Trick...or treat? Frightening financial fraud to fend off
Plus tips to help you steer clear of these scary scams
Melissa à October 31, 2020
It may be Halloween, but there are certain tricks you’ll want to ward off this season. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we shared some tips for avoiding scams during the outbreak. Many evil schemes to rob you of your money or steal your personal information are very sophisticated. UK Finance’s Take Five national campaign has added plenty of details on coronavirus-related scams for individuals and business owners to be aware of. To follow up on our earlier post, we’d like to share a summary of some of these wicked tactics that have been trending so far this year.
If you or someone you know is over the age of 75 and due for a TV licence fee change, listen up: an email that’s been going around impersonates the organisation and uses their official branding to trick you into giving up your financial information. The email claims that your payment has failed and includes a link that will prompt you to set up a new direct debit — don’t fall for it! Plenty of criminals set up fake websites that look exactly like the real thing but are only there to steal your personal and banking details.
Tip: Never click or download any suspicious links or attachments from unsolicited emails no matter how official or legitimate it seems.
Council tax reduction
Similarly, fraudsters are reaching out via email pretending to be from the “government” and offering you a council tax reduction. The email will also include a link so you can claim your reduction, but really it leads to another phoney website that they built to steal your financial information and even your identity.
Tip: Read and reread unsolicited emails. Watch for any typos or weird hyperlinks, which can be obvious indicators that it’s a scam. Don’t be afraid to Google and research any odd links.
With so many people working from home these days and kids homeschooling, we’re fully relying on a stable internet connection and at-home Wi-Fi to keep connected and get our work done on time. Criminals know just how dependent you’ve become on your Wi-Fi and are taking advantage of this. They’ll call you, impersonate your internet company and threaten to shut off your Wi-Fi connection unless you pay a fee. In a panic, you might feel pressured into providing your details, but stop, think and fight the urge to do so.
Tip: If you’re ever unsure who’s on the phone, hang up and call back using an official number on their website.
In a similar scenario, you may be contacted via telephone by a fake IT service provider telling you there are issues with your internet connection. They’ll advise you to download harmful software that could contain viruses, malware or even give the scammer remote access to your PC!
Tip: Scammers can spoof phone numbers (and emails and text messages). This means a call could appear like it’s coming from an authentic number but isn’t.
On the subject of remote work, we’re also relying much more on email communication with our colleagues instead of face-to-face meetings. Another type of phishing email that’s been common during this age of social distancing and telecommuting is an urgent email from someone on your team like a CEO, HR or finance. Once again, the email asks you to do something like move money, send banking or security information or change payment details for a contract or supplier. Due to spoofing, the message can appear to be coming from a genuine email account, usually from a boss, senior manager, even CEO.
Tip: Always confirm urgent payment requests directly with the sender, either in person or over the phone, if you’re still working from home.
As the whole of Europe is seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases amidst a second wave, people may probably enter into panic mode once again and start hoarding things like toilet paper, hand sanitiser, protective masks, gloves, etc. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing sellers on social media, new websites or even people contacting you via phone or mobile directly to sell you protective gear.
Tip: Only purchase from legitimate and reputable retailers or an official list of authorised sellers listed on a major brand’s website.
Government relief schemes
Whether it’s for individuals, families or small business owners, you may be fooled into clicking on a link offering you a government handout during these trying times. Scammers will target you via SMS or fake emails and ask you to click on a link to see if you’re eligible for the scheme. In fact, it’s just another way for them to obtain your personal and financial information.
Tip: It’s best to visit official government websites (type the website directly into your web browser) for information on Covid-19 relief grants.
Invoice and mandate scams
Another scam entrepreneurs need to be aware of is the invoice and mandate scam, which is when a criminal will impersonate one of your suppliers. Sometimes this information may be readily available on your company’s website or other channels. A scammer will then spoof and impersonate a supplier and ask you to update their bank account details. Later, when it’s time to pay an invoice from your supplier, you’ll have the fraudster’s bank account details on file and will have sent the money to them.
Tip: Double-check payment information before sending any money. If you’re working with a new supplier for the first time, transfer a small amount first and check payment has been received directly by the company.
In a world of social media and influencer culture, it’s easy to fall under the spell of our favourite celebrities if we see them endorsing a product or service. But remember: these fraudsters are creative and crafty! They’ll photoshop images of Hollywood stars to deceive you into false bitcoin scams and investments. They’ll flood the comment section of your favourite social media platforms with links to opportunities that are “too good to miss”. These links may take you to bogus websites or even infect your devices with malicious software.
Tip: Be cautious of social media posts or adverts using celebrity endorsements to trick you into investing and “too good to be true” offers.
Knock, knock...who’s there?
Don’t think that you can only fall victim to fraud online or via your mobile or telephone. Some criminals won’t think twice about walking up and ringing your doorbell! During this pandemic, people have been posing as health officials claiming that they need to inspect and assess homes and coerce you into handing over fees for this service.
Tip: Never let strangers into your home, and keep in mind that medical or health professionals won’t come to your home unannounced and without prior notification.
This is only a fraction of the type of scams that are floating around nowadays. There are plenty more out there as it’s the job of cybercriminals and fraudsters to come up with new schemes daily to trick innocent people out of their money. We must stay extra alert and question anything out of the ordinary that may come our way.
If you do suspect you’ve fallen victim to fraud using your Monese card or account:
- Lock your card immediately to avoid any other potential unauthorised transactions
- Contact support at firstname.lastname@example.org to report your situation — we’ll let you know how we’re able to help, and we’ll always advise you on the best steps to take depending on your problem
- Report it to the authorities: each country has an official authority for reporting cybercrime — in the UK, for example, you can report your situation to Action Fraud
And in the true spirit of Halloween, remember this: things aren’t always what they seem to be!
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Stay safe from fraud
Each year, the UK’s Citizens Advice runs a Scams Awareness Month campaign to inform people of the different scams happening out there, how to stay safe and what to do if you do happen to fall for a fraud scheme.