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One of the biggest growth industries during the pandemic has been fraud.

Depressingly, when times are hard, scammers get bolder, targeting you and your cash in an ever-increasing and inventive number of ways.

Some ‘old classics’ are back. I’ve had three boiler room investment scam calls in the last week alone.

Fake firm emails are becoming increasingly convincing and ubiquitous and push payment fraud – where people are persuaded to transfer thousands of pounds out of their account – are still far too common and devastating in their impact.

But there are new types of scam out there too. Here are a few to watch out for.

Sim-swap fraud

We all have a lot of personal information swirling around out there on the web.

Even innocent ‘sign up’ sheets online can involve key data like your date of birth or contact deals being let loose and traded on the web.

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.

Add to that information that’s been hacked or leaked from other organisations and fraudsters can obtain the key to your digital accounts really easily.

Once they have enough information, the fraudster contacts your mobile phone provider and requests a sim card swap – which then 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 code’ – a way to simplify switching to a new phone provider by text that rather unfortunatly can also facilitate this scam. This can happen to anyone – even Twitter’s Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey, got caught out recently.

Vigilance is the best defence here. Keep an eye on your bills and bank statements. If you spot anything suspicious, get in touch 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.

You can also use a free service, like to find out which companies have your personal data and request that they delete it as a way to prevent the fraud occurring.   

Topical issues

As Covid 19 ruined everyone’s holiday plans, so too did it generate a rush to get a refund from airlines and holiday firms.

Overwhelmed these businesses became hard to contact – and sometimes hostile to people seeking refunds they were entitled too.

Enterprising fraudsters stepped into the mix with a variation on the old ‘take a punt’ scam. They call people at random and to say that they’re processing holiday refunds (leaving out the name of the airline or holiday company).

If people don’t ask where they’re calling from but are waiting for a holiday refund, then they can easily fall for this low maintenance/high yield trick.

The fraudster simply takes their bank or card details ‘for the refund’ and then maxes them out.

Your bank or card provider will usually spot a glut of suspicious transactions but again, regularly check your online accounts for any suspicious activity.

The first thing fraudsters do when they pinch your bank details is change your address and then order goods to the fake address.

This is a surprisingly lo-fi fraud and works by the scammer selling on the card details to others.

Spoof caller fraud is still common with people pretending to be from banks or official organisations like the police.

Never transfer money or hand over your personal details off the back of a telephone call.

Social media and search drives

If you’ve found yourself scrolling through social media recently, you will have come across targeted advertisements for a range of products where you click through to buy.

While many of these companies are genuine, they’re often based outside of the UK which means if the goods or services are misrepresented or don’t turn up, your UK consumer rights may not apply.

There are also a lot of fake firms out there, or other businesses providing ‘knock-off’ versions of popular items like games consoles or ear buds. Treat these with suspicion.

Even if the goods turn up they may not meet safety standards. And just because a Kardashian is plugging it, it doesn’t mean it’s always the real deal.

Instagram influencers are a mixed bunch too. I’ve heard from loads of people upset by being lured into complex investment or FX (foreign exchange) trading schemes by online influencers.

These schemes aren’t exactly fraudulent, but they aren’t what they say they are.

 Despite claims that these schemes are a fast track to a big return, in reality, The European Securities and Markets Authority says up to 89% of people lose money in FX trades alone.

Anyone – literally anyone – can be fooled by these expert con artists. I’ve listened to telephone recordings of vishing and heard even cynical people can get worn down by the constant onslaught.

Though I hate to give them credit, the modern fraudster is very, very convincing. They have to be when the rewards are this high.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, please do report it. Action Fraud are the people to contact. Some fraudsters have been caught, though there’s often little money left.

But by reporting these thieves, you can help make life much harder for them.

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