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Scammers using cost-of-living crisis to target people, charities warn

Charities warn scammers are using the cost of living to target more people (PA)
Charities warn scammers are using the cost of living to target more people (PA)

There has been a 14% increase in the number of adults who have been targeted by scammers this year, with perpetrators using the cost-of-living crisis to trick people, campaigners have warned.

Around 40 million adults in the UK have been targeted by potential scams, according to figures from Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership.

Scammers have been targeting people by email, claiming to be from energy regulator Ofgem and asking people to enter bank details to get the energy rebate.

Customers have also been asked to enter their mother’s maiden name to receive a refund on energy and council tax bills.

The organisations have launched their annual scams awareness campaign ahead of customers receiving vital government assistance so they can recognise the signs of a potential scam.

Delivery, postal and courier service scams remain the most common according to surveys done by Yonder Data on behalf of Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership, with 55% of adults reporting they have been targeted.

David, an electrician from Elgin, recently lost more than £1,400 in a sophisticated delivery text scam. He had received a text message purportedly from a well-known delivery firm saying an extra charge of £1.50 was required for a parcel delivery.

As he was expecting a parcel, he clicked on the link and was taken to a website which asked him to provide a delivery address, phone number, card and bank details.

He then received a call purportedly from his bank’s fraud department, saying there had been suspicious activity on his account. He was then convinced to transfer £1,400 into a new “safe” account.

Fiona Richardson, chief officer for Trading Standards Scotland, said scammers often undermine legitimate avenues of support, adding: “Scammers are quick to exploit the changing and challenging circumstances that we are all currently facing.

“The Scams Awareness Fortnight campaign aims to bring these scams to the attention of consumers, ensuring they feel empowered to shut scammers down if approached by telephone, text or email.

“Anyone can be caught out by scammers especially as the tactics used are getting more and more sophisticated. I urge consumers never to rush or feel pressurised into responding if contacted and never give any personal or banking details to a cold caller, even if they appear to know some of your details already.”

Derek Mitchell, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said scams are a “menace”, adding: “People here are only just recovering from the Covid pandemic and have been battered by the cost-of-living crisis.

“To have scammers stealing money from people is awful at any time but it seems especially bad at the moment. We urge people to stay vigilant and report any scams they come across. In Scotland your local Citizens Advice Bureau can offer free, confidential and impartial advice.”

Scams Awareness Fortnight takes place from Monday until June 26.

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