Coronavirus  

The warnings about scammers are not sinking in

Alison Steed

Alison Steed

Scammers have been on overdrive during lockdown and it has not gone unnoticed by the regulator, with actions accelerating on both cryptoasset derivatives and pensions.

While many of us are facing shorter hours and having to work from home, criminals are as active as ever.

It is set to be a growing problem in the current climate too, since the ability to scam someone is driven by a number of strong emotions on the part of the mark, including greed, fear of losing out and financial desperation.

For most people the pandemic has resulted in a drop in income due to furlough or the loss of their job or business altogether, creating a fertile environment for scammers to operate as people search for ways to top up lost income and make ends meet.

The financial desperation many people are feeling now as a result of the government’s actions to stem the spread of coronavirus have created a perfect environment for people to get scammed.

It is little surprise that while the FCA opened 109 investigations into firms for the whole of last year, it had already opened 85 by August this year.

It is certainly a tragedy that people have died from coronavirus. But a further tragedy unfolding is the number of people who now face financial ruin through no fault of their own.

The government schemes to help people through these times have been some of the most generous in the world, yet those in entertainment, sport and various other industries have been left to their own devices with next to no help.

The Facebook group Excluded UK claims there are 3m UK taxpayers excluded from the government’s Covid-19 schemes – not an insignificant number.

Added to that is the fast-approaching end of the furlough scheme, where millions more could lose their job entirely by the end of October. More than 1m small businesses have seen a loss in income, with around 310,000 making less than half of what they were making before the pandemic.

Mortgage lenders cannot repossess properties until the end of this month, but that is now not that far away.

So, sadly for many people, financially things will get worse before they get better.

Also bear in mind that many grants being offered by the government have also walked into the hands of people who should never have received them – some simply because the rules were complex and difficult to get right while accountants and financial advisers were swamped with calls from concerned clients asking for assistance.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is already warning that the books have to be balanced, so tax rises will be on the way along with clawbacks and fines.

Yet while the scammers might be accelerating their actions because more of us are prepared to believe in a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme when we are facing financial hardship, we have been warned about everything from emails promising millions of dollars being deposited in our bank accounts by total strangers to pension scams for years now.