By Faris Gohir (MWN Hub Manager)
I am certain that anyone reading this has received a scam email, text or phone call at least once in their life and even if you haven't, you could still easily be targeted - spotting them was easier years ago when it was obvious, but over time scams in the UK have become more sophisticated. Scams are more prevalent now especially due to Covid-19 which has seen a rise in victims of fraud with 820,000 fraud reports being submitted to Action Fraud within the last year. These fraudulent schemes have become more believable that even people who are usually alert have been caught out and lost money which explains why impersonation scams went up by 84% in the first half of 2020 with over 15,000 cases as reported by UK Finance in June 2020. Furthermore, the amount of money that has been lost due to these terrible schemes is truly eye opening with £1.7 billion lost to scams in the last 12 months which was reported by Action Fraud in December 2020; to put that into perspective that means collectively victims are losing £4.4 million a day highlighting that scamming is on the rise and more dangerous than ever. However, not every fraud case has a sad ending with Lending Standards Board reporting in January 2021 that 45% of victims get reimbursed although this statistic needs improvement. Examples of such cyber crimes are:
Royal Mail Parcel Scam
This works by the victim receiving a text that claims to be Royal Mail and stating that a fee for the delivery needs to be paid with a link that takes the person to website mocked up to look like the official Royal Mail website. This scam has caught out many people due to the increased online shopping because of the pandemic over the past year hence people have perhaps been taking more deliveries than normal therefore making this particular scam much more convincing. The page then requests personal and payment details which can then be used for identity theft or theft of money as well as other fraudulent actions. Royal Mail themselves have said they do not send alert messages like this unless the customer has specified and would otherwise send them a grey card if an additional fee was required. Other couriers have also been impersonated in similar cases such as DPD and Hermes.
Vehicle Tax Scam
This involves receiving a professionally worded email claiming to be the DVLA telling the recipient that their payment details need updating to renew their vehicle tax. I was personally targeted by this one but realised as the vehicle tax for my car is free therefore it should just be renewed automatically without any payment details, which I had checked this on the DVLA website, so ignored the link they sent, deleted the email and blocked the sender. The DVLA in response to these scams said, “ We never send emails that ask you to confirm your personal details and payment information, if you get anything like this, do not open any links and delete the email immediately”.
NI Number Scam
Victims of this particular scam reported receiving an automated phone call or text allegedly from the HMRC telling the victim their “National Insurance number had been compromised” and are then instructed to press 1 to be connected to the caller in order to supposedly fix the issue. However, once connected the caller pressures victims into handing over personal details which the fraudsters claim is to enable the victim to receive a new NI number but ultimately this just allows the thief to use the credentials gathered to commit fraud.
Amazon Alert Scam
Within this case the scammer makes a phone call to an amazon customer stating that someone has hacked into their account and is buying various goods and requests access to their phone and for them to download an app and fill in personal details including card details. Amazon have an ‘Avoiding payment scams’ section on their help page on the Amazon website for more information.
Broadband Provider Scam
This scam is usually someone ringing posing as your broadband provider and claiming that your account has been hacked by someone nearby who is using your broadband Wi-Fi, or they will say that they will cut off your internet. Similar to the Amazon scam, the victim will be pressured into downloading a suspicious app onto all their devices and then enter certain information, there has been incidences of scammers pretending to be from BT which has happened to someone I know.
Bank Fraud Scam
This is the most classic scam with still many people falling for it; the scammer will claim to be from the victims bank and will say that someone is attempting commit fraud with their card and bank account and that they need their personal and card details to block it. Nevertheless, if this situation was real the bank would be able to block the fraud attempt themselves without needing your personal information.
How to avoid scams
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