Covid-19: Don’t get caught out by fraudsters targeting your money

Since social distancing rules have come into effect, a number of institutions have temporarily closed. For elderly and vulnerable people who increasingly rely on such resources, fraudsters now have an open gateway for opportunity - so make sure you don’t become a target.

When shops and high street banks started to close, many people lost a vital lifeline. We may be increasingly relying on mobile apps and internet banking in today’s modern world, but that sort of technology is just not accessible for some. Unfortunately, they are the ones more likely to fall into the vulnerable category, so upon closing, the banks had to quickly set up more help and support.

In a recent article by the BBC crimes have risen significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic, as fraudsters look to target those in need of more help.

As well as trying to get their hands on people’s cash, fraudsters were trying everything, from selling counterfeit masks and hand sanitisers to trying to enter people’s homes. The Local Government Association (LGA), which acts for councils in England and Wales, say that people who are self-isolating are particularly at risk. In Rochdale, the LGA reported an increase in incidents where strangers would offer to run errands for elderly and vulnerable people, only to obtain PIN numbers and money by saying they will pick up shopping.

Action Fraud has also reported 105 Coronavirus-linked cases since February where victims of online scams have lost nearly £1m. The frightening thing is, this could be even more, as people are too ashamed to admit they have been defrauded, or simply don’t know how to report such crimes.

The advice from the LGA is to always be on your guard. Only offer help from those you know such as neighbours, friends and family. If you are unable to do so, and you need food or medicine, your local authority can help.

Lloyds bank has also set up a new telephone banking line for the over-70s, so that those who may not be able to use mobile apps or online banking can still have peace of mind. Those individuals can also call the bank to give a trusted person permission to withdraw up to £100 in for them from their account. However, this should still be exercised with extreme care and caution.

Individuals who are worried about how their finances will be handled in the event they become too ill should also consider a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This will nominate an individual, or Attorney, and is a person that you trust to officially act on your behalf if you become too ill to do so. Your attorney can pay any rent or bills for you, access your bank account and can help carry out any wishes you may have with regard to medical treatment. The other advantage is that the Attorney can help and support you to manage your finances over a short period of time, if required and as you direct. You can also make a health and welfare lasting power.

LPAs have to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before they are used. They can investigate any financial or other abuse or safeguarding concerns and involve The Court of Protection if required. The OPG can also help and guide your attorney/s if there are any specific issues.

Downs Solicitors is currently holding a free Q&A session by video call to discuss a range of issues, including LPAs and wills, how to set them up and how to go about updating them. Contact us if you would like more information.