How to stay one step ahead of fraudsters | #datingscams | #lovescams


In our exclusive poll, almost a third said they’d suffered at the hands of scammers. Don’t be next to fall for their tricks: protect yourself by learning what’s out there

Fraud is on the rise. More than 3.5 million scams were reported to police in England and Wales alone over the year to March 2023, according to official statistics.* This makes fraud 33 per cent more common than physical theft, the next most frequently reported crime. 

Across the UK, the government estimates that fraud now accounts for an enormous 40 per cent of all crime committed. Exclusive new research from YouGov, commissioned by The Times in association with Lloyds Bank, reveals the human impact of these attacks. 

Almost a third (31 per cent) of the 2,057 Britons in the research say they have suffered at the hands of fraudsters. Of these 636 people, more than a fifth have been scammed at least once in the past 12 months alone.

“It’s really important to protect ourselves, because actually anybody can be a victim of fraud,” says Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director for Lloyds Bank. “Sadly, it is the most common crime in the UK currently. We all need to know when to be on our guard.”

If you inform yourself about the different types of fraud, you’ll be better placed to defend yourself against them if you are targeted. Below, we examine seven of the most common scams.

PHISHING

While 94 per cent of respondents to our survey have heard of phishing, only 81 per cent are confident they understand this scam. Phishing attacks can be launched by email, text message or web links; the fraudster pretends to be an official organisation and tries to trick you into giving away sensitive information, such as login details for financial websites, or into downloading malware. Be cautious with any unsolicited messages you receive; if you are in any doubt, you could go back to the sender via a different route, such as its website or call centre, to double-check.

VISHING

Using information often acquired by phishing, fraudsters contact you via voice calls – either in person or an automated phone message. Only 43 per cent of our survey’s respondents had heard of vishing, and just one in four said they understood what it was. Be just as vigilant about cold calls as about emails and texts.


*Figures from ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales for year ending March 2023


IDENTITY THEFT

Many people feel knowledgeable about this scam – 97 per cent say they understand it – but it remains rife. It’s where a fraudster steals your personal details then pretends to be you. This enables them to do anything from making purchases in your name to setting up a whole range of accounts with financial and official organisations using your identity. Keep your personal information as secure as possible; you can also sign up to credit monitoring services that will notify you when an account is opened in your name.

ADVANCE FEE FRAUD

Only 59 per cent of respondents have come across this scam; just 43 per cent understand it. But it’s a real danger – a fraudster will promise you a large sum of money, or valuable goods and services, if you’re prepared to pay a small sum upfront; once you do so, the money is lost. The key here is not to be swayed by an offer that seems too good to be true. But fraudsters are imaginative – you might be offered a quick loan if you pay a fee up front, for example.

ROMANCE SCAMS

Fraudsters sometimes use dating apps and sites, posing as potential partners and giving fake details about themselves. Once they have won people’s trust, they ask for money or gifts, often for seemingly good reasons – a family emergency, say. In our survey, 88 per cent of people say they’ve heard of such scams and 81 per cent say they understand them. But fraudsters are often manipulative. Be suspicious about a date who is not prepared to speak on camera, or to meet in person. And check dating sites’ advice on using them safely.


FRAUD KNOWLEDGE GAP




While people’s awareness of some types of fraud is rising, they have a long way to go in getting to grips with what these scams entail – and how to avoid them.



MALWARE AND RANSOMWARE ATTACKS

While 94 per cent of respondents have heard of these frauds, only 84 per cent understand them. In these scams fraudsters infect your computer or phone with software they can use remotely. Malware might be used to steal your personal and security data, for example. With ransomware, a fraudster can freeze your computer and demand a payment for its release. Make sure you have good anti-virus software installed on your devices and that you keep all software up to date, since fraudsters often exploit vulnerabilities in older versions. Also, be suspicious of any internet link you receive, even if you know the sender. It may allow a fraudster to access your computer. And the same applies to cold callers who contact you to say there’s something wrong with your computer – this is very common.

