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Top 5 scams to look out for

author: Sarah Beresford

By Sarah Beresford

Plenty of scams have been circulating recently, as crooks try to take advantage of lockdown. Arm yourself against these scams by learning how to identify them.

Royal Mail scam

Currently, this is the most common scam circulating at the moment. The Royal Mail scam is a typical impersonation scam. These scams try to trick people into clicking links and handing over their details by pretending to be a trusted organisation. Similar ones to this include text messages from your bank, your phone contract provider, or the police.

In terms of the Royal Mail scam, victims are being sent text messages asking them to click a link to pay for the delivery of an item before they can receive it. The link will then take you to a Royal Mail copycat site and ask you for payment details.

Royal Mail has stated that only people who have requested text communication from them will receive it, and if you need to pay for a parcel – they'll deliver a grey calling card instead.

Some of them are very convincing and may have scoured your social media to glean personal details about you, but legitimate organisations will never ask you to reveal sensitive information such as account numbers and passwords in this manner.

If in any doubt, contact the organisation through an official number to double-check. Make sure to avoid clicking any links and never give out your details.

COVID scams

The vaccine scam

The vaccine scam began circulating earlier this year. People have reported receiving a text impersonating NHS vaccine invitations. The link will take you to a website that prompts you to enter bank details. However, you won’t have to pay for your Coronavirus vaccines, and you’d never be asked to input bank details by the NHS.

The tricky thing here is that the NHS will send texts to remind people to book their vaccine. If the message isn’t from ‘NHSvaccine', and it's asking you for bank details, then you should steer clear.

If you're not sure, you can either wait to receive a letter or check the NHS website for more info.

Track and trace scams

With these scams, victims get informed that they've been in contact with someone who's COVID positive. They'll then get asked to pay for a 'fast-track' test. COVID tests are always free, and you should never fork out any money to pay for one.

Census Scam

Scammers have started to take advantage of the recent Census deadline as well. A text message has been circulating telling victims that information is missing from their census. It also reminds the recipient that they could face a charge of £1000 if they fail to comply.

While being fined £1000 is a possibility if you don't complete your application, this is not a real warning.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed that they would never ask for any personal details, so if you receive a message like this, it’s likely to be phishing.

If you're concerned, contact the genuine organisation to check.

Romance and Social Media fraud

As many people have turned to online dating during lockdown, scammers have also turned to dating apps for fraud. Commonly, they use social media to befriend people and act as a new friend or potential love interest. Typically, scammers lead victims to believe it's a trusting relationship and then ask them for money. They might say they've been in an accident or need some cash so they can travel to meet you. Always be wary of information you give to strangers online and never send money to people you haven’t met.

Top tips to avoid a scam

The best way to avoid being scammed is to trust your instincts and always check with a genuine organisation regarding any contact you receive. If the person you're talking to is genuine, then they won't mind if you take a few minutes to ring an official contact number to check.

And remember:

  • being asked for sensitive information like your bank details and card numbers should always be treated as suspicious. To combat fraud, organisations will never ask people for this kind of information over the phone or the internet
  • check any messages, emails, or texts very closely. Incorrect grammar, spelling mistakes and poor phrasing are typical indicators of a scam
  • never click on any links in any messages or emails you get
  • if you feel that something is too good to be true, then it probably is.

How to report a scam

If you feel like you’re in danger, or if someone is at your door, then call 999.

For online or telephone scams, you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. The telephone line is open Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm, or you can report fraud 24 hours a day with their online form.

If you received a scam email, you can report the sender to your email company or send it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service on [email protected]. Find out other ways to report scams.

Read on to see how to protect your finances in 2021.

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Sarah Beresford

By Sarah Beresford