Fraud attempts against Britons rises in cost of living crisis

Millions more people have been targeted by scammers this year as they look to capitialise on the cost of living crisis, new Citizens Advice research shows.

More than three quarters of Britons said they have been targeted by a scammer this year, a 14 per cent rise on this time last year.

More than half of those surveyed reported being targeted by delivery scams from fraudsters mimicking postal or courier services.

Barclays data suggests that those aged between 21 and 30 are almost four times as likely to be a victim of a scam compared with those aged over 70.

Two in five had been targeted by someone pretending to be from the Government or HMRC, while three in ten had been targeted by someone offering a fake investment or financial ‘get rich’ scheme.

Other commonly reported scams included rebates and refunds, banking, online shopping, health or medical and energy scams.

Ahead of many households receiving vital government help for the cost of living crisis, Citizens Advice is warning Britons to be on extra guard against opportunistic fraudsters.

The charity has seen a range of different cost of living scam tactics used by scammers of late – and it is likely that desperate people could be tricked into making mistakes. 

These have included emails claiming to be from the regulator Ofgem asking people to enter their bank details to get the £400 energy rebate, or claiming the Government is giving £200,000 out at random to people who are of pension age, disabled or on a low income.

Too good to be true: Often, a deal will offer returns that you can't get elsewhere. If someone contacts you out of the blue about an investment, it¿s most likely a scam.

Too good to be true: Often, a deal will offer returns that you can’t get elsewhere. If someone contacts you out of the blue about an investment, it’s most likely a scam.

Wendy Martin, director of National Trading Standards, said: ‘Criminals are exploiting people’s worries as household bills rise.

‘Consumers are being put under increasing pressure from a wave of scam emails and cold calls from imposters pretending to be from councils or energy companies.

‘We urge people never to give bank details or other personal information to anyone who contacts them out of the blue as legitimate organisations would never put you on the spot in this way.’

John Herriman, chief executive of Chartered Trading Standards Institute added: ‘Everyone is at risk of being scammed but the cost-of-living crisis results in more and more consumers facing increasing levels of vulnerability.

‘This means they face even greater risks of being caught by unscrupulous and illegal practices by those who are intent on exploiting the already difficult situation people find themselves in.

‘At a time when the sad reality is that some are having to make choices between heating and eating, people can be particularly vulnerable to, for example, fraudsters offering cheaper energy.’

Young people at heightened risk

Young people aged between 21 and 30 are the age group most likely to be scammed, according to Barclays, despite their perception that it won’t happen to them.

What to do if you’ve become a victim of a scam

• Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam, they will advise you what you need to do.

• Report the scam to the police.

• If you’ve been defrauded or experienced cybercrime report it to Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Data from the Bank suggests the same age group are almost four times as likely to be a victim compared with those aged over 70.

The majority of scams take place on tech platforms such as social media, auction sites or dating apps, where younger people are more susceptible to falling victim.

Purchase scams, where people buy goods which never arrive or aren’t as advertised, are by far the most common type of scam – accounting for 60 per cent of all scams in the last three months, according to Barclays.

The likelihood of falling for this type of scam decreases significantly with age, with 21-30 year-olds being fifteen times more likely to be a victim compared with those aged over 70

With smartphones among the most common type of item fraudsters advertise, and over half of 21-30 year old’s planning on purchasing a new one this summer, Barclays is warning people to be wary of ‘too good to be true’ offers.

Why are young people more susceptible?

Two in five young people say they rarely read the T&Cs, and a third admit to being willing to shop with a brand they haven’t heard of if they are offering a good deal.

A quarter of young people also said they could only go one day without replacing their smartphone if they lost it, suggesting they may be more impulsive and rash in these situations.

Ross Martin, head of digital safety at Barclays said: ‘Many people picture an elderly person when they think of a scam victim, and whilst it’s true that older people are more likely to fall for higher value scams, the most common type of scams are where people are tricked into buying something they never receive.

‘The best advice is if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

‘Scammers usually offer items for significantly lower than its value to lure you in – stop and question why any legitimate seller would do this.

‘Check the seller’s website and be wary of anyone asking for a bank transfer rather than a debit or credit card transaction, as legitimate sellers don’t usually do this.’

Citizens Advice top tips to stay scam aware:

It might be a scam if: 

1. It seems too good to be true – for example, scammers pretending to be energy companies to lure people into ‘too good to be true’ deals.

2. You suspect you’re not dealing with a real company, organisation or a genuine person – take a moment to step back and double-check 

3. You’ve been pressured to transfer money quickly 

4. You’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – like by an iTunes vouchers or a transfer service.

5. You’ve been asked to give away personal information such as passwords, PINs or other verification codes.