• 09 April 2020

    Coronavirus (Covid-19) related scams escalate

    Scams related to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic have escalated in recent weeks with criminals trying a variety of different tactics through texts, email and phone calls to defraud members of the public by exploiting fears and anxieties as people self-isolate.

    The UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, Action Fraud has received thousands of reports about Coronavirus (Covid-19) themed scams including cold calls and phishing emails. Criminals are preying on people isolated from their family and friends to trick them into revealing sensitive personal and financial information. One of the recent scam emails pretends to come from HM Government asking for donations to help the NHS treat people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Action Fraud has warned the public to be on their guard and that any money sent will end up in the hands of criminals, not the NHS.

    Three steps to protect yourself from scams

    Step one - Stop!

    Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or personal information. Always be suspicious and on your guard to keep yourself safe and protect yourself from scammers.

    Step two - Challenge

    Ask yourself - could this be fake? It's ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests your receive. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you, and something which sounds to good to be true, probably is.

    Step three - Protect

    If you think you have been the victim of a scam on the policy you hold with us contact Phoenix Wealth using the contact details on our contact page. It's important to notify your bank and report scams to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting Report to Action Fraud.

    Scams to watch out for

    • Scammers may cold call you claiming to represent Phoenix Wealth. Cold calls on pensions are illegal. For any calls that come out of the blue asking you to do something or give your personal information, simply end the call and contact Phoenix Wealth using the contact details on our contact page. Criminals are looking to make money by switching your policies or selling your personal information to other criminals.
    • As people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone, texts and WhatsApp scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be a bank, mortgage lender, utility company, NHS or government department where criminals are trying to obtain personal data to sell on or gain access to your money.
    • Using market volatility around stock markets, scammers may advise transferring your investments or pensions or offering a 'free' pension review. Remember cold calls on pensions are illegal.
    • Promoting investment opportunities with guaranteed returns. These are typically unusual and unregulated investments such as property development, hotel rooms, storage units or car parking lots and can be based in the UK and abroad.
    • Offers to 'unlock' cash held in pensions. As people face financial difficulties this may sound attractive, but under 55, customers cannot normally access funds without being impacted by severe financial penalties.
    • Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments. These scams put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details stolen. Some emails lure people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by Covid-19.
    • Fake online resources, such as false Covid-19 maps that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can  infiltrate sensitive data. A recent example that has deployed malware is 'corona-virus-map[dot]com'.

    Security tips to protect yourself

    • Never share your financial or personal information to a cold caller, in response to an email or via a text.
    • Check who you are dealing with. If you receive a call, get as much information as you can about the caller and the company's background; try searching the internet, but be wary of 'flashy' websites. All regulated financial advisers should be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) (https://register.fca.org.uk)
    • If you have been asked to transfer your pension from Phoenix Wealth check the FCA's warning list FCA Scamsmart Warning list (https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/warning-list) or phone the FCA consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768 to check a person is permitted to give pension advice. Cold calling about pensions is illegal. Remember to contact us as we can take steps to check the organisation with HMRC to make sure it's legitimate.
    • Take your time. Never be rushed, pressured or harassed into making a decision about your pension. Make all the checks you need - even if this means turning down what seems to be an 'amazing' deal.
    • If you are unsure about an offer you have received or if something doesn't sound right, contact The Pension Advisory Service (TPAS) (https://www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk) which provides free independent and impartial information and guidance. Pension Wise (https://www.pensionwise.gov.uk/en) provides free pension guidance for anyone over 50 years of age with a personal or workplace pension.

    For more information on Covid-19 scams and fraud visit these websites:

    Friends Against Scams

    National Crime Agency

    National Trading Standards

    Financial Conduct Authority

    Action Fraud