Scams to watch out for in 2021
Financial abuse is happening and it’s happening now. Earlier this year, we launched our ‘In Safe Hands’ report to highlight the financial abuse issues which face the elderly population and the shocking scale of the problem, which has escalated due to the pandemic.
Our report findings are hugely alarming, and it’s no wonder that nearly a quarter (24%) of this age group worry their parents will be taken advantage of. It is simply not good enough.
The official figures estimate that there were 4.4 million fraud offences in the 12 months to 30 September 2020, with only 16.6% of these being reported.
We have all heard devastating stories from victims of fraud. Tactics range from text messages to sophisticated online crime, they all result in vulnerable and innocent people facing the horrible consequences that can often be devastating – psychologically as well as financially.
In this blog, we highlight some of the most common and emerging scams to be on the lookout for…
There have been a number of scams around Covid 19, fake texts telling people that they’re eligible to apply for the vaccine before taking them to a very convincing fake website that asks for personal details. Test and trace calls saying that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive and that they must pay for a test to be sent out to them. There have also been doorstep scams where these criminals can take advantage of those who have been self-isolating claiming to be carrying out Coronavirus testing at your home.
It is important to remember that the NHS or the NHS Test and Trace service will never ask for bank details or payments. If anyone knocks on your door claiming to be conducting the tests please call the police immediately.
Earlier this month I received an automated call telling me that they were calling from the HMRC during which I was told there is an outstanding fraud case and that I had to press one on my keypad, claiming this would connect me to an officer to discuss.
Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, has warned the scam technique has been seen in various other ways and their advice is to hang up without pressing any other buttons. It has been seen recently in terms of the 2021 Census also, please be aware that UK residents will only be contacted about the Census via letter.
Receiving calls like this can be very concerning, but it is important to not reveal any personal details, hang up and if you’re unsure whether the caller is genuine, you can always ring the company they claim to be from.
According to UK Finance, there was a 20% increase in bank transfer fraud linked to romance scams in 2020 compared to 2019.
With people being at home in lockdown many more people have turned online to meet potential partners. Romance fraud is also known as ‘catfishing’, Romance fraud happens when someone believes they have met their perfect match through an online dating site or app, but the other person is in fact a scammer using a fake profile to build the relationship. They slowly gain your trust with a view to eventually asking you for money or obtaining enough personal details to steal your identity.
Here are some top tips for safe online dating:
- Check they are who they say they are – does the picture look realistic and do they have more than one?
- Don’t share your personal details – basic information like your pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name and your first car could be used to access financial information.
- Moving too fast – quickly moving the relationship away from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging can be a red flag.
- Never send money to anyone you meet on an online dating website, no matter how convincing they are.
Fake emails and texts
These are called phishing messages and sadly they are a part of daily life, they are very slick and can easily catch people out. One that was seen recently was claiming to be from the Royal Mail claiming there is a parcel awaiting delivery but a “shipping fee” must be paid first by clicking on a URL that takes people to a fraudulent website which asks for personal and payment details. This scam is yet another example of fraudsters attempting to make money out of innocent people.
The Royal Mail website gives out the following advice for spotting scams:
- Royal Mail will never send an email asking for credit card numbers or other personal or confidential information.
- Royal Mail will never ask customers to enter information on a page that isn’t part of the Royal Mail website.
So what should you do if you get a text or an email that looks as if it might be from the government or another official body? Don’t panic, they are designed to create an instant reaction, if you are worried about an email or an SMS contact the company that sent it directly and speak to them about the contents, it is also important to report these to Action Fraud.
The best way that any person can protect themselves against scams of any kind is to be aware and cautious. The team at GuardianCard recently put together a blog with some really simple ways to shop safely online, read it in full here.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the majority of these crimes go unreported so it is important that you report fraud or cybercrime. You can report fraud by:
- Calling Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
- Forwarding suspicious emails to email@example.com
- Forwarding suspicious text messages to 7726