FCA warns investors to be wary of cornavirus-related investment scams, as scammers take advantage of uncertainty.
A week into the UK lockdown, more than 500 coronavirus-related scams and over 2,000 phishing attempts had been reported. Scam smart is the FCA’s (Financial Conduct Authority) campaign to help consumers avoid pension and investment scams. With major events – like Coronavirus – we can see new types of scams to exploit the situation. In this case, ‘good cause’ scammers are asking for investment in or donations for medical equipment or research.
There are some general things we can do to avoid scams no matter what’s in the headlines. Here are the top tips from FCA to stay vigilant and keep safe:
1. Look out
- Cold calls, emails, texts or 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.
- Exploiting short-term financial concerns, scammers may ask you to hand over an upfront fee when applying for a loan or credit – that you will never get.
- ‘Good cause’ scams which ask for investment in 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.
- 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.
2. Protect yourself
- Use the Financial Services Register and Warning List to check who you are dealing with.
Reject offers that come out of the blue.
- 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.
- Do not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details).
3. Stay secure
A cross-governmental campaign ‘Cyber Aware’ has been launched by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to help individuals and organisations to protect themselves online. It urges people to protect their data passwords, accounts and the devices they use to access them. NCSC Chief Executive Officer Ciaran Martin said:
“Technology is helping us cope with the coronavirus crisis and will play a role helping us out of it – but that means cyber security is more important than ever.
“With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us. But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today. But even with the best security in place, some attacks will still get through.”
The campaign encourages people to ‘Stay home. Stay Connected. Stay Cyber Aware’, and its top tips for staying secure online are;
- Turn on two factor authentication for important accounts.
- Protect important accounts using a password of three random words.
- Create a separate password that you only use for your main email account.
- Update the software and apps on your devices regularly (ideally set to ‘automatically update’).
- Save your passwords in your browser.
- To protect yourself from being held to ransom, back up important data.
With email and post increasingly vulnerable to interception, Wren Sterling treats the security of the data you share with us with the utmost care. We would urge our clients to sign up to our Personal Finance Portal, which provides you with a secure messaging service, so you can quickly get in touch with us and have the peace of mind of knowing that any information or documents you share is 100% encrypted and completely private.