by Derin Clark
When the nationwide lockdown was introduced in March, there was a significant increase in scams. Anti-fraud charity Action Fraud reported that during March alone there was a 400 per cent increase in the number of coronavirus-related fraud reports. The following six months have seen increasing numbers of consumers being targeted by scammers and both Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates the UK finance market, have warned consumers to be on their guard as the number of scams continues to rise.
Being the target of a scammer can be stressful and upsetting. Although banks and building societies will often refund money lost through scams, this is not always guaranteed and the best way you can ensure your money is safe is to take steps to protect yourself from scams. To help you be aware of the types of financial scams around, below are some of the most common examples being used today.
A cloned website is a replica of an official site that fools people into thinking it is an authentic site and, as a result, they make bank payments, deposit money or give out personal information. This type of scam can be easy to fall for and Government, banks, building societies and pension firms websites have all been cloned by scammers.
Often, scammers will send emails or text messages encouraging people to click on links that go to the cloned site. These cloned websites can also appear at the top of Google search results, usually as an advert. One way to ensure that the website you are on is genuine is to type in the address yourself, ideally using an address on an official document such as a letter. As well as this, never click on links sent through emails or text messages. A padlock symbol at the start of the website’s address is also an indication that the website is secure.
Pay-per-click (PPC) are adverts that appear in Google search results or on websites. Although many of these adverts are genuine, scammers also use PPC to get people to click through to cloned or a fraud website and deposit or transfer money through the site.
The top few results on a Google search will usually be PPC adverts and, although these can look like a standard search result, there is a small ‘Ad’ symbol that indicates it is a PPC advert. Scroll past these results and you will normally get to the non-PPC results.
To avoid clicking on a scam PPC advert on a website, ensure you only click on adverts or links on trusted sites – for example, Moneyfacts.co.uk always ensures that any advert or link from the site goes to an authentic and genuine website.
Probably one of the best known, and most common, types of scams is via phone calls. As consumers have become more aware of phone call scams, scammers have become more sophisticated in how they target consumers. One scam, for example, involves calling the intended victim and claiming to be from their bank, state that their account has been compromised and, once they have panicked the victim, persuade them to give out confidential information.
The best way to avoid being scammed over the phone is to end the call and phone back on a different number that you have from an official document (not one provided during the original phone call). It is also advisable to call back on a different phone or wait at least 10 minutes to call back. As well as this, no matter how genuine the call sounds, never give out personal information over the phone.
Email and texts
Emails and texts can be used in many ways by scammers – emails used to try and scam people are known as phishing emails and texts are known as smishing. As already mentioned, they can be used to encourage people to click on links that send them to clone websites.
Another way scammers use emails is to persuade people to click on links that download a virus to their computer or to try and get people to transfer money. Phishing emails can come from what looks like authentic organisations or from family and friends whose emails have been hacked.
Always be on guard with any email or text that is sent, avoid clicking on links, and if you are in any way suspicious, delete the email or text.
For more information about how to stay safe from scammers, visit the guide and news sections on Moneyfacts.co.uk