Since the Coronavius pandemic impacted the UK economy the number of scams has increased and fraudsters have become more sophisticated with how they target consumers.
Indeed, fraudsters were quick to use the pandemic to target consumers, as Action Fraud reported that the number of Coronavirus-related fraud reports increased by 400% during March. Since then, Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has regularly warned consumers to be on their guard as the number of scams continued to rise.
While it has been highly publicised that consumers should not give out personal details over the phone, scammers have become much more sophisticated in how they target their victims. These are some of the more common types of scams that are designed to target consumers:
Cloning a site is when the scammers have a replica of an official site that consumers mistake for the authentic version and, as a result, make bank payments, deposit money or give out personal information through the site. Government sites, such as National Savings & Investment (NS&I) as well as banks, building societies, financial advisers and pension firms, have been cloned by scammers. Often, scammers will encourage users to go to the cloned website through an email that looks to be from an authorised organisation or company that requests the user to click on a link which takes them to a cloned site (this is known as a phishing email). This type of contact may also come via a text message. Scammers can also ensure that the fake website is top of Google results, which is mainly done through advertising the website via Google – often the top search results in Google are paid for adverts made to look like search results.
Consumers can protect themselves from this type of scam by typing in the address of the website from an official document, for example a previous letter or bank statement, sent by the organisation or company. Never click on a link in an email or text message. Also, check the website address to make sure it looks genuine – an authentic, secure website should have a padlock symbol before the start of the site address (url).
Phone calls are one of the most well-known types of scams, but fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they target consumers. For example, a scammer may pretend to be from a well-known and trusted finance company and persuade victims to deposit money into a savings account or investment. Banks, building societies and finance companies will not cold-call consumers directly to sell financial products and, as such, consumers should simply put the phone down and instead contact the organisation directly through an authentic phone number, email or by speaking to someone in branch. A list of genuine and FCA-authorised companies can be found via the FCA’s Financial Service Register, which includes contact details and website addresses.
If a bank, building society or finance organisation has called a consumer, they will never request personal or financial information. If you receive such a phone call it is probably a scam and you should hang up immediately and report it to the genuine firm using a phone number that you know is authentic.
As already mentioned above, phishing emails is a common way for scammers to get consumers to click through to fake websites. Phishing emails can also be used by scammers to get consumers to click on links that download a virus to their computer. Phishing emails can also come from friends or family who have had their email hacked, and therefore consumers should always be on guard if an email looks suspicious and contact the person directly to ensure it is authentic. Along with phishing emails, scammers also use text messages in a similar way, known as smishing. The scammers will send text messages from seemingly authentic companies with the aim of getting their victims to click on links or contact fake companies.
To protect against phishing emails and smishing, consumers should avoid clicking on links sent in emails and text messages and instead type the website address from an official document. Consumers should also be wary of opening emails and text messages from senders they do not recognise and, if they are in any doubt as to the authenticity of the email or text, delete it immediately.
Some scammers will approach victims by knocking on their door. Usually, the fraudsters will pretend to be from an authorised organisation or company, with identification, and will use the face-to-face interaction to persuade their victims to hand over or deposit money to the scammers.
Although it can be more challenging, and intimidating, to get rid of a scammer on the doorstep than by simply hanging up the phone, consumers should not give out any personal information, invite into their home or give money to someone who has turned up unannounced – even if they are wearing a uniform and have ID. If the person refuses to leave or is intimidating, consumers should call the police on 999. Alternatively, if they are suspicious but are not causing a threat, consumers can call the non-emergency number 101.
Pay-per-click (PPC) are adverts that can appear in Google search engine results or on websites. In Google results, they will often appear at the top of the page and have a small ‘Ad’ symbol against the website address. On websites, they can be displayed in a number of ways, for example they can appear as they do in the Google search results or as an advert with an image. While many PPC adverts are genuine, they can be used by scammers to get victims to click through to cloned or fake websites and then deposit or transfer money through the fake website.
Although most adverts are authentic, fake websites can easily appear at the top of Google results, so always make sure that the website being clicked on through the results page is a genuine site. As well as this, when on the site, look for the padlock symbol that should appear before the url. Consumers should also be careful when clicking on adverts or links on websites, only clicking on links from trusted websites. For example, at Moneyfacts.co.uk, we always ensure that any advert or link from our website goes to an authentic and genuine website.
If a scam is suspected, the phone call or conversation should be ended as quickly as possible. Do not click on any suspicious links and check websites are genuine before depositing money or giving out personal information. As well as this, check the bank, building society or finance company is genuine by using the FCA’s Financial Services Register.
1. Do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
2. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security and monitoring to prevent malware issues and computer crimes.
3. Many frauds start with a phishing email. Remember that banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine. You can always call your bank using the phone number on a genuine piece of correspondence, website (typed directly into the address bar) or the phone book to check if you’re not sure.
4. Sign-up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code whenever you are given the option while shopping online. This involves you registering a password with your card company and adds an additional layer of security to online transactions with signed-up retailers.
5. You should regularly get a copy of your credit file and check it for entries you don’t recognise. TransUnion, Equifax and Experian can all provide your credit file. An identity protection service such as ProtectMyID monitors your Experian credit report and alerts you by email or SMS to potential fraudulent activity. If it's fraud, a dedicated caseworker will help you resolve everything.
6. Destroy and preferably shred receipts with your card details on and post with your name and address on. Identity fraudsters don’t need much information in order to be able to clone your identity.
7. If you receive bills, invoices or receipts for things that you haven’t bought, or financial institutions you don’t normally deal with or contact you about outstanding debts, take action. Your identity may have been stolen.
8. Be extremely wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you business deals out of the blue. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always question it.
9. If you have been a victim of fraud, be aware of fraud recovery fraud. This is when fraudsters pretend to be a lawyer or a law enforcement officer and tell you they can help you recover the money you’ve already lost.
Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.