Protect Your Pension From COVID-19 Scams
This content is for information purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice. Every effort has been made to ensure the information is correct and up-to-date at the time of writing. For personalised and regulated advice regarding your situation, please consult an independent financial adviser here at Castlegate in Grantham, Lincoln or other local offices.
People in the UK have long had to guard against financial scams, and older people have also had to be especially vigilant (who are disproportionately targeted for their pension savings). However, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a warning for people to be extra careful during the lockdown.
This is particularly important for pensioners to take note of, since there have been reports of scammers exploiting COVID-19 fears to trick them out of their life savings. After all, our financial advisers have noted a general rise in anxiety as pension funds have reeled from the recent stock market volatility. With some pension funds recently losing as much as 50% of their value, this is the perfect breeding ground for scammers to exploit panic.
Here at Castlegate, our Lincolnshire financial advisers want to ensure that your pension is as protected as possible from fraudulent people. We offer this short update to help you stay vigilant during these difficult times.
If you would like to discuss your own financial plan with us please get in touch to arrange a no-obligation financial consultation, at our expense:
Since January 2019 the UK government has banned cold calling regarding pensions. Whilst any company which breaks the rules faces a £500,000 fine, this welcome ban has not stopped malicious actors – both domestic and overseas – from preying upon people for their life savings. Indeed, some estimates place the number of calls at 8 per second; totalling 250m per year. The average cost to a victim’s pension, moreover, is about £91,000.
Of course, if your financial adviser calls you about your pension, then this does not fall under the ban. If you already have an existing relationship with the caller, you have consented to receive calls from them and they are regulated by the FCA, then you are treading on safer ground.
At the time of writing, people in the UK are still under lockdown and required to self-isolate. With so many people (e.g. older pensioners) stuck at home alone with their thoughts, it is possible that there is higher, widespread vulnerability to illicit cold calls. If you receive a cold call about your pension from someone you do not know, here are some tips to consider:
Do not give out any personal information.
Ask for the caller’s name and business details (e.g. FCA number).
Do not allow yourself to be pressured into making any decisions over the phone, especially if they offer a “time-limited” opportunity to you.
Whilst cold calling is an important fraudster tactic to be aware of, it’s true that most of our non-face-to-face communication now occurs via digital channels such as email, social media networks and video calls/messaging. The latter has become even more prominent in light of the COVID-19 lockdown, where grandparents are using the likes of WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook video and Zoom to communicate with family members they are isolated from.
These communication tools are vital during this time of lockdown, to help ensure we all maintain some form of human interaction. However, it’s also important to recognise that digital channels can be exploited by nasty individuals. In Singapore, for instance, the government recently banned schools from using video messaging service Zoom, after online lessons were hacked and children were left vulnerable to online strangers.
Pensions can also be exposed to digital fraud without careful security measures. After all, many of us now use mobile banking apps to manage our money, or online investment platforms to manage our portfolios. These solutions can be great in themselves, but there are ways hackers can exploit common human errors to take advantage of them. In particular:
- Be careful when visiting websites you do not recognise or trust. Look for the “https” or green padlock symbol at the beginning of the website address, which helps ensure that your connection to the website is secure.
- Be careful about opening emails from unrecognised senders, and do not click on any links within these messages. For instance, a fraudulent email pretending to be from your bank might contain a link to a fake page, which tries to capture your banking information.
- Be careful about connecting your phone, tablet or computer to any unknown networks around your house whilst in lockdown. Use your own WiFi or mobile network.
Keep your firewall and other security computer software up-to-date at all times. Remember, hackers can exploit loopholes in outdated software to plant trojan horses, send viruses or use other nasty tactics.
- Consider getting a VPN for your router and/or devices. This creates a secure “tunnel” between your device and the internet, which can help with privacy and security.
Consider using credit cards for online purchases, if possible or appropriate. Most providers will insure online purchases, which gives you a greater chance of getting your money back if things go wrong. Be wary of any website which asks for payment information but does not accept credit cards.
- Be careful with social media adverts such as charity appeals during the COVID-19 lockdown. These are not always legitimate, and upon clicking you might be directed to a fake landing page asking for financial details in the form of a donation.
Be careful of approaches from airlines, tour operators and similar firms which offer you refund details (e.g. on a recent holiday booking). Call companies you have dealt with, on a number you know and trust.
If you are interested in discussing your own financial plan or investment strategy with us, please get in touch to arrange a no-commitment financial consultation at our expense: