The UK’s community bank, Metro Bank, is predicting a perfect storm for scams this winter because of the Royal Mail strikes, the approaching Black Friday online purchasing activity and the cost of living challenges.
“With so much upheaval from strikes, the cost of living challenges and the sheer volume of disinformation circulating, we predict that scammers will definitely try and capitalise on this to cheat the general public,” explains Baz Thompson, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank. “We would encourage everyone to chat through potential scams with their friends and family as the more information is shared, the better everyone is educated and aware about the risks out there. If you have an elderly or vulnerable person in your social network, please be extra supportive to ensure they are not a victim of fraud.”
The “Perfect Storm of Scams” predicted by Metro Bank include:
Parcel Delivery Text Scams
With so many Royal Mail strikes scheduled, scammers will ramp up the parcel delivery text scams when they send consumers texts asking them to pay small amounts to get their parcel delivered. The text includes a link to a website that is in fact a gateway to scammers being able to capture bank details. With parcels piling up in Royal Mail depots and the massive increase in online shopping associated with the upcoming Black Friday sales, Metro Bank thinks consumers will be more vulnerable to these texts believing more easily that the delay in the goods they have ordered is due to a hold up in delivery payment.
“If you receive an email or text asking you to click on a link – remember this could be the beginning of a scam. Look up the company on the web and use their contact us details to get in touch and check,” explains Baz Thompson, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank.
A money mule is a person who is recruited by criminals to gain access to their bank account with the promise of financial gain. Criminals want access to genuine bank account and passwords so they can run their criminal activity such as money laundering through these accounts. Criminals often target and recruit people through social media platforms, by using get rich quick offerings or asking for an account to be opened via social media posts. The fraudsters will target teenagers, young people, the vulnerable and naïve. Luring them in to becoming money mules as they look for more ways to earn money to help combat the cost of living crisis.
“Don’t be tempted to share your bank account and password details in exchange for the promise of goods or cash, as being a money mule can lead to a criminal record,” explains Baz Thompson, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank.
October is the first month when the government energy rebates will be paid. All households will receive a £400 energy rebate. In addition, those on universal credit and other benefits will receive £650 for cost of living increases and those receiving disability payments will receive an additional £150. Pensioners who receive the winter fuel payment will receive an additional £300.
“We want to remind everyone that the Government has said that all eligible households will receive their payments automatically, meaning there is no application process,” says Baz Thompson, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank. “If anyone contacts you – by phone, email or text - purporting to be from the council, or the government requesting your bank details to process any of these refunds, or saying there is any application process – these are scammers. Do not click on any links.” Report any suspicious activity to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
If anyone arrives at your doorstep, offering you cut price energy on your prepayment meter – this is a scam and consumers should decline the offer and let the police know that scammers are operating in their neighbourhood. The scammers will offer a cut price deal, for example £50 off a meter top-up for a tempting smaller cash payment. However, consumers will be paying twice, as the scammers are using cloned keys to top up energy credit illegally, so the energy companies do not receive these payments.
“Victims of this scam end up paying twice. Don’t be tempted by any too good to be true offer – this is the first indicator of a potential scam,” explains Baz Thompson, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank.
Be wary of anyone offering services at the front door – such as roof repairs or gutter cleaning particularly following a storm or bout of poor weather. These scammers particularly prey on the elderly charging exorbitant sums for basic or even non-existent work.
“Never be pressured to pay in full up front and always get a full quotation for all agreed works,” explains Baz Thompson, head of fraud and investigations at Metro Bank. “Remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Please report frauds to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help prevent other people falling victim to scammers.”