While you’d like to think that tragic global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic mean that people come together in order to support one another through these difficult times, unfortunately, it appears that many fraudsters are using these trying times to prey on vulnerable people in the form of scams, phishing and hacking.
Back in July 2020, Action Fraud reported some of the most common types of fraud that occurred during the UK‘s national lockdown. Some of these included fake investment scams, fake government emails and even “council tax reductions”.
In less than one month, at the very start of the Coronavirus national lockdown, 21 cases of fraud were reported, which equated to helpless victims losing over £800,000 in total. It appears that a large percentage of these fraudulent activities were carried out via email, with fraudsters pretending to be government officials or people associated with the World Health Organization (WHO); essentially claiming to help those in need, when they were actually stealing from these people.
While this information isn’t designed to scare you, but instead help you watch out for these kinds of events, you may now be wondering “how can I protect my savings account?”, and you may wish to learn about other types of fraud when it comes to imposters trying to steal your information and indeed, your hard-earned savings.
Here are 7 tips on how to safeguard your money from fraudsters.
7 Steps to take to keep your savings safe
Keeping your money and savings safe is important regardless of any external events that might be occurring, but when money scams are on the rise in a time like the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s imperative that you’re aware of some of the actionable steps you can take to keep your savings safe.
1. Check the email address
Email phishing is one of the most common types of fraud and while it might seem obvious to say that you shouldn’t trust an email address that you don’t know, these fraudsters can be very clever when it comes to convincing you that they’re legitimate.
One common way to protect your savings from fraud, as well as many other types of fraudulent activity, is by simply checking the email address that sent you the suspicious email.
If you receive an email from your HSBC “bank”, but the email address is something like “[email protected]”, it’s highly likely that it’s a phishing or fraud attempt. Email addresses from your bank won’t be filled with complete nonsense, but if you’re still not 100% sure whether an email address is fake or not, simply check your bank’s contact details page for reference.
Main UK banks – Contact details
- Barclay’s PLC
- Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)
- Lloyds TSB
- Nationwide Building Society
- Standard Chartered PLC
- Tesco Bank
If your bank is not listed above, be sure to visit your bank’s official website to find their contact information.
2. Never click on suspicious links
Furthermore, when viewing seemingly suspicious emails, ensure that you also never click on any suspicious links. While it’s highly unlikely that anyone could access your bank details just by getting you to click on a link, that link could involve tracking software where they can see the passwords you’re typing in when logging into your accounts, and then gain access to them that way.
If you receive a link via an email or text message and you’re not 100% sure that it’s legitimate, don’t click on it.
3. Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion
Following on from the points above, if you’re still struggling to decipher whether you’ve received an email or text message from a legitimate source or not, enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member for their advice.
You should never forward a suspicious-looking email onto another person, as that could cause them to face potential phishing issues as well, but if you can show them the email in person, they’ll hopefully be able to give you guidance on whether or not they think it’s real.
4. Update your passwords
You should always ensure that you have a strong password for everything, but if you’re suspicious of potential fraudulent activity, then ensure that your passwords are updated and stored safely.
Also remember; if you didn’t request a link to reset or change your password for your bank account (or anything else for that matter), make sure you don’t click on the link unless you authorised it, otherwise a fraudster could be trying to access your details by pretending to be you.
5. Keep an eye on your accounts
Since the beginning of the national lockdown in March, it was reported that 24% of people bought more items online than before the beginning of the crisis. So, with physical shops closing as a result of the national lockdown rules, more and more people have taken their shopping habits online.
Online retail giant Amazon reported a whopping 40% increase in net sales in the second quarter of this year, compared to the second quarter of 2019, providing evidence that online spending habits have altered enormously thanks to lockdown restrictions as a result of Covid-19.
If you feel like you’ve been purchasing much more online in recent times, you might not have been aware of every single purchase that comes out of your bank account. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on your accounts, to ensure that the money coming out of your account is money that you’re actually spending.
6. Never share personal information such as passwords or login details
Another way to protect your savings account and yourself against things like identity theft and fraud is to ensure that you safeguard all of your information by never sharing things like your login details and passwords via email or over the phone if you receive a cold call from your “bank”.
If you’ve spoken on the phone to your bank before, you’ll likely know the kind of information you can expect them to ask for, so if any of the questions they ask or details they require from you don’t sound quite right, protect yourself by simply refusing to share it.
7. Use two-step verification processes
While ensuring that you have a strong password that contains a certain amount of numbers and letters, upper and lowercase letters and perhaps even some symbols thrown in for good measure is always important, it never hurts to add an extra layer of protection.
Two-step verification adds an extra layer of security to things like your bank details. For example, you might be required to put your password in, but then you will also receive a code that can be sent to your phone number or email address to put into the system as well. This means that if a hacker somehow gets hold of your password and tries to gain access to your bank account, the two-step verification process will prevent them as they won’t be able to get through the second layer of security (providing they don’t have access to your email address or phone).
Being a victim of fraud is an awful experience and one that you naturally hope you never have to endure. By taking some of the steps above, you should hopefully be in a much better position against fraudsters when it comes to things like Coronavirus scams and phishing attempts.