Lockdown has been a testing time for people across the country.
And for some it has potentially been made worse as cruel scammers used the time to target the vulnerable.
From March 23 to July 31 2020, Action Fraud have received 5,230 reports that state Greater Manchester as their local police force, totalling to £19.5 million in reported losses.
A total of 4,587 of the reports in this time frame were from an individual, while only 643 were an organisation but with a higher reported loss of £10.7m.
Among the top frauds are online shopping and auctions, as well as scams involving cheque, plastic card and online bank accounts.
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For example, Action Fraud says that “Shopping and Auction fraud involves fraud attributable to the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale through an Internet auction site or the non-delivery of products purchased through an Internet auction site.”
This can mean that the seller often requests funds to be transferred directly to him/her via Western Union, Money-Gram, or bank-to-bank money transfer.
This ensures the money is virtually unrecoverable with no recourse for the victim.
Across the North West, Action Fraud have received 14,719 reports totalling to £47.1 million in reported losses.
Overwhelming consumer fraud appeared to be the most reported.
So, what scams should you be looking out for that have reported across the country during lockdown?
NHS scam emails
At the start of April, Action Fraud warned of a scam email purporting to be from HM Government asking for donations to the NHS during the Covid-19 outbreak.
This is a fake email and your money will only end up in the hands of a criminal.
The NHS will never ask you to send money directly to a bank account. If you would like to donate to the NHS you can do so via their official channels or your local NHS Trust.
Purchasing puppies and kittens
For many, lockdown seemed like the perfect time to settle a new puppy or kitten into the family.
However, this also gave scammers an opportunity to defraud people out of money.
It was reported in May that 669 people have lost a combined total of £282,686 in March and April, after putting down deposits for pets they have seen advertised online.
The adverts that victims responded to were posted on social media, general online selling platforms and also specific pet selling platforms.
The criminals posting these ads never have any animals to sell and will ask victims to put down a deposit for the pet to secure the purchase.
After the initial payment more and more funds will be requested to cover insurance, vaccinations and even delivery of the pet.
TV Licensing emails
Another scam which occurred was said to be from TV licensing.
The email’s would claim that the recipient’s direct debit has failed and that they need to pay to avoid prosecution.
Recipients were told that they are eligible for a “COVID19 Personalized Offer” of six months free.
The messages contain links to genuine-looking websites that are designed to steal personal and financial information.
Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information in case it’s a scam. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.
Paypal phishing and Facebook scams
Action Fraud received over 1,000 reports within 24 hours on July 20 about email’s claiming to be from PayPal.
The email’s state the recipient’s account has been “limited” as a result of a policy violation.
The email’s then ask for customers to update their account, or check the security of their account by clicking a link in the email.
The links provided in the email’s lead to genuine-looking websites that are actually phishing sites designed to steal PayPal login details, as well as personal and financial information.
Another scam relation to Paypal has amounted to £44,035 in total losses between June 2020 and July 31 following a total of 95 reports
Action Fraud said victims have received messages through Facebook Messenger from friends and family requesting to use their Pay Pal account to receive funds from the sale of items on EBay.
Messages are sent by fraudsters purporting to be friends and family stating that they have sold a camera on eBay but that they are unable to process the payment as they either do not have a Pay Pal account or because their Pay Pal account is not working.
The request is that the message recipient receives the funds into their own Pay Pal account, then, after transferring it into their own bank account, they forward it onto an account controlled by the fraudster.
If the victim agrees the payment is transferred into their Pay Pal account but, after the money is transferred out, the initial transaction is reversed leaving the account in negative balance.
Multiple reports have also been received from victims stating that their Facebook Messenger accounts have been hacked and that these fraudulent messages have been sent to all their contacts on their behalf.
Instagram investment scams
Action Fraud reported earlier this month that during June 2020, they received 164 reports from individuals falling victim to fraudulent investment schemes, commonly referred to as a ‘money flipping’ service offered by users on the Instagram social media platform.
These reports have amounted to a combined financial loss of £358,809.
Fraudsters approach (or are approached by) victims via the instant messaging feature of the platform after advertising their service.
They claim to only require an initial investment of a few hundred pounds which they say will be used to trade on the stock market or to buy and trade foreign currency (Forex) until they have multiplied the investment several times within a matter of days which is paid to the victim after a small commission is deducted for the service.
In reality, once the initial investment has been transferred the victim is given a series of excuses as to why their money and ‘profits’ cannot be returned unless more money is sent.
Eventually all contact is severed and the victim is blocked by the suspect. Victims are usually requested to send the money by bank transfer or through a cryptocurrency platform which means it is nearly impossible to retrieve.
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