Covid-19: Making payments safely in lockdown

Over the coming months, at some point some of you may find yourself unable to leave your home for basic supplies – such as groceries or medical products. This may be for a short time, or it may be for an extended period if you are in a high-risk category, as specified by the UK government. Regardless, there are several ways for you to pay for these items whether you have access to the internet or not.

The services offered by individual banks or building societies will differ and providers are keeping their websites up to date with the latest information to help their customers.

You may need to find a way to bring goods to you, in your home. It is likely many of you will come to rely on someone else to assist you in doing so. Depending on your situation, the person offering help may be from within or outside of your own home, they may be known to you, or they may be a volunteer – sent by the NHS or another charitable body.

Whoever they are, it is important to take steps to keep your money safe when providing them with the means to pay, or reimbursing them, for any purchases or transactions made on your behalf.

With large swathes of the population self-isolating following the outbreak of COVID-19, unfortunately criminals are looking at new ways to target people, and just like the virus they do not care whose lives they impact.

Theft can be committed by anyone, including those known to you and seemingly legitimate, or otherwise.

The good news is that there are a lot of quick and easy ways to help keep your money safe. We have outlined some tips and methods below.

 

  • Firstly, you should always exercise caution when accepting help from an individual or allowing them access to your home in any capacity. You should only accept assistance or take visits from people well-known to you, or who you know have been sent by a government body or reputable organisation. If you are in any doubt about someone’s identity, you should take steps to verify it – by directly contacting the organisation they claim to be from.
  • If you are suspicious that you may have been targeted by a scam or fraudster, always report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040 or to Police Scotland on 101 if you live in Scotland. If anyone attempts to force or coerce you into handing over funds – in person or otherwise - always contact the police in an emergency on 999.

When making payments:

 

  • Never give your personal debit or credit card and/or PIN, or internet or telephone banking logins, to anyone else.
  • The only exception to this rule is if you have a secondary card which has limited functionality and has been specifically designed to enable a third party to make small purchases on your behalf.
  • As a first port of call, if you find yourself without a way to pay a person assisting you, or lacking a way to pay for goods online or over the telephone, we recommend you check your bank’s or building society’s website for help. If you are unable to find information that can help, you can contact your bank or building society on a number that you know to be genuine (such as the one on the back of your bank card or on their official website) to find out what options are available to you.

If there is no-one available to assist you with shopping and supplies, you can look to order goods directly from retailers for click and collect or delivery to your home – online or via phone.

Please note that these services are currently in extremely high demand and delays may be significant (some customers are currently facing delivery delays of many weeks).

Where possible, limited and controlled visits to a shop by a trusted volunteer, in line with UK government guidelines, may be preferable and more efficient.

Some supermarkets are currently considering how to prioritise delivery to the most vulnerable customers, so you should visit the website of the shop you wish to order from regularly for updates to changes to this advice, if this applies to you.

 

  • Online shopping – most supermarkets and other shops will now enable you to order goods online, by providing your card details on the secure section of their website. Purchases can be delivered directly to your home, removing the need for a middleman entirely, or to the home of whoever is assisting you, or in some cases to the physical store for pick up by the volunteer (known as click & collect). For tips on shopping online safely and how to ensure websites are secure, please visit the Money Advice Service’s guidance here.
  • Telephone shopping – some retailers can take orders over the phone. This is an option for those who do not have a computer but there may be significant delays due to the demand for delivery services. With this option, you would pay for these goods on the call at point of sale by providing your debit/credit card details. Goods can then be delivered directly to your home, the home of whoever is assisting you, or in some cases to the physical store for pick up by the volunteer. Some convenience stores may also take a card payment over the telephone for purchases made on your behalf. It is important to always take steps to ensure you are shopping with genuine retailers and using the correct phone line. Always make sure you locate contact details from a legitimate source and seek advice from family or friends if you are unsure.

Please note that telephone ordering should be used only if you have no access to online services, or no-one to assist you, to enable retailers to support those individuals that most need that level of support.

  • Internet banking – you can contact your bank or building society to set up internet banking services. They will provide you with security details such as a login and password and you can then transfer money directly from your account to that of the person assisting you via your bank’s website. You will need the account number and sort code of the person you wish to pay, along with their first and last name. The service can also be used to pay bills (including one-off or regular payments) or cancel payments (such as direct debits). Some banks or building societies may require you to use a card reader to make payments, but you will be sent this as part of registration to online banking.
  • Telephone banking - you can contact your bank or building society to set up telephone banking services. This will work well if you do not use a computer. The bank will provide you with a password via post and you can then transfer money directly from your account to that of the person assisting you via a call to your bank or building society. All you need is the account number and sort code of the person you wish to pay, along with their first and last name. The service can also be used to pay or cancel bills (via one-off payments or regular).
  • Mobile Banking – you can download these from the Google Play Store or Apple Store on a smartphone. This allows you to access your bank or payments account from your mobile phone and carry out many actions you can do online through internet banking. Always make sure you download your bank or building society’s genuine app – check their website for more details.
  • Prepaid cards – prepaid cards are physical cards which can be preloaded with a fixed amount of money and used to make purchases in shops or online by any person assisting you. There are a number of prepaid providers which you can contact directly and arrange for delivery of a card to your home or to the volunteer that is assisting you. In some cases, where individuals qualify, prepaid cards may be provided by your Local Authority. You should get in touch with them if you think this may apply to you.

