Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

The 5 most common scams of 2023 and how to avoid them | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans


Scams can start in many ways – a friend request on social media, a phone call out of the blue or the whisper of an investment opportunity.

Fraudsters are always on the lookout for victims who let their guard down long enough to be exploited, but they often use the same tactics – and make the same mistakes.

Read on to learn about five of the most common types of scams we’ve seen this year and for expert advice on how to avoid them.

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1. Phishing scams

‘Phishing’ refers to scammers trying to lure you in to obtain your data, often in the form of emails or texts impersonating a genuine company or government department.

The messages often prompt you to click a link to visit a website under the guise of something being wrong, such as a subscription expiring or to secure your account after a fraud attempt.

Phishing can also take place on social media, where fraudsters publish posts that link through to dodgy websites. If you click a link in a phishing message, you’ll often be taken through to a spoofed website where you’ll be asked to enter your name, address and bank details.

In early 2023, Action Fraud warned about a rise in reports of scammers impersonating McAfee (2,200 reports), BT (676) and Netflix (625). There were also 300 reports of phishing attempts involving diet pills.

Once you’ve given your details to a scammer, they can be used to scam you there and then, and to target you in future. Information you enter on a dodgy website, for example, could be used by a fraudster to call you posing as your bank. As the scammer has some of your information, you might be inclined to trust the call as genuine.

HOW TO AVOID THE SCAM

  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails and texts.
  • Look out for dodgy-looking email addresses or phone numbers. A dubious-looking email address might not include the brand’s name or may be made up of random numbers and/or letters.
  • If you’re unsure of the origin of an email, contact the company in question using details on its website.

2. Investment scams

These scams involve fraudsters trying to persuade you into signing up to investment ‘opportunities’ with the promise of huge returns. 

Data from UK Finance shows £114m was lost to authorised push payment investment scams (where the victim is tricked into sending money to a criminal) in 2022.

Investment scams commonly come in a few broad categories. More sophisticated scams may involve a fraudster grooming you over time to gain your trust, before pressuring you into parting with your money.

Alternatively, you might be drawn in by an ad on social media which includes an ‘endorsement’ from a celebrity. Finally, some scammers adopt a more scattergun approach – targeting victims with unsolicited emails, texts and WhatsApp messages to invite them to take part in bogus investments, which are often cryptocurrency-related.

Investment scammers want to make as much money from you as they can, so once they think they’ve hooked you in, they’ll dial up the pressure. This can include showing you false statements displaying how well your investment is performing, then claiming you need to invest more before you can make a withdrawal.

Once you’ve caught on to the scam and ceased contact, you’ll need to be vigilant against recovery scams, where victims are contacted by ‘companies’ promising they can get their losses back for them.

HOW TO AVOID THE SCAM

  • Don’t be drawn in by promises that seem too good to be true.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you out of the blue with an ‘opportunity’.
  • Check the company is listed on the Financial Conduct Authority’s register before parting with any money.

3. Vishing scams

The word ‘vishing’ combines ‘voice’ and ‘phishing’ and refers to fraud that takes place over the phone. As with phishing, these scams often involve fraudsters impersonating a company to try to steal your personal or financial details.

Bank transfer scams (known as ‘authorised push payment fraud’) are one of the most dangerous types.

A fraudster calls you impersonating a member of staff from your bank. The caller may already have some of your details from a previous data breach. Often, the scammer will tell you your account has been compromised and encourage you to move money to a ‘safe’ account or give them remote access to your device so they can make the transfer.

In some instances, fraudsters even send spoof ‘verification’ text messages. These scams can take a devastating emotional and financial toll on their victims.

Other examples of vishing include scams that originate with a letter, email or text, asking you to call a phone number to update a subscription or account details, or to take advantage of an offer.

We’ve previously reported on PayPal request money scams, where fraudsters send emails using the payment provider’s ‘request money’ feature to ask for payment for high- value items. The requests state that if you don’t recognise the purchase, you must call a phone number.

Action Fraud issued a warning in March after receiving 275 reports of this particular scam.

HOW TO AVOID THE SCAM

  • Be wary of unsolicited calls purporting to be from a company or government agency.
  • Don’t disclose any personal or financial details over the phone unless you’re 100% sure who you’re talking to.
  • If someone calls you claiming to be from your bank, hang up and call the number given on the back of your card.

4. Romance scams

Romance scams typically begin on dating sites or apps. They usually involve the scammer forging a passionate connection with a potential victim, showering them with compliments and confiding in them over weeks or months.

Once they’ve groomed their victim, the scammer will start asking them to send money for a variety of made-up causes. Scammers may guilt trip victims by telling them they can’t trust anyone else or have no one else to turn to.

There are some variations. We’ve recently seen romance scammers targeting people on social media pages run by bereavement and mental health charities. This gives the fraudster the opportunity to specifically seek out people who are in particularly vulnerable situations.

Finally, there are hybrid romance and investment scams. These involve the scammer grooming the victim before encouraging them to invest their money in a property or cryptocurrency platform which is controlled by the scammers.

It’s difficult to assess the scale of losses to romance scams. Figures from UK Finance show £31m was lost to romance scams in 2022, but the true amount is likely to be much higher as victims may feel too embarrassed to report the scam.

HOW TO AVOID THE SCAM

  • Stay vigilant when talking to strangers online.
  • If you’re developing an online relationship, speak to friends and family about it. They may be able to spot inconsistencies or red flags –  warning signs you haven’t noticed.
  • Red flags include attempts to quickly move conversations to private platforms and a refusal to meet in person.
  • Use a reverse image search (a website where you can upload an image to find matching images and/or the image source) to check if a profile image belongs to someone else or is known to be used by scammers.
  • Cease contact if someone you’ve never met asks you for money.

5. Shopping scams

The latest UK Finance figures show purchase scams – where you pay for an item you never receive – were the most common form of ‘authorised’ payment scam in 2022, with more than 117,000 reports.

These scams involve fraudsters tricking unsuspecting shoppers into buying items through dodgy websites, auction sites or via social media. Criminals often pose as sellers of high-value items such as cars, tech products and event tickets. 

Fraudsters might offer items for below the market value to try to entice victims. Earlier this year, we reported on an online fake car dealership scamming a reader out of thousands of pounds by offering a tempting deal on a used car via a Facebook ad. Scammers commonly ask buyers to pay for items by bank transfer – less secure than using a payment service such as PayPal.

HOW TO AVOID THE SCAM

  • Stick to tried and tested retailers where possible.
  • If you’re tempted to buy an item from a company you haven’t heard of, do your research first. Telltale signs include deals that seem too good to be true and requests to pay for items using insecure or untraceable methods.

What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you fall victim to a scam, it’s vital you act immediately. 

If you’ve given away financial details, call your bank using the number on the back of your card, and report the scam to Action Fraud. If you’re in Scotland, inform Police Scotland by calling 101. Keep a close eye on your credit report for any suspicious credit applications. 

If one of your online accounts has been compromised, change your password straight away. 

How to report scams

If you see something that looks like a scam, report it.

Flag dodgy emails to your provider and the government ([email protected]), report phoney websites to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and forward scam texts to 7726.

By reporting scams, you might be able to prevent someone else from falling victim.

Seen or been affected by a scam? Help us protect others



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