Vulnerable and at-risk groups are today being warned by the Investment Association of the potential risks posed to their savings and investments from scams and financial crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early evidence suggests that some scammers are attempting to use the pandemic to convince savers and investors to withdraw money from their investments. Investment management firms have seen a noted increase in this criminal activity, previously focused on retail banking customers. Criminals are using increasingly aggressive tactics, for example, posing as the police to convince one saver to withdraw the money held in their saving bond.
New and increased financial criminal activity has been identified by investment managers and national authorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more traditional criminal activity being given a new COVID-19 twist:
- Phishing emails: investment managers have noticed a spike in phishing emails, with COVID-19-related themes, to steal personal and financial data. One firm’s anti-spam software detected 513 different files containing malware with coronavirus in their title by the end of March.
- Smishing texts: similar to phishing, text messages are being sent to clients and investors, impersonating trusted organisations to try and trick investors into giving away their personal and financial information or money. These scam texts claim to be from government departments, investment managers, banks or ‘establishment’ organisations, offering payments or claiming to be issuing fines related to COVID-19.
Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of the Investment Association said, “Sadly, criminals never miss a trick, and so during this time of heightened criminal activity, we are urging savers and investors to think very carefully about the risks criminals pose to their financial wellbeing and life-long savings.
“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. That’s why today we are reminding savers and investors to take all necessary, vigilant steps to protect their hard-earned savings from ruthless financial criminals.”
The IA is urging anyone who suspects fraudulent activity to follow the advice of the National Crime Agency, and:
- Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect: Contact your investment manager immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
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