A new wave of convincing scams is “bombarding consumers from every direction”, according to consumer group Which?.
The group has issued a warning about the four most convincing scams seen so far this year, such as “pig butchering” and fake missing person appeals.
Lisa Barber, Which? tech editor, said: “It’s appalling that 2023 has seen scammers continuing to thrive, as a new wave of convincing scams bombards consumers from every direction.
“Consumers can help protect themselves from scams by accessing the wide range of free, expert advice on Which?’s website, from signing up to our scam alerts service to getting answers on how to get their money back if they do fall victim to fraud.”
Which? says the scams to watch out for include:
The scammer and victim usually meet on a dating site and, after gaining their trust (“fattening them up”) the scammer eventually asks the victim to move on to a private messaging service, removing them from the protections offered by the dating website.
The scammer claims to have been a successful investor – usually in property or cryptocurrency – and offers to invest some of the victim’s money.
The victim is sometimes shown a crypto-trading platform controlled by the scammer and encouraged to sign up and deposit money.
One UK-based victim lost £107,000 to a scam like this, Which? said, believing she was investing in retirement apartments overseas.
Fake missing person appeals
People are asked to share fake online posts about missing people.
Near-identical posts are shared around the world with the location changed. Comments are turned off on the posts so that people cannot alert others to the inconsistencies.
After the post has gained many likes, it is edited to be about something different, such as an investment scam – the large number of likes add credibility.
Which? suggested sharing only posts from official organisations, such as police or missing persons charities.
When people receive a “money request” from a genuine PayPal address – it might seem real but scammers can send out fake payment requests, often for high-value items, or posing as HMRC demanding “overdue” tax payments.
Do not pay PayPal invoices you do not recognise or call phone numbers in those invoices, Which? said.
Fake app scams
Apps that install malware on phones, steal data and perpetuate scams.
App stores do take steps to tackle the problem, but threats remain. When installing an app, click on the developer’s name and check what other apps it has made. Also check that the app’s request for permission – such as a request to use the camera – are relevant to the app’s functions.
Remember also that app reviews can be fake.
Fraudsters impersonating genuine providers
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People who believe they may have been scammed should contact their payment provider and report the scam to Action Fraud.
Earlier this month, the government published a new strategy aimed at dealing with fraud – banning cold calls for all financial products, such as those relating to insurance or sham crypto schemes.
There are also plans for the government to work with Ofcom to tackle number spoofing, so fraudsters cannot impersonate legitimate UK phone numbers.
These plans will allow banks to delay processing payments for longer to enable suspect transactions to be investigated.