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The latest scams to avoid and how to protect yourself

Senior victim of online scam

Scams are unfortunately prevalent in today’s society, with fraudsters worldwide trying to deceive innocent people, gaining access to their money or identity. Moreover, scams evolve and become smarter, occasionally catching out even the most tech-savvy people.

If you are worried about scams and want to know what to look out for, take a look at the latest scams going around the UK today and some ways to protect yourself.

The latest scams

  • Call forwarding scams
  • Fake job scams
  • Vehicle scams
  • Cost of living scams
  • QR code jacking scams
  • White goods scams
  • Romance scams
  • Screen sharing scams
  • Delivery scams
  • Cryptocurrency scams
  • Coronavirus scams

Call forwarding scams

Older victim of online phone scam

Call forwarding scams are particularly sinister and one of the latest phone scams. Scammers will trick you into setting up a call forwarding service, which means that whenever someone tries to call you, it goes automatically through to the scammer.

First, the scammer will call you, pretending to be from your bank, alerting you that your account is ‘under threat’. Then they will get you to enter a two-digit number and the * or # key, then a long series of numbers into your phone, pretending that this will allow you to receive updates about the threat.

The scammers want to do this because they will likely already have access to your bank accounts but want to stop your bank from helping you. They will make payments from your account into theirs, and when your bank calls to ask if these transactions are genuine, the scammer will answer and pretend to be you.

You can protect yourself from this scam by knowing that your bank will not call you to enter a two-digit number followed by a phone number into your phone or for your secure passcode. If someone calls you asking for this, end the call.

Fake job scams

Fake job scams are precisely what they sound like. Scammers will set up fake job adverts online and get people to apply. Once you apply, they will contact you to say you’ve got the job. They will then get you to provide personal information under the guise of an identity check or setting you up in your role.

Once they have your personal information, they try to take a loan out in your name. They might send a link over to you, tricking you into completing the application for them. They might explain it by saying that they use a particular bank as an identity verification provider.

Sometimes, a scammer might even want to meet you in person about the job you applied for, request your personal details and photo ID and then complete the loan application themselves.

You can protect yourself against this type of scam by ensuring a company is genuine before applying for a job and that the job website is legitimate. Also, ask yourself if the info you are being asked for seems appropriate based on what you are applying for and never share your ID with someone unless you can prove they are reputable.  

Vehicle scams

For those of us who drive, there comes a time when we will be looking to buy a new car. This is a moment when scammers like to strike and will try and trick people into buying non-existent vehicles.

Fraudsters will set up a fake vehicle listing, advertising a car for sale via online marketplaces or social media. When you get in touch about the advert, the scammer will ask for a deposit to secure the vehicle. They will likely present an excuse for why you can’t see the car first.

Once they convince you to hand over the money, they will delete the advert and online profile, blocking your telephone number so you can’t get in touch.

The best way to avoid this scam is never to pay a deposit for a vehicle before you have seen it first and verified the seller. You can also use reputable car dealers and well-known marketplaces like Auto Trader.

Cost-of-living scams

Distressed senior woman on laptop

Cost-of-living scams are intended to prey on those struggling to pay their bills. Many of us find the current cost of living crisis hard to manage and, therefore, seek ways to save money.

Unfortunately, scammers will use this to make you think you can get a good deal. For example, they might trick you into visiting a fake website or clicking on counterfeit offers. They often achieve this by pretending to be from an energy company.

Another trick they use is pretending to offer government support to help you pay bills, sending out text messages or emails asking you to register to receive government support. Avoid scams by using reputable websites and double-checking the government website about cost-of-living support.

READ ALSO: The best over 60s discounts in the UK

QR code jacking scams

QR codes are becoming increasingly used, providing a quick way for people to access websites and info and to pay for services by scanning a code with your phone’s camera. However, there are scams out there that take advantage of this technology.

QR code jacking is one of the latest scams in the UK. Scammers will put up fraudulent QR codes on parking metres, leaflets, restaurant menus, and electric car charging stations. The idea is that people will scan these codes to take advantage of an offer or pay for a service, but the money is instead going to a scam artist.

You can protect yourself from this scam by refusing to use QR codes displayed publicly. The code will always redirect you to a website to make the payment, so you can also ensure that the website you’ve landed on matches up with the service you are using.

White goods scams

Elderly man on the phone

One prominent con is that of white goods scamming. As these scams don’t feel directly linked to your finances (though they certainly are), it can be easy to fall for them.

The team at Friends Against Scams, a National Trading Standards initiative created to fight back against scammers, highlighted this as a major concern:

“A scam that is particularly prevalent at the moment is a telephone scam regarding appliance/white goods repair/insurance. The criminals behind the scam often pretend to be calling from a legitimate and well-known insurance company to say that an appliance owned by the consumer is out of warranty and they require payment.”

