With the coronavirus pandemic still not over, online safety may not be the first thing on our minds.
But perhaps it should be. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has warned that “predatory” cyber criminals are seeking to exploit the situation with new Covid-19 related scams. Latest figures show that scammers have cheated victims out of more than £5.3million since lockdown began.
At Continuum we are looking at the risks – and ways to protect yourself.
Why have the risks increased?
Criminals want Personal Identifiable Information (or PII) such as your banking details to hack into bank accounts and steal money. They may also seek information such as your address and date of birth, to try and impersonate you online.
Lockdown has meant that many more of us are relying on digital connections for work, shopping and our social lives. We depend on the internet.
It is this dependency that cybercriminals try to exploit. But not only has there been a huge increase in internet traffic – there have been new fears for them to exploit.
So, what are the new scams you need to be aware of?
There is a shortage of personal protective equipment and sanitiser gel. When you come across a website selling the products you want, be careful. If they are a fraud, they will never ship the goods you order – but they will certainly use the card details that they collect.
Council tax reduction scams
Beware of emails claiming to offer a council tax reduction, inviting you to click on a link to the appropriate government website. You will be invited to provide your details to claim your discount. Again, this will be a phishing scam designed to steal sensitive data.
Tracing app scams
The government is launching a contact tracing app to warn people if they have come into contact with Covid-19. Scammers have already launched emails and texts to do the same thing – but linking to a website designed to collect the usual personal details.
Some emails claim to have a list of people in your local area who have Covid-19. There will be a charge for this (non-existent) information.
Self-employment income support scams
Many self employed people desperate for money have been particularly vulnerable to scams offering fast-track payments from the genuine scheme. More than 300 websites working this scam have been taken down – but some are probably still up and still stealing personal details.
If you think you have been the victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.
The Netflix scam
There has been a spike in demand for home entertainment – and a spike in scams offering free trials of subscription services like Netflix and Disney+. All you need to do is provide your credit card details.
If you are already a subscriber, you may get an email asking you to ‘confirm’ your details. In both cases, the senders are scammers, and the messages are designed to steal your data.
Job retention scheme scams
If you run a business, the job retention scheme is a financial lifeline. You may get a call from HMRC asking for your business bank account details, to guarantee payment of your salary subsidy. They are of course fraudsters out to drain your business funds, not replenish them.
This is not an exhaustive list. There have been scams offering miracle drugs, work from home opportunities and even non-existent pets (complete with costly immunisations). New variations appear every day.
Stay safe by only shopping using trusted websites, being suspicious of offers that appear too good to be true and searching online for reviews before making purchases. Don’t click on links in emails where you are not sure of the sender. Use a phone number you trust instead.
- Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date and spam filters are on.
- Watch out for offers that appear too good to be true – because they usually are.
- Never reveal your details, data or passwords.
- Check that any website you do want to buy from is genuine – and always be certain who you are doing business with.
Financial review scams
There is another and particularly serious class of scam. Many people have suffered financially from the downturn, with falls in the value of their investments and pension pots. Scammers are taking advantage – beware anyone you don’t know contacting you offering free advice, a free investment review or early access to your pension.
Remember you cannot access your pension before age 55 unless you have serious health issues – and most ‘financial recovery’ plans that sound too good to be true are simply ways to steal your pensions and investments.
Look at your investments and pensions
Expert help may be essential. At Continuum we have helped our clients through difficult times before. We can look at your holdings and work with you to try and create an investment strategy which will do the same for you – remember, the post-covid world may have some different financial realities to deal with.
We can also help you with all the other financial planning you need to make the most of the recovery as soon as it comes. We can identify the opportunities, and help you harness them to build your wealth.
Lockdown is coming to an end, but nobody can be certain how quickly the bounceback will be behind it. You need to be prepared – why not contact us today?
The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Continuum and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation to suitable investment or Protection strategy, you should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action.
The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you invested.
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