Coronavirus  

Millions fall for scams amid pandemic

Millions fall for scams amid pandemic

One in five victims of a financial scam during the coronavirus pandemic were targeted by pension fraudsters amid warnings of "low-life" scammers preying on the vulnerable. 

Figures released by financial services firm Canada Life today (May 26) found 5.2m people in the UK had fallen victim to, or knew someone who had been duped by, a financial scam since the beginning of the virus outbreak. 

The research found the most common financial scams were related to banking, accounting for 60 per cent of victims, followed by 35 per cent of victims reporting being targeted by an insurance scam. 

One in five of these victims had been targeted by a pension scam amid an increase in fraudsters purporting to offer free pension reviews. 

The survey of 2,000 adults at the beginning of May also flagged a trend of consumers feeling increasingly vulnerable to pension fraud, with 43 per cent reporting they were now more worried about scams.

Canada Life warned British adults had received an average of three suspicious or fraudulent messages since the outbreak, including emails, phone calls and text messages. 

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 ‘low-lifes’ to prey on not only the vulnerable but also people who are worried and anxious about both their health and their wealth."

In March Action Fraud warned coronavirus-related fraud reports had increased by 400 per cent and the number of pension scams had soared since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It came as opportunistic scammers attempted  to exploit savers experiencing serious financial strain and looking to access their savings. 

Mr Tully added: "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."

Research from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pension Scams showed with more people staying at home, in line with social distancing and lockdown restrictions, it was increasingly likely pension savers would be contacted by scammers via phone or online.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "There’s nothing in life that’s so terrible that scammers won’t be prepared to take advantage – and coronavirus is no exception.

"As far as they’re concerned, a worldwide pandemic is a great opportunity to steal from people when they’re vulnerable and scared and may not be so focused on the risks they pose." 

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on fa.letters@ft.com to let us know.