Covid lockdown is being exploited by con artists so watch out for scams! – Steve Cardownie

The incidence of scams has increased dramatically since lockdown as criminals seek to exploit the situation and take advantage of the isolation people find themselves in.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 7:00 am
Beware unexpected emails that seem too good to be true, ask for personal information or prompt you to click on a hyperlink (Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

One thing scammers cannot be accused of is lack of enterprise when it comes down to conning people out of money, particularly by the innovative use of text messaging and email facilities.

The old scams still exist of course and I wonder how many of us have been told that a long lost distant family member that no one has heard of has recently died in a car accident in South Africa and, as the only living relative, £20 million is lying in a bank just waiting to be claimed by submitting personal bank details to an email address in Kenya or suchlike?

Crude and laughable, however more sophisticated measures are also being adopted in an effort to relieve us of money, or, in some tragic cases, life savings and the public should be on heightened alert.

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It would be impossible to compose an exhaustive list of scammers tactics but there are some tell-tale signs that might indicate that you are potentially about to become a victim of one.

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Scammers will usually encourage you to make a quick decision but you should not be bullied into giving out private information. If they continue to push you, you might detect the distinct aroma of fish. Do a little research before making a decision and ask around.

If someone requires you to pay upfront by wiring money, paying cash or by gift card it could be a scam as such transactions are unlikely to be traceable and it is doubtful that any monies will be retrieved if needed.

Robocalls with a recorded sales pitch are illegal and you should not respond by pressing a number to speak to someone – far better just hang up or better still if you are suspicious don’t answer in the first place.

If you receive a text or email from someone you don’t know this could be an example of phishing, which is an attempt to get you to give away personal information for the fraudsters’ purposes.

If you are asked to click on a link to download an attachment a link for you to “log into” your account and you do so, you might end up with a malicious virus or stolen identity. Anything that looks dodgy should be ignored or be prepared to potentially suffer the consequences.

The authorities are doing their best to combat this latest threat and Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “During this pandemic we have seen criminals using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people’s financial concerns, impersonating trusted organisations like the NHS or HMRC to trick them into giving away their money or information. We would always urge people to follow the advice of the ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud’ campaign to keep their money and personal information safe from fraudsters.”

Five useful tips to be borne in mind if you are on the receiving end of requests for money or personal financial details that may help thwart criminals in their attempts to steal from people who, in many cases during lockdown, are at their most vulnerable.

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