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How to avoid being scammed by fraudsters

How to avoid being scammed by fraudsters

9th December, 2021

Criminals continue to trick unsuspecting UK consumers out of millions of pounds every year, with crime-fighters and anti-fraud agencies issuing regular warnings for people to be on their guard.

As scams become increasingly more sophisticated, even the savviest of us can still be caught out - so it’s vital we keep up to date with the latest tactics that fraudsters use.

In the run-up to Christmas, experts are advising shoppers to be on the look-out for suspicious online “bargains,” after almost £2.5 million was lost to fraud during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale events in November and December of 2020 (inews)*.

And, as the festive season approaches, those same experts are reminding people that nearly 30,000 unwary buyers were conned out of a staggering £15.4m over the Christmas period last year.

Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, said: “Christmas is an incredibly busy time for us all but sadly, criminals will see this is as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of shoppers who are caught up in the excitement of securing a bargain online.

“If you think you have found a bargain that is too good to be true, it probably is. Stop and think before making a purchase as it could protect you and your money.”

Last year scam emails and text messages which appeared to come from legitimate companies such as DPD, Hermes or Royal Mail, claimed that they tried to deliver parcels.

But when unwitting online shoppers clicked on a link to reschedule, they were led to a website that appeared authentic, but demanded personal information and credit card details.

Detective inspector Rob Burns, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit, warned that this scam was “very convincing” as Christmas was only “a few weeks away and many people are shopping online and waiting for their orders to be delivered.”

It’s worth remembering that fraudsters exploit every date in the calendar - and every opportunity they can find - to make money at our expense.

With Christmas scarcely on the way, and the next Self-Assessment deadline looming on January 31, 2022, self-employed customers are already being warned against malicious emails, phone calls or texts which purport to be genuine HMRC communications.

In the last year alone, 800,000 tax-related scams were reported and 15,500 fake web pages had to be taken down, as scammers offered fake tax rebates and convinced customers to part with personal information, including bank details, to claim the “refund”.

They then used the information to access people’s bank accounts, trick them into paying fake tax bills, or sell the information on to other criminals, said HMRC.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed.

“If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.

“Only criminals do that. Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate.

“Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on GOV.UK and find out how to report them to us.”

Unscrupulous crooks even took advantage of the fear and confusion created by the pandemic, by posing as NHS Test and Trace service or contact tracers to steal personal information and money.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, warned last year that criminal gangs were “ruthlessly exploiting this pandemic to commit fraud.”

“Always take a moment to stop and think if you receive a request to make a payment from someone claiming to be from an organisation you trust,” she advised.

“Instead, contact the company or organisation directly using a known email or phone number, like the one on their official website.”

Even the shrewdest of us can still be caught out, so it pays to be suspicious and keep an eye out for tell-tale signs that a communication is fraudulent, like bad grammar and poorly-written sentences.

While most reputable companies will address you by your real name, fraudsters send out huge volumes of emails in the hope of snagging a handful of victims, so their communications often start with ‘Dear (your email address)’ or ‘Dear Sir’.

Whether it’s intentionally causing a traffic accident to make bogus insurance claims, or obtaining someone else’s identity to steal money, one common denominator links every fraudster: they’re expert at impersonating genuine people, trusted organisations and even governmental authorities.

You can read more about fraud in our blog article here.

Remembering to be vigilant – on line and off - is the best protection we have against the scammers, but if you think you have been hoodwinked, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed – you’re not alone.

Take immediate action by contacting your bank and then tell Action Fraud*, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

* By clicking this link, you will be redirected to away from our website.

** Please note that the above information has been gathered through secondary research. The information provided is not based on our opinion. You should seek further guidance and information before making an informed decision.

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