Scams: the old and new tricks to look for now

6 min read
January 28, 2021

If there’s one thing you can bet on changing and moving with the times, it’s a scam. Sadly it seems like they’re not going away and even the most vigilant or cynical of us can be caught out if it’s just convincing enough.

When times are hard, you can count on scammers to get bolder, targeting you and your cash in an ever-increasing and inventive number of ways. Some ‘old classics’ just keep evolving. But there are new types of scam out there too. Here are some of the latest (and oldies) to watch out for.

The Covid-19 vaccine scams

Perhaps the most topical scams out there are those where victims receive emails, calls or texts claiming to offer a slot for a Covid-19 vaccine – for a charge. In some extreme cases reported, people are being called-on at their homes by scammers offering to administer vaccines there and then for a fee. 

The NHS has warned explicitly that it will never:

  • Ask you for your bank account or card details
  • Ask you for your PIN or banking password
  • Arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
  • Ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents e.g. passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

When you are due for a vaccine, the NHS will contact you by phone or email, and letter but simply to allow you to book an appointment. If at any point you are asked for any of the above (or you get a visit to your home that is completely unexpected), you can be sure it’s a scam. So if this happens to you, please report it to Action Fraud.

The text scams 

They arrive on your phone randomly – and they’re getting more convincing. Often they’ll be claiming to be from official organisations, such as HMRC, and will claim anything that sounds like you need to act urgently. We’ve heard of texts claiming they’re due a tax refund or that they owe money. Often they’ll come from what looks like a genuine mobile phone number. 

But take a step back and think – would a government department – or any official entity – send you a random text out of the blue and simply ask you to click a link for a quick claim or to make that payment?

Newer versions claim to be from specific providers. Most of us know to be suspicious if we  receive a text from a bank they’ve never used. But we’ve heard lately of texts being sent claiming to be from an individual’s own mobile provider, saying their monthly payment was ‘unsuccessful’ and that their account will be suspended. ‘Conveniently’ there’s a link to a website to sort out the issue. If you’re unfortunate enough for that payment timing to be bang on, you’ll be forgiven for not questioning it.

Basically, any text you’re not expecting – think twice. If it’s claiming to be from your provider – don’t just click that link – contact them (and your bank if it’s a different provider) directly, either by phone or by email, on details you find on their official websites to ask if the message is genuine. If you have however made that click through and you’re concerned, contact your provider and your bank/credit card company immediately and ask for your account to be monitored or blocked.

The phone scams

How many of us have received calls that are either silent on the end of the line or – the age old one – ‘we hear you’ve been in an accident’? But phone scams are getting more inventive. 

Action Fraud warned as recently as last week of a scam where people are contacted to be told their National Insurance number has been compromised and that they have to hand their personal details over the phone to obtain a new one. And we’ve heard of calls claiming to be from HMRC aggressively warning people that they are ‘under investigation’ for tax fraud – even being told a warrant is out for their arrest.

The golden rule. Take a step back and hang up. If you are at all concerned then contact the departments concerned directly through their official phone number or website. Never assume that they are calling you – no matter how convincing or aggressive that person on the other end of the phone is. 

The sim-swap scam

We all have a lot of personal information swirling around on the internet. Even innocent ‘sign up’ sheets online can involve key data like your date of birth or contact deals being let loose and traded.

The sim-swap scam involves fraudsters sifting through this data and gathering enough to build up a pretty good guess of what your personal log-in details to official sites might be. Once they have enough information, the fraudster contacts your mobile phone provider and requests a sim card swap, which allows them to access your private details from official notifications and emails from banks and other financial services. 

A new variation on the scam involves requesting a PAC – a way to simplify switching to a new phone provider by text that rather unfortunately can also facilitate this scam. This can happen to anyone.

Vigilance is the best defence here. Keep an eye on your bills and bank statements. If you spot anything suspicious, get in touch with both your bank and mobile provider immediately. It’s not hard to lock down your private details with a phone company or bank as soon as they know you’ve been hacked.

The spoofing scam

This is where the scammer uses technology that means they can impersonate a provider’s number, so when you see it on your phone, you may think it’s real. They ask for your online passwords or codes and trick you into giving them what they need to access your accounts. 

However, a sophisticated version of this was reported by Action Fraud last month, which warned of messages claiming to be from parcel courier DPD stating that delivery drivers were unable to deliver their package – then providing instructions to arrange a re-delivery. The messages linked to fraudulent websites that asked for a payment. If victims made the payment, they were then contacted by someone claiming to be from their bank telling them they had suspicious transactions on their account.

Victims were then informed that their bank account may be compromised and were  instructed to transfer their money to ‘an alternative secure account’ but actually their money is being transferred into an account under the fraudster’s control.

Put simply, your bank will never ask you for your passwords or security codes over the phone. If at any point the caller is doing this, don’t be afraid to hang up.

The push payment scam

The scammer calls you and pretends to be from your bank or impersonates an authority figure such as a police officer. You are told your account has been compromised and need to transfer your cash to a new account. 

More worryingly, they may tell you to call the number on your bank card but can stay on the line when you hang up to do so. In this case, wait at least five minutes before you make that call – or use a different line if you have the option. 

 The courier fraud scam

This is similar to the push payment scam, but the scammer tells you that they will send a courier to collect your bank card after getting your details. In the worst examples, people are told their local bank staff are the fraudsters and are made to go in and transfer the money out. 

Your bank card is yours – you should not hand it over to anyone unless you are handing it to a cashier at your bank. 

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, or you’ve had what you think is suspicious contact, please report it by contacting Action Fraud. Resolver can also help raise the issue directly with your providers – use us for free to submit your issue.

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