Scams are on the increase and no matter how savvy you are, anyone can be caught out by a scam. According to a report by WhichUK? 1 in 4 nuisance calls are thought to be scams. This is up from just 4% in 2017 with scammers using cheap technology to defraud millions of people. Scams come in a variety of forms and with the rise of the Internet, it’s not just the threat of telephone fraud we need to worry about, we have to have our wits about us at all times. Cash from chaos is fast becoming the norm with Coronavirus being at the centre of the latest scam. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified double figure reports of Coronavirus related fraud in February with 280 in March and victim losses totalling over £1.1 million pounds. A recent survey by TSB also suggests that 42% people believe they have been targeted by some type of Covid-19 scam since the outbreak of the virus.
Latest Coronavirus scams
The latest scams are all Coronavirus related and include Covid-19 Door to Door and Fake Testing. This is in addition to online shopping scams, repatriation flight scams, bogus treatment packages and bogus charity donation requests.
SCAM 1: Distraction Burglary. People working in couples have been knocking on doors gowned up with PPE as health visitors saying they are calling to carry out Coronavirus tests on the residents. Whilst one person is distracted with the fake test the other goes round the house to see what items they can take.
SCAM2: People are calling at homes selling fake Covid-19 test kits for a fee. Please do not purchase these, at this time home testing is not available.
SCAM 3: Emails from HMRC to say that a tax refund is available.
SCAM 4: Emails seemingly from the government with a gov.uk link advising a fine has been levied for leaving the property under lockdown
SCAM 5: Calls from financial institutions advising break in mortgage or credit card payments. Personal details required to action the offer.
SCAM 6: Fake Facebook Fundraising pages for victims of the virus.
SCAM 7: Adverts for non-existent essential products such as gloves and sanitisers. Often advertised as being able to be bought in bulk.
SCAM 8: People pretending to be from charities asking for money for vulnerable people during the outbreak.
SCAM 9: People advertising rental properties that they do not own asking for deposits because of the outbreak.
SCAM 10: A recorded message scam phone call which states that the Government has announced that we should all wear face masks and in order to buy them, you need to press 1.
Due to the increase in scams, a Cyber Aware campaign has been launched which offers advice and tips as to how to protect passwords, accounts and devices. In addition, a suspicious email reporting service has been set up to allow people to forward possible scam emails to the National Cyber Security Centre for analysis. Any such emails should be forwarded to email@example.com where they can then be investigated accordingly. On the NCSC website, there’s information as to how to shop safely online along with more detailed information about Covid-19 exploitation via this official NCSC link PLUS you can download the NCSC’s free pdf guide as to how to deal with suspicious messages or emails by clicking on the link below.
Chief executive Ciaran Martin has said ‘Even with the best security in place, some attacks will still get through. That’s why we have created a new national reporting service for suspicious emails – and if they link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked.”
WhichUK has also introduced an option to sign up for email scam alerts. You can do so by clicking this link.
Action To Take
DO NOT LET THEM IN
SHARE WITH FRIENDS, FAMILY AND NEIGHBOURS.
CALL THE POLICE ON 101 WITH ALL DETAILS. PROVIDE CAR DETAILS AND PHOTOS IF ON CCTV OR YOUR RING DOOR BELL.
‘TAKE 5’ MINUTES TO THINK. DO NOT MAKE ON THE SPOT DECISIONS.
DO NOT ENTER PERSONAL DETAILS VIA EMAIL LINKS OR OVER THE TELEPHONE
FORWARD PHISHING EMAILS TO THE NCSC
We clearly have to have our wits about us more than ever. Here’s how you can spot scams, deal with them, report them and most importantly of all, protect yourself from them.
Telephone Scams- what to watch out for
Cold calls where you are contacted out of the blue from an unknown caller and unknown number.
Limited time given to process information and pressure to make decisions on the spot.
Requests for personal information particularly your PIN or password.
Being directed to your computer to login so that the scammer can ‘fix’ problems.
Requests for secrecy: Be wary if asked to not discuss the content of call with others or seek advice
Premium rate hang up calls
In some instances, scammers will call your number with a false caller ID and immediately hang up. Do not ring the number back as it can be connected to a premium rate number. Use the Internet to do a search for the number instead and do not call back unless you are sure of the identity of the caller.
