FRAUDSTERS are taking advantage of people’s fears surrounding Covid and lockdown with sneaky scams designed to steal money, the public have been warned.
A fresh alert shows the 10 most common scams people should be on the lookout for to avoid falling victim to criminals and losing their hard-earned cash.
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Many of the scams take advantage of the real financial support schemes put in place by the government to help people manage during the pandemic, while others prey on health fears.
People are being asked to think before parting with their money or personal information and be wary about these top ten scams.
The new warning was issued by Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at trade body UK Finance.
She said: "During this pandemic we have seen criminals using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people’s financial concerns, impersonating trusted organisations like the NHS or HMRC, to trick them into giving away their money or information."
How to protect yourself from scams
BY keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid getting caught up in a scam:
- Firstly, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
- Check brands are "verified" on Facebook and Twitter pages - this means the company will have a blue tick on its profile.
- Look for grammatical and spelling errors; fraudsters are notoriously bad at writing proper English. If you receive a message from a “friend” informing you of a freebie, consider whether it’s written in your friend’s normal style.
- If you’re invited to click on a URL, hover over the link to see the address it will take you to – does it look genuine?
- To be on the really safe side, don’t click on unsolicited links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact.
- Be careful when opening email attachments too. Fraudsters are increasingly attaching files, usually PDFs or spreadsheets, which contain dangerous malware.
- If you receive a suspicious message then report it to the company, block the sender and delete it.
- If you think you've fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.
1. Fake council tax reduction email
Emails which look like they come from the government offering cheaper council tax bills are just one of the scams people are falling for.
These messages can often look very real, but they direct victims to a fake government website where they are encouraged to enter personal and financial information.
Council tax bill reductions are available for some people and in certain circumstances but you should never be contacted out of the blue about this.
You can find out if you’re eligible on the GOV.uk website.
2. Dodgy Universal Credit applications
With many more people out of work, scammers are targeting those seeking support.
They promise to help people make an application for Universal Credit and ask for payment in advance for this “service”.
But applying for Universal Credit or any other benefit never requires such a payment.
3. Free money from the government
Fake emails designed to look like they are from government departments are fooling people by offering grants of up to £7,500.
Victims are then tricked into sharing their personal or financial information, usually through a fake website.
Website addresses that are inconsistent with the legitimate organisation are one of the signs that can help you spot a scam.
4. Access to Covid funds
Similar emails offer access to “Covid-19 relief funds” to try and snatch your personal information.
Another red flag for scams is an email, text message or phone call that asks for financial information, especially one out of the blue or asking for immediate payment.
5. Scam Covid contact
Unscrupulous criminals are even taking advantage of the NHS Test and Trace system.
A fake message will claim you have been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid and encourages you to click a link.
This takes you to a website designed to steal your personal financial information, or it infects your computer or phone with malware.
Steps to take if you're worried about being scammed
UK Finance advises consumers to be vigilant and follow the industry’s advice to Stop, Challenge and Protect.
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.
6. Bogus safety products
Fake hand sanitiser and face masks are being sold online.
Either they are ineffective or simply don’t turn up after you’ve ordered and paid for them leaving you out of pocket.
Shoppers should always check purchases are made from reputable shops or websites.
7. Free TV Licences
Texts and emails claiming to be from TV Licensing promise a free TV Licence for six months because of the pandemic.
Scammers tempt you to click on a link to sort out a Direct Debit “problem”.
But instead, they steal your personal and financial information via a fake website.
Tvlicensing.co.uk is the official website.
8. TV subscription service scam
Criminals send convincing looking emails pretending to be from online TV subscription services.
They claim payment details need updating to continue using the service in order to steal your credit or debit card details.
9. Romance cons
Online daters are being manipulated by con artists.
They use fake profiles or impersonate real people and manipulate victims into sending them money.
This is often done over a long period of time and victims believe the relationship is real and the person is trustworthy.
10. Fake investment opportunities
Adverts on social media and emails are tempting victims to invest their money and “take advantage of the financial downturn”.
Often these opportunities are related to bitcoin.
But these “opportunities” are actually fake and designed to steal your money.
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