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Tuesday, 25 May 2021 19:47

Avoid financial fraud when getting your vax.

Staff Reporter.

People are feeling more positive about dealing with the pandemic now that more healthcare workers and senior citizens are being vaccinated – but financial caution is still the name of the game, warns personal finance website Just Money.

"Keep tabs on your personal information when getting your jabs," says Just Money marketing manager Shafeeka Anthony. "Sadly, even a pandemic does not stop fraudsters in their tracks. The vaccination programme has the potential to increase economic activity and restore some business confidence, but it also offers new opportunities for charlatans and tricksters."

People may also be tempted to spend cash more freely when they are vaccinated, return to office work, and participate again in social and sporting activities. However, even if the vaccine rollout picks up speed, it’s vital to remain vigilant when it comes to managing your money.

"The pandemic is by no means over, and we were already in a recession before Covid hit," says Anthony. "South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in over a decade. Many people who enjoyed permanent jobs have had to adapt to contract or freelance work. Even those who were on track to pay off their debt have experienced setbacks. The situation is dire for many, and likely to remain so for some time."

Vaccination scams

News that the vaccines are being rolled out has made many people impatient to get their jab. It’s important, however, not to allow your anxiety or eagerness make you vulnerable to Covid-related scams. For example, you could fraudulently be asked for a payment in order to get a place in a queue or to obtain a vaccination.

Scammers also use telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms and door-to-door visits to pick up personal information. This can lead to medical identity theft, when someone who has no right to claim on your medical aid uses your information to gain access to healthcare services. This usually involves out-of-hospital claims, such as filling a prescription at a pharmacy or visiting a general practitioner and accessing medical services in your name.

People are also vulnerable when they search online for better prices for specialist medication. You could end up buying a fake drug, not only losing your money, but potentially damaging your health too.

"Should you require accurate information pertaining to Covid, vaccinations and other medical questions, check out the official Covid government site, contact your medical aid provider, or get in touch with a health professional. Do not share your personal or health information with a stranger," says Anthony.

Ailing investments

People with some spare cash could also be tempted to invest in companies that produce medical devices or drugs. The healthcare sector has caught investors’ attention as some companies have received regulatory approval for drugs to treat Covid, while others are rushing to develop products and get approval. Unscrupulous operators are well aware of this.

"If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is," warns Anthony. "Before you invest in a potentially dodgy company, do your homework. Preferably discuss your personal circumstances and goals with a qualified financial advisor. The key to reducing investment risk is to have a balanced, diversified portfolio and to plan for the long term."

Unhealthy debt

A key tip to remaining financially healthy is to avoid getting into debt, and if you already have one or more loans, do your best to keep up your repayments. The general rule is that 20%-30% of your salary should go towards repaying your large debts such as a house or car.

"Create a budget, stay in touch with your creditors, and if you experience problems with repayments, discuss your situation. People will be more understanding if they see you have a plan."

"Taking the time to learn a few critical financial rules can help you build a healthy financial future," says Anthony. "At Just, we understand that juggling all the demands of a pandemic is stressful enough without worrying about how to manage your money matters.

"That’s why we’ve made it straightforward to find trustworthy articles, guides, budget calculators and products on our website and our credit management portal, CreditSav. You can quickly get the information you need on your desktop or mobile phone and make informed decisions, "Anthony concludes.