Scammers stole just short of £1.2bn from UK bank customers in 2018, according to UK Finance. Now, during the Covid-19 crisis, the number of those vulnerable to scams is likely to increase.
In the days following the government’s announcement that all but key workers must stay at home to slow the spread of coronavirus, there were already reports of an increase in text message scams sent by criminals looking to exploit the pandemic.
The need to ensure everyone in our society is financially aware enough to understand when criminals are targeting them has never been greater, and the advice profession can continue to play its role in spotting and reporting suspicious activities via Scam Smart.
Taking scammers to task during Covid-19
The new normal
Before the lockdown period for those not identified as key workers, financial advisers were increasingly recognising the need to upskill in order to both spot and deal with vulnerability among their clients, including the growing risk of financial abuse.
In this context, vulnerability is understood to be when people are susceptible to making financial decisions they do not fully understand, which may bear long-term consequences for their wellbeing.
Building trust has always been core to long-term relationships, but at this time the majority of advisers are having to maintain that relationship via the telephone, email or video-call technology, rather than through face-to-face meetings.
Financial advisers will need to consider the impact of this on their clients, who may be distressed by how the coronavirus is impacting their families and the wider world, and may be paying less attention than they should do to the communications they receive at this time.
We are all potentially vulnerable now
Review and safeguard communications
Reviewing a firm’s approach to communications and recognising it may need to adapt is key, and there won’t be one communications solution that works for everyone.
Increasingly advisers are finding clients have already been encouraged by their families to join online gatherings to stay in touch, meaning older people are also becoming more tech savvy. But some may still prefer a phone call followed by an email reiterating key points. And there’s no reason these new communication techniques can’t be carried forward and enhance engagement in the future.
For vulnerable clients a family member or friend can be present during virtual meetings where needed for safeguarding reasons. However, if you incorporate family members via video-calls, remember that as well as faceless fraudsters there is the potential for an increase in family financial abuse or pressure during this period.
The speed at which advice firms throughout the UK have responded to a new way of working is commendable and will continue to demonstrate the value of professional advice in society.
Keith Richards is CEO of the Personal Finance Society
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