Online scams have been rife this year; particularly because of the Coronavirus pandemic as scammers have been taking full advantage of a shared global issue.
Now that we’re coming up to Christmas, a time of year that’s already notorious for scams, it’s important to be aware of all the different ways that you could be targeted throughout the festive season.
Online shopping related scams are always particularly rampant at this time of year, but with more and more people turning to online shopping this year because of the pandemic, these scams are only going to get worse, so you need to know how to spot them.
Scammers set up bogus shopping websites which either sell products that are very poor quality or unsafe, or products that are entirely fake and will never be delivered. They usually advertise their websites on social media and use pictures of sought after products at much lower prices in order to attract customers. They will also send out links to their websites via phishing emails or text messages.
Once you’re on the website and try to purchase an item, your personal information and bank details will be stored by the scammer and they will use them to steal money or commit further crimes such as identity theft. You will then receive a knock-off version of the item you’ve ordered, something entirely different, or you won’t receive anything at all.
You won’t be able to contact the website about your order as they don’t have any legitimate customer service teams or contact details.
Most retailers that have an online store will contact their customers via email to promote sales and to give updates on orders and refunds. This is where scammers like to take advantage and trick customers into believing that their emails have come from genuine retailers.
They will usually choose to spoof the bigger retailers as they’ll have more chance of catching people that actually shop there so are more likely to believe that an email is genuine.
A lot of online shopping scams also occur through auction websites like eBay, and sites where people can set up their own shops like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet.
It’s more common for buyers to be targeted in these types of scams, but there’s been a surge this year in scammers targeting sellers too by imitating PayPal.
In order to scam buyers, scammers set up fake profiles and advertise products that don’t exist, or products that are of poor quality or unsafe. Once they’ve attracted a buyer then they persuade them to go to another website to complete payment. This other website is designed to steal your bank details and it also means that your payment won’t be protected as it wasn’t performed through the genuine website. Once you’ve made your payment then the scammer will disappear with your details and you’ll either receive nothing, or something completely different to what you thought you ordered.
This year there has been a surge in criminals sending phishing emails to online sellers, imitating PayPal, to try and fool them into believing that they’ve received payment for an item that they’re selling online. This is an attempt to trick the seller into sending them the item – so not only will the seller have not received payment; they will no longer have the item either.
Christmas is expensive and some people turn to credit cards and loans to cover the additional festive costs. This reliance on credit is also expected to increase this year with a lot of peoples’ incomes having been affected by the pandemic.
This is where scammers like to take advantage at this time of year by promoting fake loans. They may advertise on social media, but they’ll usually contact people via phishing emails. They will advertise ‘fast loans’ and guarantee that the money will be in your bank account within the same day. They will also try to attract victims with very low interest rates, flexible terms and a ‘no credit check’ application process.
Once you’ve gotten in contact with them about the offer, they will inform you of a small set up fee which you have to pay in advance of receiving the loan. They will usually ask for this via a bank transfer. If you agree to this and pay the fee then the fraudster will disappear with the money and you’ll never be able to contact them again.
Social media is a great way to connect with family, friends, and business. But it’s also a great way for scammers to target victims.
This is a scam that comes around every Christmas and there’s no exception this year. These gift exchange scams, sometimes known as ‘secret sister’, seem honest and a nice way to connect with people over the holidays, but they are actually similar to a type of pyramid scheme where people can only benefit from them as long as someone else is being ripped off.
The scam works by being shared on Facebook, with those who have joined the group being asked to share it to their friends. Once you’ve joined, you will be given a list of people and asked to send the top person on the list a gift worth about £10. Once that person has received a gift, then their name will be removed. Your name will be added to the bottom of the list, so the idea is that you send one gift, but you should receive a lot back while other people are moving through the list. Group sizes tend to be around 36 people, so you’re told that you’ll send one gift but receive around 35 back – an offer that sounds too good to be true (because it is).
As the group grows, so will the number of gifts, so you will be encouraged to share it to as many people as possible. If you join right at the beginning of the group, you may actually do quite well out of it and receive genuine gifts in return from the people who joined straight after you. But as the group grows, then it becomes mathematically impossible for everyone to benefit. So even if you do well, this is only because other people are being ripped off by sending gifts and then never receiving anything in return.
Scammers hack into genuine users’ accounts as a way of contacting people to scam them out of their money.
Once they’ve hacked into someone’s account and gained access to their friends, they will send out a message to as many of them as possible and ask for money. They’ll plead poverty and say that they’ve really been struggling financially (which wouldn’t be hard to believe this year) and ask if you can lend them a small amount of money to either buy Christmas gifts, pay off debts, or something else of this nature. They’ll give you their bank details to perform a bank transfer. Once you’ve sent them the money then they’ll disappear without a trace.
A lot of charities, especially smaller and less well-known ones, have received far fewer donations this year because of the pandemic and the financial issues that it’s caused for a lot of people. So over Christmas, which is usually a time for charities to try and seek more donations, we’re expecting to see a rise in charity appeals.
A lot of charities also now use websites and social media to raise awareness for what they’re doing and to try and raise money. Whilst this is a great way to get noticed, it’s also a great way for scammers to get in on the action too.
Scammers can either set up entirely fake charities or set up fake pages and websites for charities already established, both of which they’ll share across social media. They may also spread awareness for their ‘charity’ via phishing emails and text messages. They will encourage as many people as possible to donate, but the money raised will go straight to the scammer’s bank account.
If you think you’ve been targeted with any of the scams mentioned in this article, then make sure you report it to Action Fraud immediately. If you think you’ve sent money to a scammer, then you should also contact your bank as soon as possible as they may be able to recover your money.
Reporting scams and spreading fraud awareness is the only way to get ahead of the scammers.
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Last updated: 27 November 2020 | © KIS Bridging Loans 2020 |