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Cost-of-living con artists targeting people with bogus deals and refunds

·3-min read

More than seven in 10 (73%) people say they have been targeted by scams in the past three months as fraudsters attempt to use worries about surging living costs as a way to con people.

Common scams include fake tax rebates, bogus energy company discounts, offers of “cheap insurance”, and bogus social media competitions offering “free holidays”, according to TransUnion.

The information and insights company made the findings after commissioning a survey of 2,000 people across the UK in August.

It said fake investments, for example in cryptocurrency schemes, are also common, with scammers using bogus celebrity endorsements to lure people in.

Kelli Fielding, TransUnion’s managing director of consumer interactive, said: “We know fraudsters prey on our fears and worries, and the cost-of-living crisis is providing them with the perfect opportunity, giving rise to an abundance of scams.”

She continued: “Our research showed around half (51%) of consumers say the increased cost of living has made them more vigilant towards fraud, which is good news, but we’d encourage everyone to be extra cautious and treat any unexpected text message, email or phone call as a potential phishing attempt.

“If you’re being asked for your bank details or other personal information, consider this a red flag and, if in doubt, check with the company directly by calling their official phone number.”

Ms Fielding said people could also check their credit report to see if someone else has fraudulently used their identity to apply for credit.

She added: “It’s important to identify anything that doesn’t look right so you can get it corrected.”

Here are some tips from TransUnion to guard against cost-of-living fraud:

– If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers may be pretending to be companies offering unlikely discounts or making unusual offers, such as a free holiday or an investment with a guaranteed win.

– Be wary of telephone calls, messages or emails offering a rebate or refund. Scammers often pretend they are from energy companies or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Do not follow any links but if you think it may be genuine then call the organisation directly on their official number and ask for information.

– Avoid clicking links or downloading attachments from unexpected emails or messages from a brand or business, unless you are sure you know the origin. These could release malware on to your device or steal your bank details. It is OK to ignore emails or messages that are unsolicited.

– Check the webpage is genuine. When online, make sure the webpage you are visiting is https protected or shows a padlock – both of which can be spotted in the domain bar.

– Report fraud to Action Fraud if you think you have been a victim.