Fraud is on the rise in the UK. In the two weeks to 5 August 2022, more than 1,500 scam emails were reported to the National Cyber Security Centre. These related to fraudulent energy rebate offerings from Ofgem – the energy regulator, and included the organisation’s logo, colours and used the email subject header “Claim your bill rebate now”.
Spotting cost-of-living scams
Phishing attacks are one of the most common types of scam. Usually sent via email or text message, phishing attacks involve fraudsters posing as legitimate organisations to trick victims into clicking on bad links or revealing personal information. For instance, fraudsters posing as utility providers offering deals on energy bills or competitions to win fuel vouchers.
It’s wise to be cautious; consider these “red flags” that might indicate a cost-of-living scam:
Scammers often pressure victims into making quick decisions before fully analysing the facts. As an example, a scam message might offer recipients a cost-of-living payment, but only if they provide bank details immediately. In contrast, a genuine company will usually give ample time for responses and won’t ask for personal details via email.
Scammers may claim to be someone official (e.g. a government worker). Therefore, it’s important to carefully check the sender’s details on all messages received. Often, scam messages will be sent from a public email domain rather than an official business address. If in doubt, cross-reference the sender’s details against those displayed on the official company website.
Tips for Avoiding Cost-of-Living Scams
With the added pressure of the current financial climate, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself – and your family members – from financial scams.
Take your time
Some scams adopt official company logos and colours to fool victims. As such, review any messages and offers carefully, even if they first appear genuine. Look out for spelling and grammatical errors, sloppy layouts or informal greetings; these are all tell-tale signs of a scam.
Conduct due diligence
Never send money to anyone you don’t know or aren’t entirely sure of. Instead, check the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website for a list of authorised companies. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Bolster your protection
Clicking on fraudulent links in messages could release malware onto your device. Think before you click to avoid downloading files and attachments from suspicious sources. Additionally, make sure your antivirus software is up to date and run a scan before opening suspicious links.
Check that websites are genuine.
For additional protection, always check that weblinks are secure—look for “https” and a padlock symbol in the domain bar.
Remember, you can always hang up a phone call or ignore an email, then contact the organisation to check whether it is legitimate. If you do fall victim, it’s important to act swiftly – contact your bank or financial provider without delay.