More people have been spending their time online under lockdown, whether to connect with family, carry out their work from home, or stay entertained with film and TV streaming sites.

Unfortunately, this uptick in internet usage has also led to a spike in reports of online scams, as criminals seek to take advantage of the unusual and stressful situation and persuade people to part with their money or personal information.

Please be aware of scams at this time of uncertainty, if it sounds too good to be true it invariably is.

As a professional chartered firm The Financial Planning Group are committed to making sure our clients are not vulnerable and if you are worried about any aspect of your finances or are indeed concerned about a relative or friend who you feel would benefit from some advice or a second opinion about a financial matter at this time please pass on our details as we would be happy to help. Scammers succeed in times of uncertainty, when consumers are bombarded with information via email and the news and balance sheets are volatile. It’s easy to fall for a product that’s offering to shelter your hard-earned cash from the current storm or offering a high rate of return. It’s also easy for people to make rash and poor decisions – to simply ‘opt out’ of saving to try and prevent further losses. And it is understandable why people feel that’s the best course of action. We are committed to making sure no one suffers through lack of access to advice.

In response to this increase, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) launched a new suspicious email reporting service on 21 April.

Since then, the service has received more than 160,000 reports of suspicious emails, leading to more than 300 sites being taken down.

Some of the scams identified included fake GOV.UK and TV licensing websites, as well as fraudulent offers of testing kits and face masks.

Earlier in the year, there were also reports of emails that claimed to be from HMRC, telling victims they could claim a tax rebate to help them deal with coronavirus.

If you receive a suspicious email, you can report it by forwarding it to report@phishing.gov.uk.

Stop, challenge, protect

The Home Office has also published advice for businesses and individuals to protect themselves against fraud and cyber crime. This is made up of three main steps:

Stop: Take a moment to think before giving away your money or information. Many scams work by rushing their victims, so they don’t have time to notice any warning signs.

Challenge: Could it be fake? For example, if you receive a sudden email from a supplier asking for payment, be sure to verify their details by contacting the company you’re dealing with directly.

Protect: If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud.