Public Warned of ‘Callous’ New Fraud Schemes

Ian Lewis[1]

Ian Lewis

Money Savings Advice Millions on ‘Cliff Edge’ As Furlough Wraps Up

Scammers are profiting from Coronavirus fears with 'callous' new schemes that prey on people's money worries and doubts for the future.

Banking league UK Finance has issued a warning to consumers about ten new scams, while a separate alert was issued by police to people living in northwest England about pension fraud last week.

During this pandemic, we have seen criminals using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people's financial concerns, impersonating trusted organisations like the NHS or HMRC, to trick them into giving away their money or information

Said UK Finance's Managing Director of Economic Crime, Katy Worobec.

In one scam, criminals posing as Test and Trace workers try to pry victims' personal information from them in order to commit fraud.

Others claim to offer council tax reductions or payouts from a fake HMRC website to entice those hardest hit by the COVID economy.

Greater Manchester Police Issued a Separate Warning

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester Police issued a separate warning about an uptick in pension fraud across the region.

A public notice published by the service warned of scammers trying to convince pension savers to cash out their money and pay it into a fraudulent scheme, which they claimed would offer better returns.

Told to 'make the most of the economic downturn' and lied to that their pension savings fund could be on the rocks, victims re-invest their pension money into fraudulent schemes with the scammers- where of course, they could lose it all.

Pension scammers wreck lives, and we are determined to stop them in their tracks. Victims lose £82,000 on average, which for some is their entire retirement savings. Never be rushed into an irreversible decision about your money that you may live to regret later. Always check who you're dealing with and get to know the signs of a pension scam by visiting the ScamSmart website.

Said Charles Counsell, The Pensions Regulator's chief executeve,

Since April, The Pensions Regulator has asked all providers to send a letter to anyone requesting a pension transfer, advising them to 'stop and think'.

We are determined to do all we can to protect savers' retirements from the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. A decision to transfer a pension pot that's taken a lifetime to build is a very serious one, and we'd urge members to be very, very careful making any transfer decisions at this time

said Mr Counsell

If you think you have been the target of a scam, contact Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040. If you’re worried you may have been targeted by pension fraudsters, you can report the company to the Financial Conduct Authority on 0800 111 6768 or by visiting its website at fca.org.uk/consumers/report-scam-unauthorised-firm.

The Ten Scams to Be on High Alert For

The following advice is from Finance UK, about ten scams that the public should watch out for:

Covid-19 financial support scams;

1 - Criminals have sent fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims.

2 - Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.

3 - Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.

4 - Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit, while taking some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.

Health Scams

5 - One of the most shocking scams that has appeared during the pandemic has involved using the NHS Test and Trace service. Criminals are preying on an anxious public by sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.

6 - Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which do not exist.

7 - Criminals are sending fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months of free TV license because of the coronavirus pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.

8 - Amid a rise in the use of online TV subscription services during the lockdown, customers have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.

9 - Fraudsters are also exploiting those using online dating websites by creating fake profiles on social media sites used to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Often criminals will use the identities of real people to strike up relationships with their targets.

10 - Criminals are using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake investment companies using fake websites.

How to Spot a Scam

Cold Callers

Scammers often cold-call their victims in the hope of getting lucky. Getting a call out of the blue with an urgent request is a red flag. In some cases it's practically guaranteed that the caller is a fraudster: since January 2019 it has been illegal to cold call about pensions, which means any phone calls about pension savings is not legitimate.

Promising to Make You Savings or High Returns

Scammers often try to lure people in by making them savings or offering them 'once in a lifetime' investment opportunities. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Strange Websites, Bad Grammar & Logical Loopholes

Scammers may try to impersonate legitimate organisations by using similar branding and similar-looking websites. Check the address carefully to see whether it's the same as the official organisation's address. Plot holes, in the story you're being told, as well as shoddy spelling and grammar in communications, may also be a tell-tale sign that the organisation isn't what it claims to be.

Asking for Personal or Financial Information

Anyone asking for your PIN, a password is crossing a line. Legitimate organisations will never ask for these details from you.

 

Money Savings Advice Author Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis is one of our specialist financial writers. Ian has over 15 years of financial writing experience, having worked for some of the largest financial publications in the UK covering topics from mortgages, equity release, loans and financial claims, to name a few.

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