Criminals have been busy finding new ways to get people out of their savings during the Covid-19 crisis as investors seek better returns in the uncertain economy.
They have created so many fake texts, cold calls, emails, and websites that more than one in five (22 percent) believe they have been affected by a coronavirus-related scam in the past few months. This is evident from research by Aviva.
Peter Hazlewood, director of financial crime risk at Aviva, spoke about the trends he sees as well as his tips on how to avoid a Covid-19 scam.
Have you received a message, an email or a letter about coronavirus?
Be aware that many scammers use Covid-19 to trick people. “Scammers use Covid-19 as a pretext for their communication. One of the best ways that consumers can protect themselves is to stick to it, ”says Hazlewood.
For example, he adds, "One of the things we saw is an interactive map that purports to be tracking the spread of the virus around the world, but clicking on the map is like clicking on a suspicious link in an email, and malware is launched on your computer, be very careful with emails purporting to be Covid-related and carefully click on any suspicious links.
"There are also text messages claiming to offer financial assistance by clicking a link that contains malware," says Hazlewood. "So it's about protecting yourself from the start."
Be careful not to share details on social media
"It's really important to limit the amount of personal information you post there. Things like social media testing – be very careful about the amount of personal information you put into them," advises Hazlewood.
“You don't know where it's going, you don't know who's using it, and that can be the same data – like your age, gender, address – these are the same data points that financial services companies use to verify your identity, so be very carefully. "
Discovered an "investment opportunity"? Think carefully before proceeding
Fake websites can be very compelling, and some have pretended to be part of well-known brands – Aviva included. However, these websites may not have contact details and the photos used on them may appear fuzzy.
“The investment conditions caused by the pandemic have created great uncertainty in the market. Investment performance has declined, so there are a number of investors looking for a decent return, ”says Hazlewood.
“They may be more mature investors. We have seen cases where people have sold their homes, for example, and are looking to downsize, but because the property market is so uncertain, they may want to look for a short term investment for a year.
“Scammers have set up fake investment comparison websites. These websites take advantage of the investment conditions and advertise slightly higher than normal investment rates, ”he warns. “And it's very tempting to someone who may have sold their house and have a lot of money to sit on, but it's literally all they have. So be skeptical of these offers if they seem too good to be around to be true. "
After all, you are not too embarrassed to report this
Aviva's research found that more than a quarter (26%) of people would be embarrassed to admit they were a victim of financial fraud, whether to friends, family, or the authorities. However, reporting this can potentially prevent it from happening to someone else.
"Customers may not want to report this, but it's really important that they tell their vendor and action fraud," says Hazlewood. "Because we can extract information that will help us shut down these websites and take action against these scammers."
"We meet with key government agencies, banks and the insurance industry, compare threats and intelligence, and talk about those threats. This results in really quick action across the industry," added Hazlewood. "We work very, very closely together."