    Please note that you should always take steps to ensure the prepaid card provider you are using is legitimate, and seek advice online, from family/friends where possible, or your bank, if you are unsure. Some banks may also provide or recommend a prepaid card service.
  • Retailer volunteer or gift cards – many retailers will provide cards which can be preloaded with a fixed amount and topped up, for use only at that specific store. You can visit the retailer’s website to order one, which can be paid for using your debit/credit card online. The retailer will then send the card to you via post or if applicable, provide a code. This gift card or code can then be given to the volunteer to pay for shopping. Please note that you should always take steps to ensure the retailer website you are visiting is legitimate and it is advisable to top the card up little and often as this limits the amount of money that is at risk if the card is lost or misused.

    Please visit the Money Advice Service’s guidance here, for advice about shopping safely when making purchases online.
  • Cheques – you can use a standard cheque to pay whoever is assisting you in the usual way. The volunteer will be able to pay it into their own account via a bank, a post office or by positing it with an accompanying pay slip and will receive the funds in line with the cheque clearing timescales (usually within 48 hours).  If you receive a cheque this can be paid into your account via the post, in branch or at a Post Office using a paying in slip (there is usually some in the back of your cheque book). Some mobile banking services allow you to pay in a cheque by taking a photograph of it using the bank’s app.
  • Post Office Cheque Encashment (Fast PACE) - this Post Office service allows you to write a cheque, which can be cashed at a Post Office branch, to provide whoever is assisting you with cash for shopping. You must contact your own bank initially, to check if it participates in the scheme, and then if so, register with them to start using the product. You can determine how much to write the cheque for up to the maximum agreed by your bank, and this helps to minimise fraud risk.

*Please note that visits to any physical branches are not recommended unless absolutely necessary at present and should be kept to a minimum.*

There are a number of ways you can continue to directly access cash. Please note that visits to any physical branches are not recommended unless absolutely necessary at present and should be kept to a minimum.

  • ATM or branch cash withdrawal – if you are still visiting an ATM or your bank branch (branch visits are not recommended unless necessary), you can withdraw cash in the normal way, to pay whoever is assisting you. Please note that many branches are limiting their opening hours at present – please check prior to a visit.
  • Branch or ATM cash withdrawal by volunteer – if the person assisting you is visiting a bank branch or ATM, some banks will enable a third-party withdrawal service. For example, some banks will allow you to request a code (via telephone or through the app), valid for a set period of time and for a specific amount, which will allow a third-party to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM. Other banks will enable you to download a form, which once completed can be taken by the volunteer to the branch and following appropriate checks the withdrawal can be completed. These services are provided by a limited number of banks, so get in touch with your provider to hear more.
  • Post Office Payout Now – this is a Post Office Service that enables the bank to send you a unique one-time code which can be taken to the Post Office Branch and cashed. The code can be sent to you in an email, SMS message or through a letter/voucher in the post. You must contact your own bank initially, to check if it participates in the scheme, and then if so, register with them to start using the product. You can determine how much the encashment can be for up to the maximum limit agreed by your bank. This is a single transaction and each time you need to make an encashment using this service you would need to contact your bank to generate the unique code. 
  • Currency home delivery – your bank may provide cash home delivery services. This, as the name suggests, enables a customer to submit a request to their bank to deliver cash (sterling) directly to their home. There may be restrictions on this service, for example it may be reserved for vulnerable customers only due to capacity constraints so check with your bank regarding your circumstances and the options available to you.
  • Mobile card readersthese devices allow the person assisting you to take a card payment from you, before or after shopping. The volunteer can bring the handheld device, which is linked to an app on their phone, to you, and you can either tap your debit/credit card using contactless, use chip and PIN for higher amounts, or enter the card details manually. There is also an option to produce an emailed receipt for these transactions. Always be careful to make sure that the individual that you are dealing with is from a trusted organisation and ask for identification.
  • Payment apps and services - there are a variety of payment apps which can allow for the quick and easy transfer of money between yourself and any volunteer. They often use telephone numbers, rather than account numbers and sort codes, for speed, such as Paym. It is of course important to take steps to ensure that the provider you are using is legitimate, and that any volunteer providing you with details is a known and trusted individual. Please seek advice online, from family/friends where possible, or your bank, if you are unsure.

There are a number of changes you can make to your account – both short and long term. You should check with your bank to explain your needs and establish the best option.

This can include a third-party delegation mandate where you can get in touch with your bank and nominate a known, trusted person to have access to your accounts for a limited time period. They will be able to withdraw funds. The trusted person will have to go through full and extensive security checks.

In general throughout this period, UK Finance is urging customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Your bank or police will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign encourages you to:

 

  • Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Criminals have already started using a number of new tactics and schemes to target people in the wake of COVID-19, with some recently reported including:

 

  • Emails offering fake medical support and the sale of medical supplies such as face masks, hand sanitizer and other products which will never arrive
  • Emails, texts and calls using NHS branding or messaging, requesting donations
  • Emails, texts and calls employing HMRC branding or messaging, asking for details, to offer payouts and financial support
  • Emails outlining new ‘too good to be true’ investment opportunities around healthcare companies

Criminals are also increasingly using a method known as “spoofing”, which can make a message appear in a chain of texts alongside previous genuine messages from that organisation

Often these messages or emails will include a link to a fake website, where people will be asked to give financial and personal information such as bank details, passwords and credit card numbers. They can also contain malware.

Consumers should avoid clicking on any links contained within text messages or emails, or giving away information over the phone, and always log into their bank account to update their information or make any legitimate payments. Customers can report suspected spam text texts to their mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726.

For a full outline of the types of fraud to be aware of, as well as up to date information on COVID-19 related scams and schemes, please regularly check the Take Five to Stop Fraud website, Action Fraud, and the National Crime Agency COVID-19 information

MAKING PAYMENTS SAFELY IN LOCKDOWN - interactive tool

There are several ways for you to pay whether you have access to the internet or not. Use our interactive tool and find out what options are available to you.

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