From buying our food shop and attending zoom quizzes to making and completing online applications, we’ve had to move a lot of our activities online. As we spend more time at home, online safety is more important than ever.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a rise in Covid-19 related scams as scammers use the current situation to try and con people out of their money, often targeting the most vulnerable amongst us. Research by Citizens Advice found that more than a third (36%) of people had been targeted by scammers during the initial lockdown. Sadly, more than half (54%) of those targeted were people who had already lost income due to the virus, while half (50%) were people with an increased risk of catching coronavirus.
Scammers have used the pandemic to focus on topics of concern linking to the current situation. For example, some consumers have received fake government emails offering COVID grants of up to £7,500, or text messages claiming to be from HMRC promising tax rebates. A similar ruse was used to trick users into sharing their login and payment details for popular video streaming services and online shopping sites. There’s even been phishing emails pretending to be from NHS Test and Trace, claiming that the recipient had been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID. All of these scams were cleverly designed to look legitimate and either collect personal and financial information or download viruses onto the user’s device.
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their scams, so much so that UK Finance, the body that represents the banks, building societies and credit card companies, has published a list of the top frauds to be wary of.
So, what can you do to try and protect your money from the COVID scammers? As part of our MoneySure campaign we’ve put together some useful tools and guides to help support you. There are lots of different things you should consider when it comes to online security but we’ve chosen our top ten tips to help you get started. Here’s a few simple steps to help protect yourself:
Just as no bank will ever ask you for your passwords, they will never call you and ask you to make a transaction over the phone. There have been some instances where customers are contacted by someone pretending to be from their bank, telling them they’ve been a victim of attempted fraud to try and trick them into moving their money. If you ever get a call like this, hang up and contact your bank using a number on their website.
Check out the website address
Secure websites should have an address beginning with https:// (the ‘s’ stands for secure). Some e-commerce sites will have a padlock symbol in your browser’s address bar, while other browsers will automatically change the address bar to a green colour to represent good site security, so look out for these features
You should always look for an address connected to a physical location before you hand over any money, as well as a telephone number, although this isn’t a 100% guarantee
Look up the company’s profile on sites such as Trustpilot or Feefo. You can also check the company’s Facebook page for reviews. Although reviews can be faked (both positive and negative), these can give you an idea of whether the quality of goods and service will match your expectation
With so many different activities taking place online nowadays – from shopping and video quizzes with friends and family to virtual experiences of museums, cooking classes and art galleries – online safety is more important than ever. Events like the coronavirus pandemic can lead to new types of scam activity. But these tips will always be important to help you protect your money.