UK adults spent an average of almost four hours a day online during the pandemic. Unfortunately, because we’re all online more this means more opportunities for criminals to target us with online scams. Follow this simple guide to stay safe online.
The scale and spread of the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we do things. With more and more of us working from home, shopping online and catching up with friends on Zoom, we’ve seen a significant increase in the time we spend on the internet.
In fact, a recent report by Ofcom revealed that by the end of 2020, 94% of UK homes had access to the internet, and we spent an average of 3 hours 37 minutes a day on smartphones, tablets and computers.
Unfortunately, there are always those who will look to take advantage of situations like this and set up online scams. So here’s a simple guide to help you stay safe online.
Online scams use the internet to trick people out of money, property, and personal information - and they’re becoming harder and harder to spot.
Criminals typically do this by sending people a ‘phishing’ email. These look like genuine emails, but the goal is to get you to click on a link or an attachment which has an embedded document. Once you click it, it usually takes you to a fake website or installs malicious software on your computer or phone. They often ask you to input your personal information such as names, dates of birth, user IDs and passwords.
Scammers will often be targeting your savings and investments. There are ways to try and avoid online scams and protect your savings – you just need to know what to look out for.
There are some things online scams tend to have in common which you can keep an eye out for.
If you’re offered an investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true…it probably is! Don’t take chances with your hard-earned money unless you know exactly where it’s going.
Be cautious of anyone unexpectedly contacting you about your savings. There has been a ban on cold-calling about pensions since 2019. So if you haven’t asked them to call you, and you don’t have a pension plan with them, then they shouldn’t be calling you.
You should never feel pressured into making a rash decision about your savings and investments, particularly your long-term ones like your pension savings. Always take your time to do some proper research and understand what you’re investing in.
With almost £2 million lost to pension scams in the first three months of this year alone, it’s clear that pension savers are prime targets for scammers.
Promises of early access to your pension savings, free pension reviews and higher returns can all sound tempting – especially if you’ve experienced some financial difficulties this past year. And scammers know how to make these opportunities seem legitimate, so it can be tricky to know when it’s happening to you.
But if you fall victim to their scam, you’ll likely lose your money. And often once you’ve transferred your pension plan somewhere else or handed over your savings, it’s too late.
To protect yourself and your pension savings, you should always check if the firm or person you’re dealing with is on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Register. If you don’t use an FCA-authorised firm, you also won’t have access to Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service so you’re unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong.
It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the latest techniques scammers are using and the different ways to spot a scam. That way you should be one step ahead. The Money Advice Service has a useful guide you can use to get started.
Remember, if you’re unsure, you should speak to a financial adviser before you make any big decisions about your pension plan. If you don’t have your own adviser, you can find one in your area at unbiased.co.uk. Please note there’s usually a cost for financial advice.
Of course, the reality is that doing things online is easy, convenient and possibly even necessary with current restrictions, and this might include managing your savings and investments.
If you’re a Standard Life pension customer there’s a lot you can do online safely. Registering for online services will allow you to get answers to a lot of your questions, check how much your plan is worth and take some key actions.
Protecting your data is a top priority for Standard Life and we have multiple technical controls in place along with strong business processes and staff training to help make sure it stays safe.
And remember, we’ll never call you and ask you to login to your account or send you an email asking for security details or other confidential information.
If you think that you’ve been approached by fraudsters, for financial services please tell the FCA using the reporting form at www.fca.org.uk/scams. You can also call the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.
If you’ve lost money to investment fraud, you should report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk
If you’ve received a suspicious email, here’s a guide on what to do, including if you have already clicked the link.
For more information, visit the Information Commissioner’s Office’s website for tips on staying one step ahead of the scammers.
To find out more about scams, including a warning list of known scams, visit Scamsmart.
And, if you would like guidance and support about how the impact of coronavirus might affect your pension or investments visit the Pensions Advisory Service website.
The information in this article should not be regarded as financial advice. Please remember that the value of investments can go down as well as up and may be worth less than was paid in. Information is based on our understanding in June 2021.