INTERNET scamming is bigger than ever, with sophisticated online ‘schools’ now teaching tricksters how to con unsuspecting victims out of billions.
In the past year alone, £2.6billion was lost to online fraud and experts say the problem has worsened during the pandemic, with more people complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
And it’s not just older, more vulnerable people who are falling victim.
Fraudsters are now attending online lessons in how to dupe us from all angles.
Here we reveal some of the new online cons to look out for, and how to best protect yourself . . .
‘Hello mum' plea for cash
CONSUMER watchdog Which? has seen a spike in reports of scammers impersonating a son or daughter in need and asking their families for financial help on WhatsApp.
Action Fraud revealed there were 25 reports of the scam between August and October last year, with victims losing almost £50,000.
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The scammers pretend to be the victim’s child and say they are texting from a new mobile, as their own phone has been lost or damaged.
They then ask for money to buy a new phone, or claim they need to pay a bill.
Jonny Sabinsky, from budgeting expert think-money, says: “To spot a scam like this, try to reach out to the family member who appears to be contacting you from the number you originally have saved on your contacts list — not the ‘new’ number that has contacted you out of the blue.”
Fake alert from bank
FROM TV subscriptions to banking apps, scammers are pretending to be reputable companies sending text and email alerts as a ploy to gain access to your personal details.
They might ask you to download another banking app to generate a one-time password to authorise a payment, or they may claim to be your bank intercepting a fraudulent payment made from your account.
Jonny says: “If a text pops up from Sky, Amazon or your bank, you don’t tend to think it could be a scam.
"However, fraudsters are capitalising on just that to gain access to customer accounts and steal money.
“Scammers will often contact you directly over the phone or through SMS or emails pretending to be a company that is familiar to you.
"Remember, large reputable businesses will never request your one-time passcode to authorise a payment, so this is a major red flag to look out for.
“Other tell-tale signs include spelling errors in the message, the phone number not being the same as on your bank card, a link taking you to another website, or addressing you as Sir or Madam rather than your full name.”
Instagram investment scams
JONNY says: “Cryptocurrency is a big conversation within the investment world.
"Scammers are using social media platforms, particularly Snapchat and Instagram, to access people’s personal information and make an investment sales pitch that’s tailored to their victims.
"They’ll try to lure you in with a low initial investment and the promise of huge profits in just a few days.
“In fact you’ll be pressured to make more payments before ever seeing a profit, and the scammers will vanish, along with your money.
“If you aren’t sure what you are investing in, check online or with the Financial Conduct Authority to make sure the seller is reputable.”
Texts from couriers and 'Royal Mail'
THE number of scams relating to delivery services such as Royal Mail has soared.
Jonny adds: “One to note is a text or email asking for a delivery or courier fee payment.
“If you receive this message, do not click on any links provided. They will take you to a fake website that will ask for your personal details.
“If you happen to have filled out your details on the website, again, contact your bank.”
Royal Mail will only ever send text and email notifications if you have requested them and will only ask for a payment if a customs fee is due.
If that is the case, it will also send a grey fee card in the post, so you can be sure it’s genuine.
Facebook Marketplace fraudsters
FACEBOOK Marketplace is a convenient way for buyers and sellers to list and sell items.
However, one in six have been scammed while using it, according to a survey by thinkmoney, and one in 11 have been approached by a fake profile.
Fake buyers contact those who are selling items offering to pay but don’t send the money. Or unsuspecting victims can be asked to click on a link — never click it.
Jonny says: “When it comes to spotting a scammer, here are a few red flags to look out for: a fake profile, a seller harassing you for payment or an unknown seller requesting a Paypal ‘friends and family’ payment.
“When paying for goods or services online, we recommend using the PayPal ‘goods and services’ option instead of the ‘friends and family’ option.
“This is because there is more buyer protection, and you could claim your money back if you do not receive what you have paid for.”
To report a seller who you believe to be suspicious use the ‘report seller’ link which can be found against their listing.
To report a buyer, do this by clicking on a listing they purchased.
TEXTS or emails about Covid vaccine passports have become a new way for scammers to steal personal details.
Jonny says: “They will text or email you, saying, ‘Click here to get your Covid Passport’.
“Their text or email may look reputable but remember, the NHS will never ask you to make a payment or ask you to provide your bank details.
“In the UK, coronavirus vaccine passports will only be available via the National Health Services of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
“At no point will you be asked to pay for your passport. The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, your PIN or banking passwords.
“Neither will they ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.”
CITIZENS Advice suggests you contact your bank immediately and change relevant passwords.
Use the phone number on your bank’s website or the back of your bank card.
Don’t automatically trust phone numbers received in a message.
If you transferred money to a scammer in the last 24 hours, tell police immediately on 101.
After you’ve told your bank about the scam, look out for any unusual transactions.
Check your credit score online to see if there are applications for credit you don’t recognise.
If you lost any money, ask if you can get a refund. If you’re not happy with how the bank deals with your claim, complain to them.
If it’s been eight weeks since you complained, and you haven’t got a refund, contact the Financial Ombudsman.
'I felt smug, thinking I'd stopped the fraudsters'
CLICKING a link on a text message, Jessica Balodis thought she was arranging a parcel redelivery.
Instead she was redirected to a clone of the Royal Mail website and after paying the £2.10 charge, fraudsters took £1,000.
Jessica, 32, a PR director who lives in Islington, North London, says: “I’d ordered make-up, so when I got the text claiming to be from Royal Mail saying I had missed delivery, it made sense. Without thinking, I clicked on the link and inputted my debit card details.
“Then I realised it was unusual to pay for a redelivery. My gut instinct told me something wasn’t right.”
Jessica, inset, contacted her bank, Monzo, which disabled her internet banking app and cancelled her debit card.
She says: “I thought I’d done all I could to stop these criminals.
“Later that day, I began receiving notifications from Monzo confirming unauthorised transactions were being declined. I went to bed feeling smug, thinking they hadn’t got away with it.”
The next day Jessica received a call from someone claiming to be from Monzo’s fraud protection team.
She says: “I had no reason to think the call was fake. He asked me to take steps to protect my account.
“He ran through some other security checks and because I was in a rush, I stupidly gave the last three digits of my password and postcode.”
Jessica was told a £1,000 transaction was due to leave her account.
She says: “He urged me to move my full balance to my main Monzo pot and I approved a link to make the transfer.”
Jessica had transferred her £1,000 balance into the fraudsters’ bank account. Then the caller hung up.
After realising she was a victim of online fraud, she went back to Monzo – which reimbursed the full amount.
She says now: “Not everyone is as lucky as I am.
“I felt so stupid because normally I’m the first person to question how anyone can be so naive to fall for these scams. But I still got caught out.”
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