Scammers are quick to adapt and will use various methods to make you fall for their villainous ways, including emotion, cost of living and the festive season to name but a few. Have a scam-free Christmas!
If you’ve received an unexpected call, email or message and you’re not sure it's from who it says it’s from, end the call, don’t click the link and report the scam to Action Fraud.
In this blog, we round up the latest scams...
Remember - if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
It’s easy to feel rushed or pressured at this time of year, and scammers know people are looking for a bargain. They’ll try and trick you by offering fake deals on anything from cars to games consoles and mobile phones.
Stay alert when clicking links and always research any company you’re thinking of buying from. Remember that adverts on social media and genuine auction sites could still be fake.
Cost of living scams
Fraudsters will try to take advantage of the cost-of-living crisis and might get in contact about a range of issues affecting us all. They might try to direct you to fake loan websites or offers or pretend to represent energy companies or retailers offering discounts.
The government has recently announced the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS), and scammers are taking advantage of it to trick people into giving out personal and bank details.
As part of the scheme, every household will get £400 in energy bills discounts this winter. Your energy provider will automatically apply the discount to your bills, or send you vouchers if you have a prepayment meter - it’s important to know that you don’t need to do anything to action this payment!
Scammers might call, email, or send you a text message claiming to be from the government or your energy company. They’ll ask you to confirm details to receive your EBSS discount, but this is a scam. The government and your energy company won’t need to contact you about the discount.
The gov.uk website has more information on the EBSS and other support they’re offering, so you can find out what to expect.
If someone contacts you about the EBSS, or any energy refund or deal, don't click on any links, fill in any forms or give out any personal information. Genuine companies will understand if you want to look into what they’re saying. When calling any company, always use a number you can find on their website.
When looking for retail offers and discounts, be wary of any that seem too good to be true. Use reputable discount websites and type the address in rather than using a search engine - or go directly to the retailer.
Scammers could set up fake loan websites. The interest rate may seem low, but they'll say you need to pay an admin fee before they can release the money - this will be a scam.
Always make sure a company offering loans is fully regulated by checking the FCA website. If you're struggling financially, talk to your bank and see what support they can offer.
The passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Scammers are coming up with new ways to trick people in the wake of Her Majesty the Queen’s death. Please remember that money, passports and other things that mention ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ can still be used and don’t need to be replaced - anyone saying they do could be a scammer.
Be wary of anyone selling commemorative stamps, coins or other royal memorabilia, and look out for fake offers charging a fee for something that’s actually free, like attending a free event or signing a public book of remembrance.
WhatsApp friends and family impersonation scam
We’ve blogged about this before – and you can read BBC Broadcaster Jaqui Oatley’s account of this scam here.
As a quick reminder, scammers send messages where they impersonate your family members or friends. They’ll give a reason why they’re using a different number, like saying they’ve lost their phone, then mention a reason they need money, such as an unpaid bill or a lost wallet.
Never send a photo of the front and back of your card - this will allow someone to make purchases using your card or even access your online banking.
If you get a message from friends or family asking for money, give them a call on a number you trust and speak to them before you make any payments.
If you believe you’ve been contacted on WhatsApp by someone using a fraudulent number, please help WhatsApp close down these numbers by reporting it directly to them. You do this by tapping the three vertical dots at the top right of the screen in the chat, choose ‘More’ and then ‘Report’. Once you’ve done that, you can repeat those steps to block the number from contacting you again.
Social engineering and safe account scams
Scammers are experts at getting people to give out private information like their date of birth, bank account details and one-time passcodes, and at persuading people to move money out of their accounts.
When someone tries to scam you by email, it’s called ‘phishing’. Scam calls are known as ‘vishing’, and text messages as ‘smishing’. Scammers often combine different contact methods to create elaborate scams.
For example, scammers are sending text messages claiming to be from delivery companies. They say you’ve been sent a parcel and need to contact them to arrange a delivery, or rearrange one you’ve missed. They’ll ask you to click a link to confirm your details, and may say you need to make a small payment.
Later, the scammer calls you and uses details they got from the text message scam to convince you they’re genuine. They might confirm your name and address to make you think they know you, or worry you by saying they’re your bank and can see you’ve made a small payment as part of a scam. They gain your trust so they can trick you into falling for a bigger scam.
Scammers often pretend they’re from the bank, police, or other authorities, and describe an urgent situation to pressure you into paying them money.
One tactic they use is to say your money is at risk and you need to move it to a ‘safe account’ or take cash out and give it to them for safe keeping. They may offer to help you set up new payees, and ask you to download a screen-sharing application to make this easier. The application lets them control your computer, and they’ll be able to see more than you may think.
Be wary of anyone asking you to do this - they could be a criminal performing what is known as a Remote Access Tool Scam. If you feel like someone is trying to scare you into giving them information or moving your money, stop communication with them and contact your bank on a number you trust.
Remember - your bank will never:
Call you and ask you to make payments to keep your money ‘safe’
Take control of your computer or device for any reason
Ask you to download software from any site other than ours.
Fraudsters often use global events or tragedies as an opportunity to prey on your compassion and willingness to help others in need.
They may use the situation in Ukraine as a cover story to get you to divulge personal details, move money out of your account, or ask for donations to fake relief efforts. Please be careful and check you’re donating to an accredited, legitimate charity.
Scammers are sending texts that appear to be from your bank. If you receive a text with a one-time passcode you didn’t ask for, or about a payment you don’t recognise, it’s probably a scam.
Scammers impersonate banks to get you to trust them. Then they try to convince you to hand over your details so they can access your account, or transfer your funds to a ‘safe account’.
Always double check the company’s name, as scammers often get it wrong - for example, they might say ‘Curry’s’ instead of ‘Currys’ or ‘AIRBNB’ instead of ‘Airbnb’.
Don’t call any numbers, select any links or open attachments in messages you don’t recognise or aren’t expecting. A legitimate company will never ask you to transfer your money to a ‘safe account’.
Everyone’s talking about cryptocurrency at the moment, but it doesn’t mean you should listen to anyone offering to invest your money in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, especially if they’re offering to open a wallet for you that you wouldn’t have access to.
Scammers are posing as sales staff to get you to buy into a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’. If you are looking to invest, it’s best to get the opinion of a qualified adviser and check the FCA website - don’t give out any details over the phone.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).