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Cryptocurrency and holiday timeshare scams double in a year

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
More people are falling victim to scams involving cryptocurrency, binary option investments and holiday timeshares, according to a charity’s data.

Citizens Advice said it’s seen an increase in cases reported in the following areas:

  • Cryptocurrency: fake websites claim to offer cryptocurrency investments, like Bitcoin. Often, scammers will pretend that household names have endorsed the company to give it some legitimacy
  • Binary options: scammers pose as stockbrokers and get you to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date. They’ll promise big returns. You should check if they are on the FCA Register and not on the warning list of firms to avoid
  • Holiday timeshares: scammers promise to buy your membership for an advanced fee
  • Bogus solicitors: a scammer will intercept emails from a legitimate solicitor and pose as them. Scammers often strike when a property is being exchanged and they divert the funds to their bank account instead. Check if they are on the Solicitors Regulation Authority to see if they are genuine.

In one case seen, a former finance professional fell for a sophisticated clone investment scam after investing £25,000 in a company she thought was legitimate. The scammer had set up a clone website in a regulated investment company’s name.

In another case, a working mum turned to Citizens Advice after realising her cryptocurrency investment was a scam. She initially invested £500 in what she thought was Bitcoin and, after receiving daily calls about her growing investment, she continued to invest a total of £40,000.

As well as these investment scams doubling from 109 last year to 235 this year, the charity reported a rise in people falling victim to scammers posing as professionals from financial and legal services, with such cons now accounting for a fifth of all scams it deals with.

There was a 6% increase of these types of professional and financial scams reported to Citizens Advice’s Consumer Service this financial year, with the average person losing £330. Last year it dealt with 6,000 scam cases in total.

But with the shame, embarrassment and shock of falling victim to such a scam, many more could be unreported.

Citizens Advice is urging anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam to report it to authorities, through Action Fraud and the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Fraudsters are using new technology to peddle old tricks, posing as trustworthy professionals with persuasive offers.

“Anyone can fall victim to these sophisticated scams, but all too often it’s the victim rather than the scammer who are left feeling sheepish. This isn’t right. So, this year we want to break down the stigma around these serious crimes, which are targeted across all levels of society, yet remain under-reported.

“Scams Awareness Month is a great reminder we should all become familiar with the common signs of scams. People can take action and report any potential scams to the authorities so scammers aren’t walking away with your money in their bank account.”

Tips to help you avoid a scam

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Be wary if you’re asked to pay in an unusual way (such as vouchers)
  • Never send money to someone you have never met
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No thank you”
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams.

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