How to protect your finances from fraudulent activity during these uncertain times.
The events unfolding around the coronavirus pandemic are unprecedented in the modern era, not least in their global scale and the rate at which they are developing.
But the present does have several things in common with previous periods of turbulence. One is that we are currently living through a climate of uncertainty, confusion and fear – conditions that a very small minority of people are seeking to take advantage of to the detriment of others.
While the chances of being targeted by a financial scam remain low, the consequences of falling victim can be devastating. Knowing what to look for, what to do and what not to do will help keep you safe.
What we’re seeing
The global financial crisis came with an increase in fraud attempts such as ‘phishing’ scams. These seek to trick people into disclosing personal information, such as bank account numbers and passwords, that could result in identity theft or financial loss.
The early stages of the coronavirus outbreak have seen a similar rise in fraudulent activity. Particularly prominent are scams in which fraudsters aim to exploit trust in public bodies by imitating them in order to obtain personal information or money.
For example, some people have received emails purporting to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) offering advice on how to stay safe. The message asks the target to click on a link, then enter their email address and password in order to receive a PDF (which, of course, never arrives).
Another is a fake text message that looks like it was sent by the UK government . It tells the recipient they are being fined for leaving the house during lockdown and requests their card details in order for the fine to be paid. Similarly, one widely circulated bogus email claims to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), offering a goodwill coronavirus payment and asking for account details so that the payment can be made.
The prospect of an economic slowdown may also increase the risk of fraudsters promoting unsafe and unregulated investment and pension opportunities.
What we’re doing
The fact that these fraud attempts have already been exposed reflects the work of authorities such as regulators and police in identifying such activities.
As a client of Gilson Gray Financial Management, you have us on your side too. We are doing all we can to support your financial wellbeing in these volatile times. For example, in our interactions with you we will:
- Provide a secure website to log in to St. James’s Place Online Services (this can be checked by looking for the padlock icon next to the address bar).
- Only send withdrawal funds to a verified bank account in your name.
- Ask you security questions to verify your identity when speaking to you on the phone.
It’s also useful to be aware of certain things we will not do:
- Ask you for your password over the phone.
- Send you an unsolicited email with a link to our login page asking you to enter your Online Wealth Account credentials.
- Ask you for payment or credit card details.
- Call you to notify you of a problem and then request you call us back immediately to discuss the problem further.
What you can do
Signing up for our Online Services is just one of several steps you can take to keep yourself safe.
Remember too that we are here to help with any concerns or queries – just get in touch.
These are challenging times. Protecting your finances as well as your health can help make life more manageable and give you valuable peace of mind.
Need to know
- No legitimate individual or organisation would ever ask you for information such as bank account numbers or login details.
- Banks will never ask clients to transfer money or move it to a safe account.
- Banks, HMRC, the police, the government, regulators and other bodies never cold-call people asking for some form of banking identification.
- Don’t give your personal or financial details to anyone you don’t know or don’t trust.
- Always log in to your bank account to update your information or make legitimate payments.
- Hang up if you’re ever cold-called about an investment opportunity; it’s almost certainly a high-risk investment or a scam.
- An additional layer of online protection can be created by regularly changing passwords and using unique passwords for each account.
Fraudsters are often one step ahead of the authorities. So, it’s worth ensuring that, when it comes to your online security provisions and awareness, you are as up to date as possible. The following resources can help:
- St. James’s Place: read our online security guidance for clients at www.sjp.co.uk/online-security.
- Full Fact: fullfact.org is a trusted, independent fact-checking website, which now includes a dedicated coronavirus section.
- Action Fraud: report fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or using Action Fraud’s online fraud reporting tool.
- Take Five, Stop Fraud: this national campaign offers free, impartial advice on email, phone-based and online fraud. Visit takefive-stopfraud.org.uk for more information.
- 7726: report any suspected scam texts by forwarding them to your mobile network provider on this number.
- Think Jessica: a registered charity driving awareness of the danger – and financial implications – of scams which target people in their own homes. Visit thinkjessica.com for more information.
The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray Financial Management.