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2023’s Top Five Scams

Martin Morrison

23 Oct 2023

2023 has once again seen a rise in everyday scams. This guide shows the top 5 scams & how to beat them

1) The “Hi Mum” Scam

If you’re in the UK and haven’t had a text in the last year saying something along the lines of “Hi Mum, smashed my phone, please contact me on this number: 07---------” then you might well be in the minority.

This devious scam, which plays on the natural instinct of worried parents to protect their children, has been huge in the last 12 months with reported losses alone at almost £500,000 for this year already. The reason it is so prevalent is perhaps because it is so successful, with amounts in the thousands paid out by worried parents within minutes of first contact.

What begins with a simple message requesting contact on a new number will quickly develop into a troubling hard luck tale. It will likely involve a child’s smashed or lost phone and a kindly friend of theirs who has stumped up the money for the supposed child to buy a new one.

“Can you just pay them back until I get my banking apps set up on my new phone? They really need the money”

How to beat it

Be hugely sceptical of any contact at all which comes out of the blue as a general rule. That will cover you against scammers of all stripes.

It’s also a good idea to set up code questions only your real family could know the answer to. Alternatively, have codewords you use together before entering into any financial conversation or commitment over the phone or online.

2) Loan Fee Fraud

It’s a basic advanced fee fraud, but it preys on people who may be in a desperate situation: those who are looking for a payday loan.

This one probably begins with a fake brokerage website, where you apply believing you’re sending your details and request for a loan to a legitimate broker.

When you then receive a call, hours or days later, from someone claiming to be a genuine loan company and congratulating you on your successful application, you might be delighted. They have all your information and details about your application, so why would you be suspicious?

But there’s a minor issue. Your bad credit rating means you’ll need to pay a small fee, usually between £50 and £200, to insure the loan. It might not sound like too much to lose, but for one of our victims on Scam Interceptors it was the difference between being able to afford to eat and making his first visit to a food bank.

If you do pay out not only will you never see that money again, you won’t get your loan either. You’ve just been called by a scammer who had all your info from the moment you entered it into their fake brokerage website.

How to beat it

The best advice on this one is to ask to call back anyone who rings you claiming to represent a company on a number you will find for them yourself. Any legitimate caller will have no problem with that. A scammer will do anything to keep you on the phone because if you call back whoever they’re claiming to represent, it won’t be the scammer you’re talking to.

3) Online Marketplace Scams

The scam revolves around more high value items like vehicles, or rental properties. The essence is this – the posting is a copy from a genuine advert for the item elsewhere online.

You enquire as to the availability of the item and are told that it’s available, but for some reason can’t be seen in person at the moment. If it’s a rental property, they might say there is someone else still in it to fob you off, if it’s an item it’s likely they’ll say it’s currently elsewhere in the country. Regardless, some up-front payment will still be necessary to secure it, like a deposit.

The seller may even send an invoice with apparently genuine company details on it for the payment to be made. As soon as you transfer your money, the account selling the item is deleted and all contact is lost.

This is because the invoice you were sent by the scammer simply copied the details of a genuine business, but altered the bank account information for payment to go them directly.

How to beat it

To avoid falling victim to this – don’t ever pay for an expensive item on a social media marketplace which you haven’t seen in person yourself, however good the deal might seem.

Do your due diligence on the seller too – does their social media profile have a history? Or are they a new user? Do they have previous customers you can speak to or see reviews from? Verify everything before you pay out any money at all.

4) Pig Butchering

It originates with a direct message, usually on social media or a dating app. Initially the interaction will seem innocent enough, the possible beginning of friendship or romance. Over the days and weeks which follow, your new friend will love bomb you with endless interactions, compliments and may even share deeply personal details and encourage you to do the same.

This is all window dressing designed to gain your trust. Once your guard is fully down, some weeks or even months later, your new pal will casually drop into conversation that they’ve been investing their savings in a certain new cryptocurrency platform and they’re doing very well.

Some time later, they will casually suggest you do the same, without applying any pressure. Should you eventually decide yourself to sign up and invest, you may even initially see it working for you, as the promised profits drop into your account on the new platform.

You and your friend then share your joy at the success and they encourage you to invest more and more money, as they claim they have. Eventually you might find yourself excited by seemingly huge weekly profits on a substantial investment.

One day, you log in and find your friend’s profile no longer exists. The months of chats are all deleted. When you attempt to check on your cryptocurrency investment, the website doesn’t exist either. The entire platform was built by scammers as a vehicle to steal money, and the months of dialogue with your new friend just a set up to get you to deposit yours.

How to beat it

It’s easy to see why some victims have lost vast amounts to this scam when it’s so hard to see it coming.

The advice here is to be very careful where you invest your savings. Only take financial advice from sources which are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and never from someone who, ultimately, is no more than a stranger online.

5) Social Media Account Hacking

Your immediate reaction to this scam might be that it doesn’t sound too serious, but for the victims it can be both extremely distressing and financially damaging. In the last six months this is probably the issue I’ve received more messages about than any other.

Imagine you receive an email or text message one day from someone claiming to have hacked your beloved social media account.

Whether it’s a personal account, business account or you’re an influencer with an online following built up over years, it’s going to be a very concerning time. All that effort, or customer data, or just your personal photos and videos, has been compromised by an unknown stranger.

The message you receive explains that your account has been hacked and to get it back you need to pay. If you try to log in using your usual details, you can’t. Your password has been changed.

The scammers have even altered the contact details within the account so you can’t use an alternative method to prove who you are, as any password reset codes or emails go to a different email or phone number.

How to beat it

The key thing here is to hold your nerve – paying isn’t going to help as there’s no guarantee the scammers won’t just carry on asking for more and more money.

If it’s a business account or you use it to earn money as an influencer, go to the Police and report it as a crime. Also use the help and support pages of the social media platform who control the account (be persistent, lots of victims I’ve heard from have found this very hard) and tell the platform you’ve been hacked.

Request a way to prove to the platform that you are the account’s owner. Most will then take you through a verification process (sometimes involving selfie videos or similar) in order to prove the account is yours.

Also, if you haven’t got it already, set up two factor authentication on your social media accounts and ensure that your passwords are of serious strength

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