Every year, Citizens Advice runs Scams Awareness Fortnight with the Consumer Protection Partnership. Our guest explains what they’ve learnt about scams over the past year.
This is a guest post by Citizens Advice. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Last year, we spoke to Which? about how we can stand together to take action against scams. We wrote this in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic – when there were more scams around than ever before.
One year on and the picture is getting worse. But what have we learnt?
Anyone can fall victim to scams
People often assume that it’s older, less “digitally savvy” people that get scammed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Citizens Advice research found that while scammers are most likely to target over 55s, under 34s are almost five times more likely to fall victim.
This is for a couple of reasons; younger people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, they’re more likely to have lost jobs and be behind on their bills. Scammers prey on this vulnerability.
Younger people also spend more time online – giving scammers more opportunities to trick them, while many have a false confidence when it comes to staying safe. Younger people often think they’d never fall for a scam, and that they’d know how to spot one – but our data suggests this isn’t true.
There are many scams that target younger people on social media, including;
⚠ The offer of discounted designer or luxury items that are fake or non-existent
⚠ Friend requests from people not known to you to – this can lead to scams such as romance fraud or catfishing
⚠ Exciting job opportunities for non-existent roles
Scammers change their tactics frequently
Fraudsters have adapted their techniques whenever there’s been a new development in the pandemic. In March last year, Action Fraud warned about sales of face masks which were never delivered, while there were reports of people being tricked into paying for lists of infected people in their area.
In June 2020, scammers circulated fake emails about Test and Trace which harvested victims’ details, and new scams appeared when the vaccination rollout began.
Scammers sent fake text messages offering people the chance to sign up for the vaccine. The links took people to phishing websites to gather personal and financial details.
A rise in investment scams
More recently, scammers are taking advantage of the financial pressures people are under. We found that scammers have targeted two in three adults since the beginning of the year. Out of those, 12% were from someone offering a fake investment or get rich quick scheme. Some of the main scams we’ve seen are:
⚠ Adverts offering fake “Get Rich Quick” schemes
⚠ Phone calls, texts or emails pretending to be from your bank, asking you to move your money or to provide your personal details
⚠ Scam emails or automated calls pretending to be from the government or an official company
⚠ An offer of a pensions review out of the blue
The importance of reporting scams
Reporting scams helps authorities stop the criminals responsible and protects others. Whilst scammers don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, the good news is that more people are reporting them.
Compared with the same period last year, we’ve seen a 123% increase in reports to our Consumer Service about scams. This is important because reporting informs the work of advice and enforcement agencies to prevent future scams.
By learning how scammers operate, and helping each other understand what to look out for, we can all work together to stop fraudsters in their tracks. As the situation changes with coronavirus, scammers will find new ways to exploit people – reporting scams as soon as you come across them is a vital tool in keeping up with them.
If you need further advice from us, you can get in touch with our Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. You can also report scams via our Scams Action service.
Our annual awareness campaign is running until 27 June – want to get involved? Here’s how.
This was a guest post by Citizens Advice. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.