CROOKS are cashing in on the cost-of-living crisis by scamming consumers trying to beat the financial squeeze.
Cases of fraud jumped 36 per cent to 5.1million in the year to September 2021, says the Office for National Statistics.
Criminals are exploiting the financial pressure on people by luring them in with dodgy discounts and bogus job offers, and preying on Covid worries.
The better news is that web firms and social media could soon face fines of up to £18million for failing to spot and remove scam adverts.
The new rules are part of the Online Safety Bill, which is expected to come into force later this year.
Today Lucy Alderson and Leah Milner look at five serious scams . . . and explain how to guard against them.
WHAT’S THE SCAM? Crooks post adverts on social media offering easy ways to earn cash in a bid to snare anyone desperate for extra money.
They pose as marketing companies that will pay you for simple tasks such as liking posts or watching videos.
You are asked to pay a deposit and told you will make your money back and much more. But you don’t earn a thing and the criminals steal your cash.
TSB said that, in one recent scam, victims were asked to sign up to an app called Pinterest Task Mall, which was made to look like the real social media app, but in reality it was a sham.
Victims were asked to make a series of deposits of £100 or more in order to be assigned tasks. But after completing the work, they tried to log in to withdraw their earnings and found the app had been shut down and their deposits stolen.
HOW MUCH COULD I LOSE? TSB said victims have lost up to £4,230, but the average is £1,399.
HOW TO AVOID IT: TSB director of fraud prevention Paul Davis said: “Steer clear of any offer of work that asks you to put money down before you can earn.
“Any offer of big returns for minimal effort is likely to be a fraud. Only ever download apps from official app stores and even then remain wary and check reviews first.”
Sun Money contacted Pinterest for comment but it did not respond.
WHAT’S THE SCAM? Criminals know many families are facing a choice between heating and eating as energy and grocery bills surge.
They turn this to their advantage by sending offers by email or text, offering the chance to get £50 as a refund on your shopping or vouchers for a particular supermarket by clicking on a link and filling out a survey.
You click on the link and you are asked to hand over bank details or card details so that you can receive payment from the survey.
These details are often sold to other crooks who will either try to spend money on your card or phone you up pretending to be your bank, internet company or the police and trick you into transferring money to them.
HOW MUCH COULD YOU LOSE? Criminals who steal your card details will typically spend £80-£200, according to analysis by data security firm Rightly.
In bank transfer scams, the average loss is £1,945, after taking into account any money that is refunded by the bank, UK Finance found.
HOW TO AVOID IT: “Never trust a link in a text or email,” said James Walker, chief executive of data management company Rightly.
“There are legitimate firms that will pay you to do surveys. Read online reviews first and contact them rather than responding to a message.”
WHAT’S THE SCAM? Scammers prey on shoppers as they try to beat price hikes by hunting for deals online. They advertise heavily discounted branded items like trainers and gadgets on social media or sites such as eBay.
You are typically asked to transfer money to a bank account rather than paying by card. Purchase frauds are one of the most common scams that Lloyds Bank sees.
HOW MUCH COULD YOU LOSE? Victims lose an average of £190.
HOW TO AVOID IT: Lloyds Bank fraud prevention director Liz Ziegler said: “When shopping, the best way to stay safe is to buy from a trusted retailer, and always pay by card for the greatest protection.
“If you’re unable to do those two things, that should be a big red flag that you may be about to get scammed.”
An eBay spokesman said: “The eBay Money Back Guarantee means that if a user buys something that doesn’t arrive or isn’t as advertised, we’ll make sure they get their money back, if the seller doesn’t resolve the issue for them first.”
WHAT’S THE SCAM? With bills mounting, many of us dream of a windfall to get our finances back on track. In this cruel con, crooks will phone or write telling you that you have won a lottery or prize draw.
You’ll be told that you need to pay a fee to get your cash. The criminals will then steal your money and you will never get the prize you were promised.