Asked to move money between accounts
Your bank will never ask you to move money from one account to another. If you are asked to do so then hang up and contact the company directly on another line or call a friend first to avoid interception by the scammer.
Calls from companies you are not a customer of
Be wary of any telephone calls you receive from companies whose services you do not use. For example, if you are not with BT then you should be suspicious if you receive a telephone call detailing a problem with your account or service.
Text messages from unknown numbers
If you receive a text message from an unknown number claiming to be sent from a particular organisation, check spelling of company name, do not try to ring the number and do not click on any links. Contact organisation directly to clarify situation.
Email scams- what to watch out for
Spelling and grammatical errors
There are often basic errors of spelling and grammar in phishing scam emails. Check names of organisations and content of emails carefully.
Email addresses which don’t correspond to company information
If you click on the sender’s name then there will be an email address, which may have no connection at all to the legitimate organisation it claims to pertain to.
Email is not addressed to the recipient
If there is an issue with your account or something connected to you then the email should have your name as the recipient.
Misleading web address links
If there is a link in the email then do not click on it. Go to the organisation’s website directly instead to see if there are any messages for you or contact the company by telephone. To check authenticity, you can hover your cursor over the link in the email to reveal the real website address.
Emails from unknown companies and services
Unless you have signed up to any mailing lists, then emails you receive should be from known companies and services. For example, if you are not with a particular bank then you should be suspicious if you receive an email detailing a problem with your account or a request for personal details to be updated. Don’t click on any links or attachments if you don’t know what they are or are unsure of the source and do not respond to messages asking for personal or financial details.
How to stay safe from scams online
Do your research if buying from a company that you are not familiar with and seek advice and recommendations from others.
Do not click on any suspicious or unknown links. This could expose your device to malware or the click could take you through to a site which may be infected by malware or one which asks for confidential details to be entered. If you do click on an email link then do not enter your username and password if prompted. Contact the company in question directly or log on as you would normally do so via its website.
Vary your passwords. Do not use the same password for every online account you have. Ensure password is strong with a combination of numbers, special characters and letters.
Always try to use a credit card for purchases so that you have the backup of Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Ensure all your devices are up to date with the latest software to prevent from the latest threats.
Use 2 step verification or Apple Face ID if available to protect your phone and password
Check if any of your personal info has been compromised during data breaches by using the Have I been pwned? website.
Action you can take if suspicious of scams or if you have been scammed.
Report the suspect scam to the company
If you suspect an email or text to be a scam then report it to the company in question and send screenshot of text or forward text or email to the relevant phishing department. Contact details can usually be located easily on the company’s website.
Change your password
If you suspect something a text or an email you have received is a scam, then it is wise to change your password for that organisation and do the same for any other accounts where you use the same password. Ensure the password is a strong one with a combination of digits, letters and special characters with no obvious pattern.
Report the scam to the relevant regulatory body
If you have been the victim of a scam then you should report it to the Financial Conduct Authority, Trading Standards, Police Action Fraud or Citizens Advice Scam Action (set up by Martin Lewis) as appropriate. Following a change of rules in May 2019, the burden of proof is now on banks to prove negligence on the part of the customer in instances of suspected fraud so you now have a greater chance of getting your money back.
Report scams to Facebook if applicable
Facebook scams are increasing in number and are becoming more dangerous and easier to fall foul to. Watch out for clickbait ads especially if they claim to be celebrity endorsed. Never action a bank transfer or provide your bank details in response to one of these ads. Use a debit or credit card instead if you believe the offer to be legitimate. Report any ads you feel are a scam to Facebook.
Share information about the scam
You can raise awareness of a scam by sharing information about it with friends and family and also on social media so that people are aware of what to look out for and how to avoid falling victim to it.
Since writing this post, new information has come to light with regard to unscrupulous people who are going round offering help to the elderly and vulnerable by offering to collect essentials for them but then taking their cash or cards and running! This is beyond comprehension. Please be vigilant, look out for friends and neighbours and report any such cases you hear of to the police. Do not open the door to anyone you do not know and seek advice and support from others if possible before ever handing over money to people you do not know.
I sincerely hope that you are never the victim of a scam but also hope that if you do come across one, then the information I have given is useful. Please do let me know if you have any top tips of your own or any scams to share.