Nearly one in three people have been targeted recently by scams which exploit the rising cost-of-living crisis, with fraudsters using increasingly clever tactics to encourage us to part from our cash.
More than half of us believe it is now harder to spot a scam than it was five years ago, according to research from online bank, Marcus by Goldman Sachs. The research found that that one in 10 people aged 55 and over have been a victim of financial fraud at least once, rising to 12% of those aged 35-54 and 22% of people aged 18-34.
Linda Morgan, information security culture manager at wealth management company Quilter, said “With the current situation pulling tightly on our purse strings, it is likely that the anxiety this causes could make us more vulnerable to scams. Attackers often exploit ‘hope’ tactics by creating scams which feature fake refunds, deals or goods which turn out to be ploys to obtain personal details or gain access to our personal accounts.”
One scam currently doing the rounds relates to energy rebates. Every household is entitled to £400 to help with energy bills, with payments spread over a six-month period which started in October. This is usually given as a reduction on your energy bills by your supplier. However, fraudsters are sending out emails and texts telling people they have to claim the money by clicking on a link, which takes them to a page asking for personal information and bank details.
Scammers are also looking to capitalise on Black Friday on November 25. For example, the supposed British Airways ‘Black Friday giveaway’ which has been doing the rounds in recent days is a scam set up by fraudsters who send WhatsApp messages promising you’ll be in with a chance of winning one of thousands of free flights if you click on a link. It is designed to get people to hand over bank details and other personal information which can be used to steal from them.
Bob Brinklow, UK country manager at NordVPN, the virtual private network service provider, said: “This scam — offering the chance to win free flight tickets for completing an online quiz — is a prime example of how criminal gangs will be trying to exploit the cost-of-living crisis by dangling irresistible offers in front of hard-up Brits.
“It also trades on users’ familiarity, not only with BA as a brand, but also with the pop-up quizzes that have become a feature of many web pages, particularly news websites. As a result, people surfing the web may not think twice before clicking on the attached link and then including some personal — and valuable — details as part of their ‘competition entry’.
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“Consumers can expect to encounter a steady stream of these Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams in the next couple of weeks. It’s important to treat any pop-up deal or offer with caution and avoid clicking on any links unless you know the address they’re taking you to is verified.”
There’s also been an increase in scams designed to get people to hand over some or all of their retirement savings. More than one in ten (13%) people say they’ve been targeted by a pension scam, according to data from insurer Scottish Widow, with men being more likely to be targeted than women.
Robert Cochran, senior corporate pension specialist at Scottish Widows, said: “Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in the number of pension scams taking place in the UK, especially as scammers use situations like the pandemic or rising living costs to take advantage of people. This presents a threat to people’s retirement savings as an entire pension fund could be taken.”
Warning signs that indicate you’re being targeted by scammers include if you’re offered access to your pension before the age of 55, as usually this will result in huge tax penalties and could mean you lose your funds. Investments that offer extremely high rates of returns should also be avoided, as if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. You should also be very wary of schemes promising ‘pension liberation’, ‘pension loopholes’ or are a ‘limited time offer’.
If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, let your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online using its online reporting tool or by calling 0300 123 2040.