MARKETPLACE FRAUD

Fraudsters see multiple opportunities on auction sites and marketplaces. You may be asked to send an item you are selling before receiving a payment, or to buy a product that turns out not to exist. In our research, 75 per cent say they are aware of these scams but only 58 per cent understand them. Do your due diligence – check a seller’s records on the site before doing business with them, for example – and ignore overgenerous offers such as a very low price for an item.

Top tricks: the scams to watch out for



While it’s important to be on your guard against all frauds, some scams are more common than others. These are the areas where you need to be absolutely sure you’re taking as much care – and being as vigilant – as possible.

In our research, two types of scam stand out. First, among respondents who have been scammed by a fraudster over the past 12 months, card fraud is a common theme, with 29 per cent and 16 per cent hit by debit and credit card fraud respectively. And second, 22 per cent of those caught out have suffered an online shopping fraud.

“We all like the convenience and ease of shopping online and, frankly, getting those good deals,” says Ziegler. 

“A good illustration would be when you want to go to a concert and there are only a few tickets remaining and you think, ‘I must buy these now.’ You are rushed into making a purchase. It’s an example of a moment when you need to actually stop, have a think and do your research. 

“Look at online reviews, find someone else who might have bought from this seller before and ask yourself, ‘Does this look genuine?’ And when you make that payment, do try to use your credit card or debit card, and check that the website is secured by looking for that padlock in the address bar.”

Ziegler acknowledges, however, that fraud is always changing. “The reality is that the nature of the threat is constantly evolving, as fraudsters come up with new ideas or seek to exploit fresh opportunities,” she says. 

There are all sorts of risks to guard against. For example, separate research published by Lloyds Bank earlier this year found that more than two thirds of all online shopping scams affecting UK consumers start on social media. There is also growing concern about people creating fake profiles on social media that can be used for anything from launching an investment scam to managing a romance fraud.

Impersonation fraud is another ongoing threat, with 10 per cent of those scammed in our research citing this. An impersonation fraud is any type of scam where someone pretends to be from a trusted organisation such as a financial services company or a government department; they may then ask you to divulge sensitive personal details, or even to transfer cash to a new account in order to protect yourself from fraud.

This type of attack soared in prominence during the pandemic, according to research from UK Finance, with fraudsters taking advantage of the fact so many people were at home and running more of their affairs online. But there is little sign that the threat has receded since then. It’s therefore crucial to be suspicious of any organisation that contacts you unprompted – and even more so if they then try to pressure you to take a particular action.

This is why Lloyds Bank became one of the first businesses to take part in the launch of the 159 fraud initiative. This was set up for people who suspect that someone might be attempting to scam them. 

Anyone who receives a call or message from a person claiming to be from a trusted organisation – and who then suggests money should be transferred or personal details given – is urged to simply hang up and call 159. They will then be connected to their own bank’s fraud prevention team. The new service is being promoted by Stop Scams UK, a coalition of banking and technology companies that have come together to help stop scams at source.


7 fraud prevention tips

1 Always use your debit or credit card when you shop online. This helps to protect your money should anything go wrong.

2 Low prices and great deals can hide scams. See if you can find them elsewhere. And remember that when an item is selling out, fraudsters can charge more to trick desperate buyers.

3 Fraudsters use social media to post scam offers. They can even send them straight to your inbox. Always search for deals yourself.

4 Make sure that a seller or website is genuine. Look for good reviews posted by different buyers.

5 Be wary when there are mixed, bad or no reviews at all. It’s safer to buy from a trusted retailer.

6 Ask questions before you buy. If a seller can’t give any details about an item or tries to hurry you into paying, it’s a sign of a scam.

7 Never click on links in messages, even if you think you know the sender. To track a parcel, visit the website of the delivery company.

For useful guidance on how to protect yourself from the latest scams, search: Lloyds Bank Fraud Hub

Unless stated all statistics sourced from Lloyds Bank/Times survey by YouGov, sample size 2,057 UK adults, survey dates August 4-7, 2023. *Figures from ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales for year ending March 2023

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