Financial regulators and consumer groups have issued warnings over the increase in the number of scams being reported in recent weeks.

The City of London Police revealed they’ve witnessed a 400% increase in COVID-19 related fraud within just one month. The UK’s fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud has also recorded total losses of nearly £1 million since the start of February.

Speaking about the current situation, Commander Karen Baxter from the City of London Police, commented:

“As more people stay indoors and work from computers and laptops at home, there’s more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future. This is especially relevant as older, more vulnerable people self-isolate and may be targeted over the phone, or even in person, by despicable criminals.

She continued:

“It’s important that we continue to raise awareness of fraud and protect ourselves, and the vulnerable people in our communities, the best we can.”

 

HMRC scams

There are many HMRC scams doing the rounds at the moment. Criminals are using very convincing HMRC branded emails, texts and even phone calls to make demands or fake offers of financial support.

They may say you’re entitled to a refund or that you’ve received a penalty and must pay now. Some can be very threating and may even warn of imprisonment. Naturally, this panic can cause people to make a rash decision and transfer the money demanded.

Researchers at the online security company, Mimecast, have recorded hundreds of texts and emails containing a link that directs recipients to a fake website bearing an HMRC logo. The website claims that as a precaution against COVID-19, the government has established a new tax refund programme which entitles the recipient to a rebate.

The website encourages victims to share their name, address, phone number, mother’s maiden name and bank card number. All of these details equip the fraudster with more than enough information to access your bank account or purchase a financial product in your name.

HMRC has specifically warned:

“If someone emails or calls you claiming to be from HMRC saying that you’re owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it’s a scam.”

 

Protecting yourself against scams

Many of us are more stressed and worried than usual, leading to panic and sleepless nights. A combination of all these factors means we may be more likely to fall for scams. Below are a few steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.

  • Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails.
  • Never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details. HMRC won’t ever email you about tax rebates or penalties.
  • Look out for odd email addresses, bad spelling and generic greetings. They often use terminology such as ‘access your funds now’ which is something HMRC wouldn’t say.
  • Scammers typically target the elderly so make sure you tell any elderly friends or relatives to be careful and to contact you if they receive such communications.
  • If you’re ever unsure, contact HMRC using the options on their website.
  • Forward any suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and send suspicious texts to 60599.

 

If you’ve received a communication claiming to be from HMRC, you can also contact PKB and we’ll be more than happy to look into it for you.

 

To read news and blogs from Rebecca Austin, click here >>

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