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UK urged to watch for fraud as people aim to make extra cash in cost of living crisis

A row of piggy banks adorned with the colours of Britain's Union Jack flag. Fraud is on the rise
Young people were more likely to be at risk from fraud. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Brits have been warned to “stay alert for fraud” as more people are out to make extra cash as the cost of living rises across the country.

UK Finance said on Wednesday that more than half (56%) of people admitted that they are likely to look for opportunities to make extra money in the coming months, which could leave some people more susceptible to fraud.

According to the trade association’s Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign, one in six, or 16%, of people said the rising cost of living means they are more likely to respond to an unprompted approach from someone offering an investment opportunity or a loan.

Young people were more likely to be at risk, the data suggested, which surveyed 2,000 people across the UK.

More than a third (34%) of 18 to 34-year-olds said they are more likely to respond to an unprompted approach from someone, with three in 10 (30%) also more likely to provide their personal or financial details to secure the arrangement.

Overall, three in five people (60%) said they are concerned about falling victim to financial fraud or a scam.

Read more: FTSE 100: HSBC profits jump by $1bn boosted by rising interest rates

It comes as recent figures from UK Finance showed that £609.8m was lost due to fraud and scams in the first half of this year.

“The rise in the cost of living can be worrying and stressful and for many, keeping on top of finances might be a struggle. It’s important for everyone to be conscious of criminals taking advantage of people’s anxieties around finances by staying alert for fraud,” Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said.

“We encourage everyone to follow the advice of the Take Five campaign – always be cautious of any messages or calls you receive and stop and think before sharing your personal or financial information. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages.”

Watch: How to save money on a low income

UK Finance highlighted that criminals will always look to exploit situations where people are concerned about money, as was seen early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

They warned of four key scams for UK households to be on the lookout for:

1. Purchase scams – 42% of people expect to start to look for cheap deals online if the cost of living continues to rise, but they may be tempted by too-good-to-be-true offers.

Criminals will often trick people by enticing them to make a quick bank transfer rather than use a more secure payment method.

2. Impersonation fraud – criminals convince people to make a payment or give their personal and financial details to someone claiming to be from a trusted organisation such as a bank, government organisation or energy company – for example, text messages claiming to be from the council offering a fake energy rebate.

Read more: UK on course for a deep recession as downturn worsens

3. Investment fraud – as the cost of living rises, 14% of people said they may consider looking for new investment opportunities in the coming months, including investing in cryptocurrency.

With investment fraud, criminals try to convince people to move their money into a bogus fund or to pay for what later turns out to be a fake investment. The criminal will often promise high returns to entice victims.

4. Payment in advance fraud – one example of advance payment fraud relates to loans, with criminals requesting up-front fees for loans which never materialise.

And to help people stay safe, the Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign advice is:

Stop – Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

Challenge – Could it be fake? It is OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect – Contact your bank immediately if you think that you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Watch: How to prevent getting into debt