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Published: 18/05/2020
  • More than one-third of people across the UK (36%) say they have seen an increase in scams
  • Nearly a third (30%) say they are spending more money online than they did before the outbreak
  • comparethemarket.com is urging people to remain alert online during this time and to report any cases to Action Fraud

12 May 2020 – The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to a significant increase in the number of fraudsters seeking to exploit fears over the outbreak and creating sophisticated scams online to trick vulnerable people. Since the government lockdown began on 23rd March, over one-third of people across the UK (36%) say they have seen an increase in what they believe to be scams, according to new research by comparethemarket.com.
The research reveals that a quarter (25%) of individuals have noted an increase in email ‘phishing’ scams, followed by website scams (15%) and SMS or ‘Smishing’ scams (14%) – where the fraudster sends a text pretending to be a credible authority, often a government body. 8% have noticed an increase in scam phone calls and 4% an increase in post scams (4%). Other scam increases were noticed by 5% of respondents.
The most frequent scams are linked to offers of protective equipment and hygienic shopping products, with more than one-third (37%) of people being targeted by these sorts of messages, reinforcing the notion that fraudsters are taking advantage of the pandemic and playing to people’s vulnerability at this time.
Quick access to cash (31%) and messages saying individuals are being fined by the government (24%) are also some of the most common scam themes. Nearly a quarter (23%) say they have come across insurance scams promising pay outs on false claims. One-fifth (20%) of respondents say they have seen pensions or investment related scams – whereby individuals are tricked into paying money in return for ‘unlocking’ their pension quickly or to prevent it from being lost.
Despite an increase in coronavirus-related scams, consumer awareness and prudence remain high, as only 2% have, to their knowledge, fallen victim to a scam since lockdown.
The research also examined how online spending habits have changed post-lockdown. Nearly a third (30%) say they are spending more money online than they did before the outbreak. This is particularly the case for people purchasing online larger or more expensive items which they previously would have bought in person. Nearly half (48%) said they were likely to buy electrical goods such as TVs online during lockdown, and nearly a fifth (19%) said they would now buy jewellery online.

comparethemarket.com’s most recent Credit Card Fraud Index revealed that over a fifth (21%) of UK adults have had to cancel or replace their credit card as a result of attempted fraud. In over half (51%) of cases, money was stolen, averaging at £846 per person.
comparethemarket.com is urging people to remain alert online. For tips on how to stay vigilant and recognise fraud during this time, please see further information here.

John Crossley, head of money at comparethemarket.com, said:          

“It is more important than ever that people remain cautious online. Our research shows that a significant proportion of people have seen an increase in scams during lockdown, as fraudsters seek to take advantage of the current situation. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s worth taking a closer look before inputting your card details.  There are steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability to scammers, especially as more of us are shopping online than ever before. If you feel you have fallen victim to a scam, or notice one, you should report the case to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.”

comparethemarket.com’s top tips below on how to protect yourself online:

  • HMRC will never ask for personal or financial information when it contacts you via text message and you should never respond to suspicious texts or open any links included in the message
  • A genuine bank will never ask for your PIN, account or sort code over the phone. If they believe there is fraudulent activity happening on your account, they will only contact you to check where and when you last used your card or will ask for a couple of specific digits from your security code
  • There has been an increase in instances of cyber criminals sending victims their own passwords, who have usually gained access to this information through an old data breach. If you are sent an email like this, do not reply, or be pressured into paying. It only highlights that you’re vulnerable and could be targeted again
  • If you are sent a ransom email, do not reply or be pressured into paying. It only highlights that you are vulnerable and could be targeted again
  • In the event of a scam, or if a company goes bust, the chances of getting your money back are best if you have paid by credit card using your ‘Section 75’ rights
  • Make sure you update your computer regularly. Avoiding routine updates could leave you more vulnerable to cyber-attacks as the latest software from trusted providers contain up-to-date security fixes

Notes to editors
Polling was conducted by Populus of 2,000 UK adults between 15-16 April, 2020.
About comparethemarket.com
comparethemarket.com was launched in 2006 and has grown rapidly over the past fourteen years to become one of the UK’s leading price comparison websites.
comparethemarket.com provides customers with an easy way to make the right choice for them on a wide range of products including motor, home, life, travel and pet insurance as well as utilities and money products such as credit cards and loans.
comparethemarket.com actively works with its brand partners to help provide great services to customers.
comparethemarket.com and comparethemeerkat.com are trading names of Compare The Market Limited. Compare The Market Limited is an insurance intermediary, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Firm Reference Number 778488).

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