they will never ask for sensitive information such as bank details or a copy of your ID.
Products that seem too good to be true
Another thing to watch out for is offers of vaccines or home testing kits. As the old adage goes: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
As we mentioned, the NHS will not charge you for a vaccine. But while this is an obvious scam, offers of testing kits and other protective equipment may be harder to spot.
One notable example of fraud in 2020, reported by the Independent, was that of a business owner who was tricked into handing over thousands of pounds for protective masks, which were never delivered.
If you’re concerned a seller is trying to scam you, it may be best to do your research. If the site or seller is not particularly well-known, look for reviews of the site to see if it is a reputable and reliable vendor.
Suspicious or high-risk investments
As we mentioned earlier, some sophisticated scams involve fraudulent investments which can be difficult to spot. According to a report by the Telegraph, investors lost over £78 million to scam websites in 2020.
A good rule of thumb is that you should not hand over any money to firms which are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Some fraudsters also use clone websites when trying to scam their victims, which look identical to a legitimate one. If you want to check if a firm is authentic when checking the register, make sure that the telephone and web address match exactly.
Get in touch
If you want to discuss how you can stay safe from financial scams, get in touch. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 933 8433.