How to protect yourself from coronavirus scams

20 Mar 2020

Simon Hamm

Fraud risk and future strategy manager

Avoid attempted fraud at this difficult time

Criminals are taking advantage of the coronavirus emergency.
 
Increased activity across online, mobile and telephone-banking channels means fraudsters are trying to trick individuals and businesses into sharing information or personally transferring funds into unintended accounts.
 
Across the banking industry, the number of fraud cases where the account holder transferred funds to an unintended recipient grew 45% within the last year, according to industry body UK Finance.
 
This type of fraud is called authorised push payment fraud (APP) and it includes scams such as fake investments; email hacks and prompts to move money to a ‘safe account’.
 
Investec is an active supporter of the Take Five campaign which encourages individuals to take five seconds before they respond to any type of transaction request, to check that the beneficiary is genuine. Stopping to think about a payment is especially crucial in these trying times, where individuals feel under pressure to act quickly.
 
If you have any concerns about communications you have received or a payment you are about to make, you can contact us immediately.

UK fraud reporting hotline:

Channel Islands reporting hotline:

Six tips to protect yourself from coronavirus scams

1. Use known or independently sourced telephone numbers

There has been an increase in COVID-19 related emails. Hackers can change the account details included in a communication. If you are due to receive an invoice by email, contact the sender on a known or independently-sourced number before making a payment (not one contained in the body of an email). This way you can ensure you are paying to the correct bank details.

2. Beware of requests to move money or share information

Fraudsters have been calling individuals and impersonating the police, financial institutions, or even the World Health Organisation (WHO) and NHS. The purpose of the calls is to obtain personal details about you, or convince you to move money to a ‘safe account’. Do not respond or make a transfer before checking with the organisation on a registered number, even if the caller tells you not to.

3. Know your brands

Be wary of unsolicited e-mails that appear to be from a ‘known’ organisation such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or NHS; these can be phishing attempts. Criminals often replicate emails from these organisations to urge you to provide personal information by clicking on a link or downloading a document. The information harvested can be used to impersonate you.

4. Verify the identity of a payee

No matter how well you think you know a payee, think twice before making a payment. Some individuals have been asking for financial donations while posing as charities pretending to assist with the COVID-19 emergency. Research causes before making a payment, and call to confirm details of their work on an independently-sourced number.

5. Research online sellers

Shortages of medical and essential supplies in shops is leading to more online orders. This has resulted in an increase of purchase scams, where criminals advertise goods they don’t have and keep the payment. Always conduct your own research into a seller before making a purchase and avoid buying essentials from shops you are not familiar with. 

6. Think twice

The recent drop in the Bank of England base rate means personal investment and business opportunities may seem more attractive. Fraudsters know this. Seek independent advice before making a decision on an investment, even if you’re told it’s only available for a short time. Find out more from the Money Advice Service.