COVID-19 has battered the economy so badly that, for the first time in more than a decade, the United Kingdom has plunged into a recession. Unemployment has risen to 1.3 million in the first three months of the year, and the figure is expected to increase to 2.5 million by the end of 2020.
The entire world is facing a public health and financial crisis right now, but people with ill intent are using the pandemic to take advantage of others. Fraudsters are everywhere, and anyone can become a victim.
COVID-19 as an Opportunity for Fraud
The pandemic severely impacted businesses across the nation. Earlier this year, to suppress the spread of the virus, businesses had to be shut down.
This means many businesses lost profit during the months-long restriction. Some are expected to never reopen their doors again to customers even after the pandemic has ended.
The situation has created a perfect environment for fraud. With the government offering bailouts, and with companies desperate to appear unaffected by COVID-19 in front of investors, financial crimes are bound to happen.
Fraud in the Corporate Arena
This is the right time to have a corporate fraud law firm on standby to protect the reputation and the integrity of the company. They can represent and defend you during an investigation.
Companies should be vigilant and immediately enforce proper procedures to detect and mitigate financial crimes within the organization. Fraud is a very serious matter that can destroy an entire company forever. An investigation will sow distrust within and outside of the organization.
Companies should assess their systems and then identify areas that are vulnerable to fraud. They should regularly monitor for suspicious activities within the organization.
The sooner the company spots and stops illegal practices, the smaller the consequences will become.
Scammers Target Regular People
Fraud is also present on the ground and is targeting consumers. Scammers have adopted sophisticated strategies to steal money.
In July, banks have released 10 of the most common scams in the U.K. during the COVID-19 pandemic to warn the public. These criminals are posing as subscription services, public health officials, and the government to lure people into sharing sensitive information.
In one scam mentioned, victims were sent fake government emails that offer grants worth £7,500. It contained a link where the victims were asked for their personal and financial details.
Another scam offered investment opportunities to victims using social media platforms. In these offers, the victims are encouraged to “take advantage of the financial downturn” and invest in companies that did not exist.
With the increase of online subscription services used during the lockdown, scammers send consumers emails, inviting them to update their payment details. Users are warned not to click the links in these emails and never share their credit card information.
Advice to Stop Fraud
Authorities are reminding the public to follow the advice of the campaign Take Five To Stop Fraud.
When you receive an unprompted text message or email from individuals or groups claiming to be the government, never click on a link or download any attachments. These might contain malware that can give hackers access to your devices.
If you receive a phone call selling protective equipment or medication against COVID-19, refuse or ignore. Scammers will try to instill fear and pressure you into acquiring their products. Remember that, if it is too good to be true, it probably is.
Most importantly, exercise extreme caution at home. Do not let strangers inside, even if they claim they are from a reputable organization or the government department. Before you open your doors, ask for the person’s credentials, and call the organization or the department involved.
If someone tries to coerce you into giving your money or your financial details, contact the police as soon as possible.
The Bottom Line
The best way to protect yourself and your company from fraud is to always be vigilant.
Businesses should safeguard themselves from fraud within the organization. There should be a system that will mitigate the risk and, during the pandemic, it should be reviewed and, if needed, updated for efficacy to prevent actions that may put the business on the wrong side of the law. It would be a good investment to have professionals, who have expertise in fraud, constantly monitoring for suspicious behaviors.
The public should also be on the lookout for criminals trying to use the pandemic to steal sensitive information from unsuspecting consumers. Be aware of the tactics that scammers are currently using to deceit the public.