Coronavirus: staying safe online


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This article was correct at the time of publishing however the information contained within it will no longer be current. It may also no longer reflect our views on this topic.


How to protect your finances from fraudulent activity during these uncertain times.

The events unfolding around the coronavirus pandemic are unprecedented in the modern era, not least in their global scale and the rate at which they are developing.

But the present does have several things in common with previous periods of turbulence. One is that we are currently living through a climate of uncertainty, confusion and fear – conditions that a very small minority of people are seeking to take advantage of to the detriment of others.

While the chances of being targeted by a financial scam remain low, the consequences of falling victim can be devastating. Knowing what to look for, what to do and what not to do will help keep you safe.

What we’re seeing

The global financial crisis came with an increase in fraud attempts such as ‘phishing’ scams. These seek to trick people into disclosing personal information, such as bank account numbers and passwords, that could result in identity theft or financial loss.

The early stages of the coronavirus outbreak have seen a similar rise in fraudulent activity. Particularly prominent are scams in which fraudsters aim to exploit trust in public bodies by imitating them in order to obtain personal information or money.

For example, some people have received emails purporting to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) offering advice on how to stay safe. The message asks the target to click on a link, then enter their email address and password in order to receive a PDF (which, of course, never arrives).

Another is a fake text message that looks like it was sent by the UK government. It tells the recipient they are being fined for leaving the house during lockdown and requests their card details in order for the fine to be paid. Similarly, one widely circulated bogus email claims to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), offering a goodwill coronavirus payment and asking for account details so that the payment can be made.

The prospect of an economic slowdown may also increase the risk of fraudsters promoting unsafe and unregulated investment and pension opportunities.

What we’re doing

The fact that these fraud attempts have already been exposed reflects the work of authorities such as regulators and police in identifying such activities.

As part of St. James’s Place, Rowan Dartington are doing all we can to support your financial wellbeing in these volatile and challenging times. Protecting your finances as well as your health can help make life more manageable and give you valuable peace of mind. We're here to help with any concerns or queries – just get in touch.

Need to know

  • No legitimate individual or organisation would ever ask you for information such as bank account numbers or login details.
  • Banks will never ask clients to transfer money or move it to a safe account.
  • Banks, HMRC, the police, the government, regulators and other bodies never cold-call people asking for some form of banking identification.
  • Don’t give your personal or financial details to anyone you don’t know or don’t trust.
  • Always log in to your bank account to update your information or make legitimate payments.
  • Hang up if you're ever cold-called about an investment opportunity; it’s almost certainly a high-risk investment or a scam.
  • An additional layer of online protection can be created by regularly changing passwords and using unique passwords for each account.

We take our responsibility to look after your money, information and privacy seriously. We therefore have security measures in place to help combat fraud and cybercrime. As individuals there are also some simple steps and guidance that we can all easily follow to improve our personal online security:

•    Password protect devices and online accounts. Where possible, passwords should be at least eight characters long, should include different types of characters, and should not be a proper word, name or place. Consider using phrases, a number of unconnected words or letters from something memorable to you but difficult to guess, such as a poem or song lyrics. Change your passwords regularly where possible, using different passwords for different accounts. Do not let anyone else know your password.
•    Beware of email and telephone scams. Unexpected emails may be malicious; containing viruses, malware or other tools criminals use to gain access to your information. Do not reply to an email asking for sensitive information, open an unexpected attachment or enter information into a website that you are directed to by a hyperlink. Instead, use a search engine to direct you to the organisation’s login page. Do not give sensitive information such as plan numbers to a caller if you are unsure of who they are.
•    Keep your operating system, firewall and antivirus up to date. Cybercrime is a fast moving industry. By keeping your systems up to date, they will be more resilient to new cyber-attacks. Also run regular virus scans of your computers and devices.
•    Be careful when using unsecure wireless connections. If you are unsure whether the connection is secure do not enter sensitive information into the device. If you are in a public place such as a café or hotel the wireless connection is less likely to be secure.
•    Be aware of the risks associated with social media. Social Media is a good way to store and share personal information. Cyber criminals will also use social media to look for your date of birth, place of birth or middle name, for example, which they can use to take over your accounts or commit identity theft. Use the privacy settings on websites and be careful about what you make publicly available. Be aware of what your friends and family post about you.

Rowan Dartington is part of the St. James’s Place Wealth Management Group. Rowan Dartington & Co
Ltd is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial
Conduct Authority. Registered in England & Wales No. 2752304 at St. James’s Place House, 1 Tetbury
Road, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 1FP, United Kingdom.