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Criminals are using the cost of living crisis to scam the public – don’t become a victim

New warning from Action Fraud about cost of living scams in the run up to Christmas.

Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the cost of living crisis.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud*.

Report: Suspicious emails can be reported by forwarding them to: report@phishing.gov.uk. You can also report suspicious text message by forwarding them to 7726 (it’s free of charge). Your reports help us to remove the emails and websites used to perpetrate fraud and cyber crime.

We’ve listed some of the most common scams circulating right now with advice on how to spot, report and avoid falling victim.

Energy Bill Rebates 

Between September 1, 2022 and November 13, 2022 Action Fraud received over 350 reports relating to fake text messages and emails purporting to be from the UK Government. The messages state that the recipient is “owed” or “eligible” for an energy bill discount as part of the Energy Bill Support Scheme.

Although the content of messages can vary, a significant number of emails are titled “Are you Eligible to Apply for Energy Bill Rebate” or “Government energy rebate scheme”, with a header in the email body stating “E.ON: Gas and electricity supplier”. Some emails include the Ofgem logo in an attempt to legitimise the correspondence.

The links in the emails and texts lead to genuine looking websites that are designed to steal personal and financial information.

Households in the UK do not need to apply for the Energy Bill Support Scheme and you will not be asked for your bank details. If you have spotted a suspicious text message, please forward it to 7726. If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about, you should forward it to: report@phishing.gov.uk

In recent months, people have reported receiving suspicious phone calls from fraudsters claiming to be from their bank or the police. The scammer warns the recipient that several suspicious transactions have been made on their account related to scam government energy rebates and asks them to transfer their funds into a ‘safe account’.

Remember, your bank or the police will NEVER ask you to transfer money or move it to a safe account.

Cost of Living Payments

Since its announcement in May, fraudsters have been seeking to capitalise on coverage related to the government’s cost of living scheme, which offers £650 to millions of low income households.

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued a warning about scams related to cost of living assistance following reports of scam phone calls, emails and text messages. In one such example, the recipient is  asked to claim or apply for the payment by registering via a link. The links in the emails and texts lead to genuine looking websites that are designed to steal personal and financial information.

Please remember, if you are eligible for cost of living assistance, you do no need to apply for the payment or contact the DWP directly. Payment to you is automatic and the DWP will never ask for personal details by SMS or email. More information is available here.

Fuel vouchers, phone bill discounts and supermarket offers

There has been a rise in consumers being targeted by phishing emails pretending to be from utility companies claiming to provide savings on energy bills, as well as offering fuel vouchers, phone bill discounts and supermarket offers. These emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are designed to harvest personal and financial information.

A number of supermarket brands have been spoofed in fake ads on social media with offers of too good to be true deals, competitions or giveaways. A number of people have reported seeing fake ads offering free food products that are due to expire. The ad encourages people to register via a link in order to win or claim the food. In reality, the offer does not exist and the third party website is designed to steal your personal or financial information.

In recent months, a number of people have reported receiving suspicious phone calls from scammers claiming to be from their phone provider. The scammer states that the phone owner is eligible for a discount on their phone bill due to cost of living hardships and then asks a series of questions designed to steal their personal information. 

If you see an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always check the brand’s official website or social media channels to verify whether an offer is authentic.

You can report suspicious phone calls to Action Fraud here: Report a phishing attempt | Action Fraud

Fake investment opportunities

Money laundering and other financial crimes are on the rise as scammers continue to prey on people looking to save as much money as they can or offset rising costs by making investments that promise high returns. There are many different types of investment fraud, which usually involve criminals contacting people out of the blue and convincing them to invest in schemes or products that are worthless or do not exist. Once the criminals have received payment, they cease contact with the victim.

Fraudsters are using a range of social media platforms to contact people with offers of non-existent bank refunds. In many cases, the fraudster shares a fake screenshot showing amounts ranging from £1,289 to £1,855 being deposited into an account. This is intended to encourage the recipient to share their bank details and claim a refund. In reality, no refund exists and the scammer will use your financial information to steal money.

How to protect yourself from financial investment fraud:

Investment opportunities: Don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into investing on the spot.

Seek advice first: Before making significant financial decisions, speak with trusted friends or family members, or seek professional independent advice.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

For more information about how to invest safely, please visit: https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart

Action Fraud also advises that the public follow the advice of Take Five to Stop Fraud in order to keep themselves safe from fraud.

Channel website: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Original article link: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/criminals-are-using-the-cost-of-living-crisis-to-scam-the-public-dont-become-a-victim

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