5.2 million* UK adults either a victim or know someone who has fallen victim to a scam since the outbreak of Covid-19.One in ten (10%) UK adults (5.2 million people) have either fallen victim to a financial scam since the Covid-19 pandemic, or knows someone who has, according to new insight** from financial services firm Canada Life. The company is warning that people need to be constantly vigilant as fraudsters are preying on the nation’s current financial anxieties and concerns to scam at will.
The most common type of scams people have fallen victim to are banking related ones, with three in five (60%) reporting this type. Insurance scams are also common with 35% of victims citing this as the cause, followed by pension fraud at one in five instances (19%).
The financial cost of being scammed is significant, with victims losing £566 on average per scam. Although one in ten of those who know someone who has been scammed or have been a victim themselves has lost over £1,000.
Being scammed or knowing someone who has during the outbreak has left many feeling foolish (47%), although, half (48%) felt the scams are so convincing they are hard to spot. This experience has an impact beyond the financial consequences, with more than half (55%) agreeing that it’s taken a toll on their mental health and 37% feeling like their trust in people has completely gone.
A worsening situation
When Canada Life asked people in August 2019*** if they had been approached by phone, text or email with the offer of a free pensions review (a very clear indication of pension scamming activity), just over one in ten (12%) of non-retirees suggested they had been contacted this way in the preceding three months. This has risen to almost one in five (17%) for those people yet to retire who have received similar contact over the last three months. Of those who have been approached with pensions ‘advice’ in the last three months, 43% are more worried about scams, and 25% feel increasingly vulnerable.
On average Brits have received three suspicious or fraudulent messages since the outbreak. The most common way to contact people is through suspicious email activity (75%), but a third (32%) have received a phone call, and a quarter (24%) have been sent text messages. Retirees said they received significantly more phone calls (at 46% vs 32% for UK adults), despite the ban on pension cold calling being introduced in January 2019.
Nearly one in six (13%) think they’re more vulnerable to scams during the Covid-19 outbreak, and 26% are increasingly concerned about financial scams. A quarter (25%) don’t know how to prevent fraudsters from targeting them; 30% don’t know which services they can use to protect themselves and 30% wouldn’t know who to contact if they were scammed.
This comes despite the increased public awareness campaigns on how to spot and avoid scams. Canada Life is warning that people need to be alert to the dangers and has published tips to help the unwary.
Andrew Tully, technical director at Canada Life, said: “Falling prey to a scam can be devastating, not only for the individual involved but also for their family and friends. The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a fertile opportunity for ‘lowlifes’ to prey on not only the vulnerable but also people who are worried and anxious about both their health and their wealth. With families trying to make ends meet as the economy dips, an offer of money or easy access to your pension early might seem the perfect opportunity to dig yourself out of trouble – at face value. Sadly it’s highly likely it will be scammers, so be aware and follow the simple rule of thumb – if it appears too good to be true, it inevitably is. Simply walk away, hang up, or delete the email or text.
“We all need to be on our guard for any signs of fraudulent activity as scammers continue to evolve and adopt ever more sophisticated and ingenious ways of encouraging people to part with their hard-earned money. Follow our tips to help spot and avoid being a victim of a scam.”
Tips to help avoid financial scams
- If you receive an offer to help you access your pension savings before age 55. It is only possible to do this in rare situations, for example if you are very ill, so always check with your pension provider before making any decisions.
- Warnings that the deal is limited and you must act now. This is a pressure tactic, and making any financial decisions should not be done under pressure.
- HMRC will never contact you by email, phone or text informing you of a tax refund, so simply delete or ignore any contact made this way – HMRC will only contact you via post.
- You are discouraged from seeking professional financial advice or talking to Pension Wise or The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS). An adviser would be able to explain the rules and tax implications of different options and help you make the best choices for your personal circumstances, so be very suspicious if this is discouraged.
- Sign up for Action Fraud Alert, a free service provided by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. The service alerts about new types of crime or those which are increasing in their severity. If you sign up you will receive those alerts which are relevant to you – Action Fraud police website
- Contact by somebody who is not on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Register. The Register is a public record of all the regulated firms and individuals in the financial services industry, including retirement income providers and investment companies – FCA register website
- A recommendation to take a large amount of money, or your whole pension pot, in a lump sum and invest it elsewhere. Seek professional financial advice, and be very wary of unsolicited offers of ‘amazing investment returns’
- There can be significant tax implications if you choose to cash in your pension in one go, so check the tax position before you make any decisions. Tax calculators are available online including ours here
- Check the FCA ScamSmart for known scams and use the tools to help identify a potential scam
- TPAS also has a great section on pension scams on its’ website here
- Check with your financial adviser, TPAS or your current pension provider if you have any doubts or concerns before you act on any approaches, or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or look online here
*10% of adults in the UK say they have either been a victim of a scam or know someone who has since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. That equates to 5.2 million people (52,383,000 adults in the UK according to the latest ONS population statistics).
** Survey conducted by Opinium between 5.5.20 and 7.5.20 among 2,000 UK adults.
***Survey conducted by Opinium between 2.8.19 and 5.8.19 among 1,510 non-retired UK adults.