HOW MUCH COULD YOU LOSE? Losses to lottery scams have totalled £3.3million in the year to February, or an average of £2,696 per victim, according to Action Fraud.
HOW TO AVOID IT: Craig Mullish, of the City of London Police, said: “Remember, you can’t win a draw that you haven’t entered.
“If you’re contacted out of the blue claiming you’ve won a prize draw but can only access these winnings by paying an advance fee, it’s likely to be a scam.”
WHAT’S THE SCAM? You receive an email or a letter claiming to be from a lawyer informing you that someone very rich has died and you are in line for a big inheritance.
The fraudsters will often say that they can’t reveal the identity of your benefactor and if you don’t act quickly, the Government will get your money. In order to receive your payout, they say you first have to pay a fee to cover tax and legal fees. In reality, the wealthy benefactor doesn’t exist and you’re left much poorer.
HOW MUCH COULD YOU LOSE? TSB says that the average loss is £11,500.
HOW TO AVOID IT: Paul Davis said: “Never hand over money on the promise that you’re entitled to a large sum. If it sounds unlikely, trust your instincts – it’s almost certainly a con. Speak to friends and family, do your research and don’t act in a hurry.”
What to do if scammed
CALL your bank immediately using the number on the back of the card.
Tell Action Fraud, report it online or by calling 0300 123 2040 (Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm).
It will tell the police and give you a crime reference number.
Some banks offer automatic refunds – but it does vary.
Current rules say if you have not authorised the payment then you should get a refund as long as you did not act fraudulently or with “gross negligence”, for example, giving away your PIN number or password.
In 2019 some banks, including Barclays, Santander and HSBC, signed a voluntary scam code launched in 2019.
TSB has a fraud refund guarantee in place where it will refund you as long as you are clearly an innocent victim of a con.
Using a credit card when shopping online gives you more protection as you are covered under the Consumer Credit Act, which says you are entitled to a refund if items are not delivered or are not as described.
You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you are not happy with how your complaint was dealt with.
‘I got old clothes instead of Dyson’
ENGLISH lecturer Katie Alexander was fuming when she was sent a box of dirty clothes instead of the Dyson Airwrap hair styler.
Katie, 27, of Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk, bought the gadget, which usually retails for £450, from a seller on Depop for £290 through PayPal in December last year.
She said the advert looked well-written, with a few five-star reviews.
But when the package arrived all that was inside was a kids’ hoodie and a few scruffy items of women’s clothing.
“I was really annoyed I had let myself get scammed,” Katie said.
Katie went straight to Depop, which told her to contact Paypal. Luckily, Paypal refunded her four days later.
She said: “I’ll be more cautious buying online in general – scams happen anywhere. It has made me realise anyone can be vulnerable.”
A Depop spokesman said: “We have comprehensive buyer and seller protection programmes in place, which means you’ll get your money back if the item you bought doesn’t arrive, your purchase is not as described, or items are missing from your order.”
Fake text set up £2k bank theft
WAYNE CHAPMAN was at his car repair business when he received a text claiming to be from Royal Mail.
The 45-year-old, from Rushden, Northants, was expecting a package, so clicked the link and gave his details away.
A few days later he was called by someone claiming to be from TSB.
They said his account was under attack.
He said: “They told me that someone inside the bank was fraudulent.
“They said they would transfer £2,000 into my account and when the crook tried to transfer it out, they would be able to catch them.
“It sounded believable. They kept me on the phone for almost an hour until eventually I asked for their number so I could call them back. They wouldn’t give it to me, which put me on my guard.
“I put the phone down and rang my branch.”
But by then it was too late. The scammers had stolen almost £2,000 from his account. TSB refunded him quickly.
Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, said: “Wayne’s case is sadly typical of the two-pronged attack fraudsters unleash to firstly glean personal information from people and then follow up with a convincing and persuasive phone-call.”