The ABI is warning people to be on their guard against scammers looking to cash in on the financial hardship that Coronavirus is causing for many families and firms. Fraudsters could offer bogus insurance products and high-risk investment and pension products.
Attempts to scam personal data and monies from individuals and businesses are likely to increase when there is an economic downturn as fraudsters look to exploit people’s anxieties and fears. Consumers and business owners may receive emails, calls or texts from criminals impersonating claims management companies, insurers, pensions providers and other organisations to trick them into providing personal or financial information or money.
Threats consumers and businesses need to be aware of:
- Robocalls or automated texts that falsely claim to be legitimate, mainstream insurance companies. They may claim, for a fee, they can help recover losses by submitting a claim, for the cost of a holiday or event such as a wedding cancelled due to coronavirus.
- Pension and investment scams, which might claim that they will guarantee you higher returns than your current savings.
- Cold calls about your pension. It is illegal for firms to contact you out of the blue about your pension, and you should hang up. The caller may offer to help you access your pension before age 55, or offer you, a “free pensions review”.
- Phishing emails. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or reveal personal or financial information.
- Ghost brokers. Fraudsters may attempt to use an insurer’s branding to promote and sell fake or invalid insurance products, including products such as travel and business interruption which may claim to offer COVID-19 protection.
- False insurance cancellation. Callers will say your insurance has been cancelled and they promise to reinstate it if you pay an additional fee over the phone.
People are being urged to:
- Be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true.
- Not feel pressured to agree to offers or deals on insurance, pensions or investments.
- Check the credentials of the person you are dealing with by getting a name and contact details. You can check the financial service register to make sure you are dealing with a regulated company. Hang up and call them back on details you can verify.
- Never give your personal details out such as an insurance or pensions policy number or other account details.
- Always use contact details on your documents provided by your insurer or pension provider.
- Not assume all online sites are genuine.
Mark Allen, ABI’s Manager, Fraud and Financial Crime, said:
“Criminals are experts at exploiting situations for their own gain and coronavirus is a perfect opportunity for them, so people need to be on their guard. Consumer scams can leave people seriously out-of-pocket. If someone offers you a deal that looks too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are unsure, always check the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Services Register to make sure that who you are dealing with is genuine.”
Stephen Dalton, Head of Intelligence and Investigations at the Insurance Fraud Bureau said:
“Sadly, fraudsters are known to be especially opportunistic during times of economic hardship so it’s important for the public to be wary and do basic checks when taking out insurance services to help ensure they’re genuine.
“Fraudsters may also exploit the situation to make fraudulent claims and IFB investigators and intelligence analysts are actively working alongside the insurance industry and the police to identify them and protect genuine policyholders and claimants. If anyone has suspicions of insurance fraud, they can help our investigations by reporting their evidence to our confidential Cheatline service at www.insurancefraudbureau.org.”
Charlotte Jackson, head of pensions operations and consumer protection at the Money and Pensions Service, said:
“This is a very worrying time for everyone, and the impact of the coronavirus on financial markets is adding to the stress. Difficult as it is, the most important thing is not to panic or rush into making any decisions about your pension at the moment. We know scammers will try to take advantage of the situation so you should be suspicious of any unexpected approach. Before you do anything, it’s worth getting independent guidance or advice. Our pension specialists are offering a full service, for free, via 0800 011 3797, or you can make an appointment with Pension Wise online.”
“Fraudsters are heartless and selfish criminals, who have no qualms about using tragic events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, to make them money. Several of IFED’s past cases have involved fraudsters who exploited other human tragedies, such as the Grenfell Tower Fire and London Bridge terror attack, and the Manchester Arena Bombing.
“So it’s vital that members of the public remain vigilant, and aware that fraudsters will stop at nothing to try to steal their money.
“Insurance fraud is a serious crime and is treated as such by IFED, the insurance industry and the criminal courts. We want fraudsters, and indeed anyone thinking of making a false claim related to Covid-19, to be in no doubt: if you commit insurance fraud, we will catch you and you will be brought to justice.”
Insurers and pensions providers are alive to consumer scams that emerge in the UK and will work with law enforcement agencies and regulators to help prevent, detect and enforce against scammers during this time.
If you have been a victim or know of someone who has been a victim of a scam you can report the scam to Action Fraud.