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Millions targeted by scammers and loan sharks circle as cost of living bites

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Trading Standards has issued its ‘starkest warning yet’ to Brits navigating the cost-of-living crisis as it’s seen scams soar while loan sharks and doorstep sellers are also taking advantage.

More than 40 million people were targeted by scammers in the past two years, with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) seeing a large rise in energy scams linked to the current cost-of-living crisis.

Along with scam energy rebate text messages, it’s also concerned over energy tariff mis-selling by doorstep sellers, as well as loan sharks preying on the most vulnerable.

‘Be on guard’

CTSI lead officer for scams and doorstep crime, Katherine Hart, said: “There has been a huge surge in energy efficiency scams offering rebates and offers to apply for grants. With the rise of costs in fuel bills and the cost-of-living concerns during the upcoming winter months, I urge the public to be on its guard because these types of emails and texts are attempts to scam.

“We see some of the texts or emails ask people to click on a link that takes them to an official booking platform where they are asked to submit personal information. This is a ruse to data harvest, often to scam the person at a later date. Sadly, we have noticed an increase in people whose savings have been compromised.”

Hart added that CTSI expects scammers will target households in the coming weeks regarding the £150 disability cost of living payment.

Eligible households don’t need to apply for the rebate as suppliers are automatically applying it to bills for six months from October. If you do receive emails or texts out of the blue, report texts to 7726 while emails should be sent to Scams can also be reported to Action Fraud.

Energy price guarantee confusion

Given the energy price guarantee which came into effect on 1 October taking average bills to £2,500 a year over the next two winters, CTSI said this is also being taken advantage of by fraudsters.

Lead officer for energy, smart meters and climate change, Steve Playle, said: “The end of September marked the last day before the next domestic energy cap came into force. I think the cap is confusing to many as £2,500 is not the maximum anyone will pay per annum but is the maximum for an average consumption household. This means you can still pay a lot more if you use more.”

The firms added that as energy is continually in the news, people are more likely to be aware of the pricing issues and the rebates that are available, such as the £400 rebate over the next six months.

Again, households don’t need to do anything – the rebate will be applied automatically by energy suppliers.

“Therefore, as always, ignore any messages and only deal directly with your energy company using their published phone numbers and email addresses,” Playle added.

‘Profit from the most vulnerable’

John Herriman, chief executive of CTSI said the cost-of-living crisis risks a significant rise in consumer detriment that the UK has not seen for decades.

“For the unscrupulous, current circumstances are opportunities to scrupulously profit from the most vulnerable.

“Local Trading Standards services are working in partnership with other agencies, have continually risen to the challenges of protecting consumers, but this has become increasingly difficult as gaps in consumer protection are emerging. Although Trading Standards is doing its utmost to protect the public, we remain concerned about the increased levels of risk and the potential for this to deteriorate.”

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