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One in 10 Brits lost average of £550 to scammers during pandemic

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More than one in 10 Brits have fallen victim to a coronavirus-related scam over the past two months, research shows.

The survey by credit reference agency TransUnion found 12% of British adults have successfully been scammed out of an average of £550 each or £3.6bn collectively.

Nearly a quarter of Brits have been targeted by digital fraud since the start of the pandemic, the findings suggest.

Email and phone scams were most common, but more than one in 10 scams were carried out in person.

The types of scam reported include donating money for personal protective equipment, known as PPE, or to companies claiming to offer a cure for the virus, as well as buying goods in short supply – such as toilet roll or hand sanitiser – that never turned up.

According to the research, people aged 18 to 34 and living in major cities are most likely to fall victim to a Covid-19 related scam and lose money as a result, and men are almost twice as likely to be conned than women.

John Cannon, managing director of fraud and ID at TransUnion in the UK, said: “Unfortunately, it’s common for scammers to exploit our fears during times of turmoil, such as a global pandemic.

“People can find it particularly difficult to spot fraud in a changing environment where we’re facing new and different situations.

“It’s essential that people take extra care at this time and remain vigilant to fraudsters and some of their common tactics, such as phishing emails, fake websites and bogus texts.”

TransUnion’s tips to help reduce the risk of fraud:

  • Avoid clicking links in emails or messages unless you’re sure you know the origin. It’s okay to ignore emails that are unsolicited
  • Don’t be rushed, take time to check something out if you’re worried and use your common sense. If the claim seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement
  • When online, make sure the webpage you are visiting is HTTPS protected or shows a green padlock – both of which can be spotted in the domain bar. This indicates that it’s secure
  • Check the reliability of the source – for example, legitimate websites are likely to be typo-free, in good written English and informative
  • Try to avoid connecting to public WiFi when shopping online, as it tends to be less secure than personal WiFi connections. Fraudsters can use public WiFi records to download traceable data, like location, device details and shopping habits
  • When downloading apps make sure you download them through the Apple App Store or Play Store app. Downloading an app from e-mail could be a phishing attempt
  • Don’t share any personal or financial information without checking first and be suspicious if you’re asked for your password or PIN
  • Report scams immediately to Action Fraud and contact your bank if you’ve lost money
  • Regularly check your credit report to help understand and protect your financial standing through the pandemic. This can also help you monitor for fraudulent activity if someone tries to use your identity in a scam.

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