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Four new scams to watch for in the run-up to Christmas

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

Scammers are using the cost-of-living crisis to trick consumers out of their hard-earned cash. Here are the four latest scams that you need to be watch for, according to Action Fraud.

Christmas is a time for giving. But for scammers, it’s very much a time for taking. And in the run-up to the big day, Action Fraud has issued a warning about four new cost-of-living scams that consumer need to watch out for.

Energy Bill Rebates

Between September 1 and November 13, 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

Cost of Living payments

Since its announcement in May, fraudsters have been seeking to cash in 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.

If you are eligible for cost of living assistance, you do not 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.

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.

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.

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.

Action Fraud has noted three ways in which you can protect yourself from investmet fraud:

  1. Investment opportunities: Don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into investing on the spot.
  2. Seek advice first: Before making significant financial decisions, speak with trusted friends or family members, or seek professional independent advice.
  3. 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