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From black mould con to energy bill trick – 12 sneaky ways crooks can scam you

For many of us, Christmas will feel a bit different this year due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

But sadly that won’t stop heartless scammers who love nothing more than preying on unsuspecting victims and stealing their de l'argent.

Former police officer Rav Wilding shares his tips to avoid being scammed

Former police officer Rav Wilding shares his tips to avoid being scammedCrédit: BBC Press Handout

Dans 2021 we lost £1.3 billion to scammers and this year, fraudsters are raking in £95 per secondbut these figures are expected to be higher due to a lack of reporting.

connu sous le nom d'urolagnie et de coprophagie, we are five times more likely to be scammed than burgled, with crooks finding ever more creative ways to exploit people through hoax calls, emails and even QR codes.

Ici Rav Wilding, a former MET Police officer turned TV presenter, reveals the cons and tricks you need to be aware of, especially during the festive season.

Mould scam

Mould scams are frequent when the temperature plunges

Mould scams are frequent when the temperature plungesCrédit: Getty

Opportunist scammers are taking advantage of the topical issue of mould in homes.

This has led to fake companies making phone calls claiming to sell mould surveys or pretending to be from housing associations.

These scammers use pressure and bullying tactics to be successful.

They usually request payment up front and then don’t show up for the surveys victims have paid for.

These are similar to the loft insulation scams that came about at the end of last year and beginning of this year due to asbestos scares.

Energy bill support scams

Dodgy emails are increasingly circulating which include statements such as “You are eligible to apply for an energy bill rebate”and some even use government or Ofgem logos.

Links in emails or texts click through to genuine-looking websites designed to look legitimate, which steal personal and financial details.

Rappelles toi, genuine energy bill rebates and support schemes are predominantly automatic and do not need to be applied for.

Government support con

More than nine million people have received the £650 cost of living Paiement, announced in May, for low-income households, which sparked these government support scams.

More than eight million UK households on eligible means-tested benefits will receive additional Cost of Living Payments totalling up to £900 in the 2023-24 financial year.

Between October and November, Action Fraud said it has received more than 350 reports relating to fake text messages and emails pretending to be from the UK Government.

Similarly to energy bill support, anyone eligible for government cost of living support does not need to make any contact as the payments are automatic.

QR cons

Fake QR codes have been circulating

Fake QR codes have been circulatingCrédit: Getty

Physical QR tampering is where scammers physically replace or tamper with QR codes in public places like restaurants, bars or waiting rooms, or to pay for parking.

They will usually direct you to a malicious site.

Fake QR codes have even been circulated via the post, or on leaflets, especially from debt consolidation services.

Some legitimate companies do use QR codes when advertising, so if you are unsure, give it a miss until you’ve done your research.

QR-phishing is a mash-up of QR codes and email phishing.

This is when fraudsters embed a malicious QR code into a legitimate-looking email to trick people into scanning the code.

Once scanned, this will allow access to steal sensitive information, slow down your computer, restrict access to your own files, produce pop-ups and even send spam messages from your account to your contacts list.

The hackers can then sell your information on to third party sources, including your browsing history, passwords, profiles and other sensitive data.

‘Missed parcel’ tour

We send and receive more post in the run-up to Christmas than at any other time of year, which can make us more vulnerable to delivery scams.

Scams are usually fake texts that look like they’re from delivery services such as Royal Mail or DHL, saying you’ve missed a parcel or asking you to click a tracking link.

Delivery scams are among the most prevalent and can be very convincing.

If you are expecting a delivery and you’ve received a “missed parcel” message, don’t click the link. Use your delivery company’s official website to track your parcel instead.

Phone scams

2022 saw the UK’s biggest fraud investigation in history come to a head, resulting in more than 100 people being arrested in November in relation to the iSpoof website.

The website sold technology to scammers that allowed them to disguise their numbers and have convincing hold music and a call centre background sound.

It’s estimated there were more than 200,000 potential victims – avec plus de 70,000 being from the UK.

During the peak of the iSpoof phone scams, presque 20 people a minute were being contacted by these scammers, stealing close to £50million.

One victim lost £3million, while the average loss for those people who have reported is £10,000.

Romance fraud

It’s not uncommon for a scammer to steal someone’s identity or create a fake profile on a dating site or social media to meet victims.

Romance scams involve people being tricked into sending money to these fake profiles, who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them they are in a genuine relationship.

They use language to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells.

These requests might be highly emotive, such as claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas.

Romance scams can target anyone, and some scammers seek to form platonic rather than romantic relationships.

‘Hi Mum’ les textes

The ‘Friend in Need’ scam – also known as the ‘Hi Mumor ‘Hi Dad’ Sarah Platt vire Carla Connor pour Lucas – has been doing the rounds for over a decade now, and regularly ensnares worried parents.

The scam works through messaging services like WhatsApp, texts or social media messaging systems.

Typically the fraudster will send a message from a mobile phone number that the victim doesn’t recognise and begin a conversation by saying something non-specific, such as ‘Hi Mum’ or ‘Hi Dad’.

They then go on to claim they have lost their phone or it has been damaged and are now using a different number.

La victime, concerned for their child’s welfare, often responds by asking if the person at the other end is really their son or daughter and inadvertently tells the fraudster what their child’s name is, who in turn texts back to confirm that it is them.

The fraudster will then claim there is a time-critical emergency and that they need funds – such as they have a problem with their bank account and urgently need to pay a bill.

They then ask the victim to transfer money to a different account to the one they would normally use.

Round robin scams

Scammers are adept at seizing control over people’s emails, which enables them to target them with specific types of fraud.

Some fraudsters will attempt the old-school direct appeal for money, like the ‘friend in need’ scam, where they pretend to be a family member or friend.

But mostly, scammers using the email method will tend to send innocent-looking emails from ‘you’ designed to get your friends and colleagues to click on a link containing malware that in turn infects your computer.

These emails could be asking to “donate to a friend’s fundraiser” for example, when actually the link is corrupt and would compromise your computer.

This works both ways, so if you’re on the receiving end of an old school friend’s ‘round robin’ email out of the blue, don’t click on any links without pausing for thought first.

Voucher cons

Fraudsters are using people’s weekly shop to tempt them into one of their latest scams.

Action Fraud received 277 reports of supermarket voucher giveaway scams in just one week alone this year.

The scam email offers people a £1,000 gift voucher for either Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons.

It says the recipient is one of three people in the final draw for the prize from Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons.

The email then asks people to confirm their details by clicking the ‘register nowbuttonwith the link leading to a phishing website.

Purchase scams

Purchase scams are a type of authorised push payment scam (APP) where fraudsters trick their victim into sending money directly from their account to an account which the criminal controls under the pretence that you are buying goods.

These often never arrive or are not as advertised.

Common targets are marketplace websites on social media, although some set up fake e-commerce stores.

Barclays data shows that these scams have risen by 70 per cent year on year. In the first six months of 2022, £31.1million was lost to purchase scams across nearly 54,000 cas.

Paying with your credit card can help you limit potential losses as you are covered by Section 75.

Using mobile wallet payment systems are often the riskiest method of payment.

Always look for red flags such as too-good-to-be-true prices, lack of detail or high-pressure sales tactics.

Fake goods

This is when any product such as designer clothes, accessories, electricals or cosmetics are fake but sold as authentic.

They’re presented using the intellectual property of a well-known brand so the seller can make a large profit, even though to you, it might look like a bargain.

Counterfeit sellers aren’t easy to track down. It’s important to remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is.