Scams – tips and advice

Every day there is a new type of ruse to part you from your money.  As a member of the U3A, you are inevitably thought of as a target for scammers.  This page seeks to reassure you and help you to resist the thieves.  Please see also the Scams Forum, which details current scams recorded locally – you can add your own reports and comment on existing ones. 

There is a very good article on the BBC news site which details the following:

Covid-19 financial support scams

1. Fake government emails, which look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500.  The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information.

2. Scam emails offering access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’, which encourage victims to fill in a form and hand over their personal information.

3. Official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’.  The emails contain links that lead to a fake government website, which harvests personal and financial information.

4. Benefit recipients are offered help in applying for universal credit, but fraudsters grab some of the payment as an advance for their ‘services’.

Health scams

5. Phishing emails claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19.  They lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.

6. Fake adverts for non-existent coronavirus-related products, such as hand sanitizer and face masks, which simply take the victim’s cash and send them nothing.

Lockdown scams

7. Fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months for free because of the pandemic.  Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website, which steals their personal and financial information.

8. Emails asking people to update their TV subscription services payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.

9. Fake profiles on social media sites are used to manipulate victims into handing over their money.  Criminals will often use the identities of real people to strike up conversation with their targets.

10. Fake investment opportunities are advertised on social media sites, encouraging victims to ‘take advantage of the financial downturn’.  Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake companies using fake websites.

Threats

Attacks may come in different forms, and these are common ones, but not the only ones:

    • Email.  An email may contain a serious threat to your computer security – either in the form of a virus or as something more serious.   While simply reading an email text is not normally a threat, the advice is NEVER to open an attachment (particularly a Zip file [.zip] or a Word document [.doc or .docx]) unless you know and trust the sender.  Beware of emails which appear to come from a service provider when they start ‘Dear Customer’ or similar – if your supplier knows your email, they also know your name and will use it.  Emails are appearing which look ok, but their content can be concerning or even worrying – they may tell you that a delivery service is trying to deliver a parcel, or ….   These will have a link, but do not be tempted to follow the link.
    • Telephone. There is a spate of automated telephone calls which try to engage you (whether it is Amazon Prime, Tax repayment, Microsoft support, or other ‘official sounding’ caller) – typically these will want you to press key 1 to continue – NEVER press key 1! – This action engages the scammer’s systems, and can cause great difficulty.  Please note that you may attempt to block such a caller’s number, only to find the nuisance recurring – this is because the number that is shown as the originator is, of course, itself a fake.

Links for help and advice

Police and official help

Action Fraud   Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

Minehead Police  

Neighbourhood Watch Scheme    Well worth joining to get details of new scams and suspicious activity near you

Charities and public advice

Get Safe Online (getsafeonline.org) 

Staying Safe Online (Age UK)

20+ Coronavirus scams – Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert)

Banks – all banks will have some help: here are just a couple

HSBC – Protect yourself against Fraud

Barclays – Fraud and Protection

Lloyds – Protect yourself from fraud