avoiding fraud during COVID-19

Avoiding Fraud During COVID-19 – How fraudsters target the vulnerable.

21 May 2020

Although the Coronavirus pandemic has brought many businesses and even entire industries to a grinding halt, crime is not one of them. Considering the struggles businesses already face, avoiding fraud during COVID-19 is becoming increasingly important.

Scams, frauds and attempts to cheat both businesses and the vulnerable are still going strong. In fact, there has been a wave of examples of new fraudulent activity attempting to exploit the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. These range from money laundering to attempts to scam money from the vulnerable. 

I personally know of an elderly couple that recently lost £95,000, their life savings, in one afternoon. In the space of a few hours, fraudsters managed to convince them to transfer funds to “safe” bank account, and then sending to their house a couple of “fake” policemen to tell the victims not to contact their bank for a few days saying that they believe it was inside job.

Only after a couple of days when they heard nothing from anyone did they realise they had lost everything. Their bank who sympathised with them said they had been a victim of a major scam.

Sickening in normal times, unbelievably sickening in these COVID 19 times.

With businesses and the general public adjusting to a new way of life and the financial uncertainty in the economy, it is more important now than ever before to be on the look out for fraudulent activity. 

Scams During COVID-19

Here are some recent examples of fraudulent activity arising from COVID-19: 

  • Businesses taking money for PPE equipment (masks, gloves, hand sanitiser etc) but not producing the products. 
  • Fraudsters impersonate high street banks demanding customers transfer money to a new account due to a ‘security breach’ with their current account
  • Fraudulent companies claiming to be researching a vaccine seeking investment
  • Fraudsters are pretending to be HMRC and requesting victims send their bank details to receive a rebate. 
  • Fraudsters convincing investors to move their funds to illegal or fraudulent ‘safer’ investments.
  • Fake charities soliciting donations to help fight COVID-19

Spotting a Scam

The question is, how can businesses be on the lookout and protect themselves from scams? 

The UK Government suggests following the S.C.A.M. process. 

  • S – seems too good to be true
  • C – contacted out of the blue
  • A – asked for personal details
  • M – money is requested

If you have received communications that meet these criteria, you may have a scam on your hands. 

It is important that you look out for the following things: 

  • Banks, building societies, utility companies or government bodies will never ask you for your pin codes or passwords. They will not request you to transfer money on the phone after contacting you. They will not demand remote access to your computer. If you have received any requests like this, you may be being scammed. 
  • Attempts from new clients or suppliers to forgo due diligence, valuations or background checks to get business done faster. 
  • Communications from unknown or brand-new businesses requesting money or financial information.
  • Communications from companies with COVID-19 or Coronavirus in their title – they may be trying to exploit the situation. 
  • Outbound marketing offering PPE or other equipment relating to the pandemic. 
  • Communications that contain suspicious attachments – particular those ending with .exe

What to do if you Have Been Scammed

If you think you or your business have been or are being targeted by a scam, there are steps you can take. 

First of all, cease any and all financial transactions immediately and request a full refund as soon as possible. 

If you are being contacted by a suspicious company, check their details on Companies House. If they are a new company, they may be creating new companies to avoid detection as they scam. If they regularly change their name, they may be trying to avoid being tracked by those they have scammed in the past. 

Check for online reviews of any company you are considering entering into business with. Victims of fraud tend to let others know, so find out what’s being said about your potential partners online. 

Have a look at the Action Fraud website – they have a list of known frauds and scams. 

The UK Government also have advice on avoiding fraud during COVID-19.

Further help on avoiding fraud during COVID-19

If you think you or your business have been the victim of a scam, or if you need advice on avoiding fraud during COVID-19, please contact us today. 

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