Scam awareness and how we can keep safe

Scams and the Cost of Living

We’ve seen time and again that scammers seek to exploit vulnerability – from the coronavirus pandemic to recessions, times of difficulty often see a corresponding increase in related scams.

 The increased financial pressure many will be facing has put more people into difficult situations, with many facing issues with debt and being unable to afford essential goods and services. Scammers are likely to exploit these issues, so being empowered to protect yourself and others will have heightened importance.

There are lots of different types of scams emerging. Examples to look out for include:

  • Scammers pretending to be energy companies, luring people with “too good to be true” deals in order to steal their money
  • Fake sales representatives selling counterfeit shopping vouchers
  • Fraudsters sending out phishing emails pretending to offer an energy rebate or government support in order to steal people’s personal information

 

The stats on scams

  • Estimates form the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) suggest there were 5.1 million fraud offences in the year ending September 2021. This is a 36% increase compare to the year ending September 2019
  • Citizens Advice found in the first 5 months of 2021 more than two thirds of adults (36million) had been targeted by a scam
  • While over 55s were most likely to be targeted, those 34 and under were almost 5 times more likely to fall victim to a scam than their older counterparts
  • In the first half of 2021, criminals stole a total of £753.9 million through fraud, an increase of 30% compare to the year before
  • The CSEW suggests than only 1 in 6 of incidents of fraud either come to the attention of the police or are reported by the victim to Action Fraud

 

Spotting a scam

It’s important to always keep an eye out for scams. They can and do affect anyone. Here are some of the main warning signs to look out for:

  • It seems too good to be true – like an email saying you’ve won a competition you don’t remember entering
  • Someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • You’re being urged to act quickly so you don’t have time to think about it or talk to family and friends
  • You’ve been asked to pay for something urgently or in an unusual way – for example by bank transfer or gift vouchers
  • You’ve been asked to give away personal information

 

Simple steps to help protect yourself

  • Don’t be rushed into making any quick decision. It’s okay to take your time
  • Never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don’t know, trust or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it’s likely to be a scam
  • Before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company’s details on Companies House and take a look at their terms and conditions
  • Pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong
  • Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website andsay all the right things. Take your time to work out if this is a real organization. Ask them for ID or contact the organization on a number you know and trust
  • Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust
  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date
  • Keep you online accounts secure:
    • Use a strong password for email accounts that you don’t use anywhere else
    • Some websites let you add a second step when you log into your account – this is known as “two-factor authentication” and can make it harder for scammers to access your accounts
  • If you’re not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source

 

What to do if you have been scammed

  1. Protect yourself from further risks

To stop things getting worse, contact your bank immediately to let them know what’s happened. Change any relevant log-in details and check for viruses if you were scammed on a computer.

  1. Check if you can get your money back

If you’ve paid for something by card, bank transfer, Direct Debit or PayPal, depending on the circumstances your bank may be able to help you get your money back.

  1. Report the scam

Reporting helps protect others from being scammed.

  • Call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 who can pass on details of the scam to Trading Standards and can give you advice
  • Report to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud. They will give you a crime number

 

It’s also important for us all to talk to family and friends about our experiences. Don’t feel embarrassed. Together we can help to put a stop to scams.


There’s lots of information on the Citizens Advice website
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsadvice