Scams are like viruses. Every time we start to understand them, and build our defences to protect ourselves, they evolve to exploit new vulnerabilities.
It means that while we understand the signs of a scam better than ever, we also need to be aware of the new variants doing the rounds, so we can take steps to protect ourselves from these too.
Scams Awareness Fortnight — 13 to 26 June — is a good opportunity to get to grips with five new threats attacking us right now.
The mum & dad Whatsapp scam
This is a horrible con that cashes in on the kindness of family.
Scammers will contact you via Whatsapp, pretending to be friends or family members. They’ll start with a plausible reason for using a different phone — so they may say they’ve lost or broken it — then they’ll ask for money.
They’ll usually ask you to send a photo of the front and back of your card, which they can then use to spend on your account.
Never send a photo of the front and back of your card to anyone for any reason.
If a family member asks for money through social media or an app, call them separately on a number you trust and ask if it’s them.
Block the number, so the scammers can’t contact you again.
The energy rebate rip off
Fraudsters will always use something that’s in the news to catch you out, so when chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the £400 energy bill rebate, they were quick to cash in.
The con starts with a text message claiming you need to follow the instructions in order to get your cash. It links to a fake Ofgem website, which asks you to enter your details and set up a direct debit. This allows them to steal your financial details.
It’s worth knowing that this rebate will arrive in your energy account automatically — you don’t have to do anything.
Bear in mind that no reputable company will ask for personal details via text or phone.
If you get a text or email from anyone you don’t know, never click on the links.
The price comparison con
The eye-watering rises in the energy price cap have also provided scammers with an opportunity. They know people will be checking price comparison sites to see if they can cut their bills, so they call pretending to be from a well-known comparison site.
They say there’s a special deal you can take advantage of, but it’s only available to a small number of people, so you need to act now.
Then they’ll ask for payment details, which will give them what they need to access your account.
Be aware that price comparison sites won’t just call you because you’ve done a search for cheaper energy.
If there’s an offer, it will either be sent by the energy company to their existing customers, or be on comparison sites as available to everyone. They don’t do special offers for a small number of people chosen at random.
If anyone puts you under pressure to make a quick decision, it’s a sure sign of a scam.
The Facebook Marketplace swindlers
Police have warned of a growing fraud on Facebook Marketplace, which targets anyone selling relatively high value items — like cars or computers.
They agree to buy, and pick up the item in person. Then when they arrive, they show the seller a fake banking app, which appears to show the money has gone into the seller’s account. It’s only after they’ve left that they they log into their own banking app and see the money isn’t there.
Before you hand anything over, check your own banking app or PayPal to make sure the money is there.
Don’t believe a buyer if they say there must be a delay in it showing up. Ask them to leave and come back when you know the money has arrived.
Don’t be embarrassed. They’re relying on people being too polite to question what they say.
The DVLA desperados
The DVLA has warned that scammers are sending texts and emails claiming to be from them.
The messages say that your road tax is due for renewal — or that your payment has failed and you need to re-submit the details.
You’re told to click on a link, which takes you to a fake DVLA website, where you’re told to input your bank details. This gives the criminals access to your account.
Bear in mind that the DVLA will never email or text and ask you to give personal or bank details.
They will never get you to log into an account either.
If your car tax is due, you will have a reminder letter from DVLA, and you will be able to pay using the government website, or at a Post Office.