If you follow the news, you’ll know that cases of fraud are increasing and the number of fraudulent activities reported has risen dramatically since the beginning of the COVID- 19 pandemic. Whilst the primary type of fraud that we see is digital fraud, there are other types of fraud you should be aware of, such as text messages, telephone calls and even door to door callers.

Digital fraud has been around since the beginning of the digital age; however, it is becoming more prevalent. Digital fraud can be highly sophisticated, and many people become victims, not realising anything is amiss until it’s too late and their details or money have already been stolen.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, fraudsters have been targeting people and collecting payments for fake COVID-19 treatments, tricking unsuspecting people into donating money to charities that don’t exist, and so much more. Data estimates that the fraud rate rose by 33% during the first period of lockdown in the UK [source] as people attempted to cash in during a difficult financial time for many.

The fact that more and more people are now making purchases online (which has again been fuelled by the pandemic) makes it even easier for hackers to commit fraud. Making purchases online is easy and quick; however, it also creates many opportunities for unscrupulous people to cash in.

Phishing emails and smishing text messages from people impersonating trusted organisations have also been rising in recent years. Phone calls from people posing as banks, building societies, mobile phone providers, energy companies and retail sources like Amazon are also widespread. They’ll typically ask for specific details from you to confirm your identity, when in fact, they’re attempting to use your details for fraudulent activities. They are often so convincing that many people don’t question it until they’ve already handed over their information.

If you suspect fraudsters are targeting you, it’s important to stop what you’re doing as soon as you think something may be wrong. Don’t give any personal information without first verifying they are who they purport to be. For example, if you receive an email from HMRC saying you’re owed a tax refund and asking you to click on a link and enter your details, don’t click the link. Instead, use a search engine to look up the official phone number for HMRC and phone and ask whether this is genuine or not. This is the smartest way to verify whether something is to be trusted or not.

Remember:

Stop – take a moment to think before parting with your money or information

Challenge – could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests you think may be fraudulent

Protect – contact your bank immediately if you feel you’ve been a victim of a scam and report it to Action Fraud