Fraud is big business – it raked in £1.2billion for crooks last year and has become one of the UK’s biggest types of crimes.
And criminals are using Covid-19 as a smokescreen for new cons as they seek to cash in during the lockdown.
More than £2million was lost to coronavirus-related scams during the first few weeks of the current crisis.
But, what are these scams, and what can you do to stop unscrupulous rogues from getting their hands on your hard-earned cash?
Stuart Skinner, Nationwide Building Society’s director of fraud, told us: “Every day our team speak to people who have fallen victim to scams and they hear the heart breaking stories of the devastating impact this can have on peoples’ lives.
“The amounts some people lose can be vast, but even a few hundred pounds can be traumatic for someone if it is their entire life savings.
“It may seem like there are many different scams doing the rounds, so it can feel overwhelming trying to get your head around them.
“Often though, while the story may change the ruse is often the same – they want you to send them your money.
“Some scams are easy to spot as most people know now that they are unlikely to have won millions in an overseas lottery they have never entered, but some are so sophisticated that it’s not always obvious, even for us to spot them.”
One thing is clear, fraudsters are quick to change tactics, using current situations or events to try and catch people off their guard. Whether that be the current pandemic and our fears and concerns around it, a data breach at a high profile company or a seasonal event.
Is there a difference between fraud and a scam?
The finance industry draws a distinction between what it terms as fraud and scams. And this guides how they deal with such crimes.
Fraud is where somebody else is able to take money from your account – unauthorised transaction
Scams are where somebody tricks the victim into paying funds into a dodgy account – authorised transaction
Victims of fraud, ie where card/bank details have been compromised and used by a fraudster, get their money back if they contact their bank or building society.
Victims of scams, ie where they have been tricked into paying funds into a crooks account, often known as Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams, will find it more difficult to get refunded by their bank – many end up out of pocket.
Scams to watch for right now
Investment scams – the current volatile markets have led people to worry about their pensions and investments.
The lure of a big return can mean people part with life savings and may send multiple payments over a period of time. Victims don’t realise they have been scammed until they try and cash in investments.
Online purchase scams – everyone loves a bargain, or currently is happy when they think they’ve found am item that’s in short supply. Crooks use pressure to get people to act fast and pay upfront, before someone else beats them to it. And then goods never arrive.
Safe account/impersonation fraud – criminals contact people via phone/text/email pretending to be from a person’s bank/building society or the police.
They build up trust and convince the victim their account has been defrauded and they need to move money to a new account for safety.
Scammers are currently using fears over the virus to get people to click on links in text messages and then encouraging them to give away their bank or card details or to send money.
Where are the scams coming from?
Phone – cold calls or text messages. Don’t provide PINs or online banking details. Don’t be lured into logging on to online banking (IT not working scams are rife). Call your bank’s official number from another phone.
Email – appears to come from a genuine company. Check fot minor address amends or roll your mouse over the address to reveal its true identity. Always call on an official number to check if genuine.
Social Media – rogues will trawl social media to piece together your personal information – be wary what you post. Also, they use this to promote dodgy investments, goods and services.
Dating websites – pray on loneliness and build up trust and then ask for money.
Front door – rogue trader scammers ask for money upfront or charge extortionate rates for work that doesn’t need doing on your home. And courier scams where they send someone to your door to collect your bank card and PIN.
How can I protect myself and my loved ones?
Never act on a call out of the blue and transfer money at the request of a caller. A genuine organisation would never ask you to do this.
If something sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Never part with any money without doing thorough research to ensure something is genuine. Always use reputable websites/apps when buying goods.
Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into anything – online, on the phone or at your door.
Be wary of allowing anyone remote access to your computer. Never log on to your internet bank account while allowing someone remote access.
Be vigilant – fake invoices sent over email can be very convincing. Use the original contact details you got from your supplier to contact them and check if any bank account changes are genuine.
Do not give out your banking information, card or PIN, or take out money/buy goods from someone who claims this is necessary for an investigation – a genuine firm would never do that.
Three things a bank or building society would never ask you
Ask you to share your online or mobile banking details, card PIN numbers or full passwords.
Ask you to move your cash to a new ‘safe’ account due to fraud concerns.
Send a courier to your home to collect your bank card and ask for your PIN.