READ ALSO: A beginner's guide to online shopping

Romance scams

These days, more and more people have decided to try their luck at finding love online. However, you should always ensure the person you are talking to is, in fact, the person that you think they are. Romance scams can be devastating, so be cautious until you’ve had confirmation that a person is to be trusted.

A good way to do this is to arrange a meeting early in the conversation, or, if that’s not possible, set up a video call where you can confirm the person you are talking to is who you think they are.

Furthermore, even if the person is legitimate, if they are asking for money from you, it’s a red flag that they may simply be using online dating for financial gain, and you should never send someone money you are not happy to lose.

Screen sharing scams

Screen sharing cons are another entry in the long line of the latest scams going around. Fraudsters will convince you to download a screen-sharing application for your phone, tablet, or computer to get your money.

They might pose as your bank, internet provider, energy company, or investment broker, telling you they must fix an account issue. With this fraudulent offer to help you, the screen-sharing software will allow them to see what’s on your computer, even after they’ve finished ‘helping’ you.

Protect yourself from scams of this nature by refusing to let someone offering to help you with finance-related matters take control of your computer. Be wary of downloading software you are not familiar with, stop communication and contact your bank on a trustworthy telephone number if in doubt.

Delivery scams

Woman holding credit card

Delivery scams are one of the most common scams in the UK today. Two of the most popular are Royal Mail scams and Amazon scams, but they can pretend to be from any delivery company.

Essentially, you might receive a text message or email saying your delivery was attempted, with the message then directing you to a fake website where they will ask for payment. Alternatively, they might try to get payment from you by saying you owe missing delivery costs.

Keeping track of what you have ordered and what deliveries you are expecting will help you avoid these scams. If you are unsure, check the tracking emails Royal Mail provide and track your package on their official website. Or wherever you have ordered something from, check the official communications you have received from them and cross-reference the tracking numbers. If in doubt, delete the message.

Cryptocurrency scams

Whatever you might think of cryptocurrencies, there are very real scams out there that will look to take advantage of this new currency.

If someone offers to invest your money in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency, think twice before agreeing. It may be a scammer, especially if they offer to open up an account or wallet that you won’t have access to.

Be wary of the ‘investment opportunities’ scammers will try and trick you with, pretending to be sales staff while they convince you to invest. If you are genuinely interested in investing in cryptocurrency or anything else, speak to a professional financial adviser first.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to managing money in retirement

Coronavirus scams

The coronavirus global pandemic has left many people vulnerable already, and for scammers, it’s been a time to strike. In recent years, many scams have appeared centred around COVID-19, from scams asking for payment for vaccinations to spreading misinformation to get you to click a dodgy link.

Luckily, many people in the UK now have vaccinations, so they should be more aware of how they will be contacted regarding this. However, it’s important to realise that these scams will adapt to the times and could continue for years.

If you are contacted about coronavirus, do your own research and check the government website or talk to a friend or family member about what’s happened to authenticate what you’ve received.

How to protect yourself against scams

Senior woman showing laptop to daughter
  • Be overly cautious
  • Get a second opinion
  • Be discrete on the internet

Be extra cautious

The best way that any person can protect themselves against scams of any kind is to be overly cautious.

Although it’s a sad reality to think we cannot trust everyone we encounter, scrutinising everything from an unexpected text message to an authentic-sounding phone call can make a big difference.

The Friends Against Scams team also suggests this, telling us: “Always be wary of phone calls requesting personal or financial information and if in doubt, hang up and seek advice.”

Always think to yourself, ‘Did I expect this to happen?’ ‘Does this sound too good to be true?’ An unexpected phone call, for example, with an offer that’s too good to be true might be just that. Even if you have no reason to believe the call isn’t legitimate, any business calling for valid reasons should be more than comfortable with you taking precautions, such as calling them back on a number you know is them.

Get a second opinion

If you are unsure about something, ask for a second opinion. Many people take the time to become keenly aware of the latest scams that are going on. As a result, people in your life may be more knowledgeable than you are. If you receive a suspicious email, try calling a friend and asking about it.

We must advise you not to forward any suspicious messages, such as emails or text messages, to friends or family, though, in case they are then targeted themselves.

Be discrete online

Being discrete when online can go a long way to ensuring scammers don’t target you. Although it can be tempting to think your Facebook profile, for example, is a safe space, you never know who is watching. Therefore, avoid disclosing private and personal information, especially regarding your financial situation.

How to report a scam

If you believe you’re being scammed or have been a victim of a scam, you should report it to help ensure others aren’t as unlucky. To do this, you should report to Action Fraud. You can also talk to Citizens Advice if you have fallen victim to a scam about how to recuperate what you may have lost.

Friends Against Scams says: “You can report a scam to Action Fraud on 0300 1232040 or for advice on scams, call Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133.”

There is more information about reporting scams on the government website.

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