Fake tax rebates purporting to be from the government, “discounts” from fraudulent energy and insurance companies, and social media competitions offering “free holidays” are just some of the common scams used by fraudsters, according to credit agency TransUnion.
Bogus investments, for example in cryptocurrency schemes, are also common, with scammers using fake celebrity endorsements to try and attract people.
The information and insights company surveyed 2,000 people across the UK in August as part of its research.
It found that while consumers are becoming increasingly vigilant, sophisticated scams have led to more than one in four (26 per cent) falling victims, with total financial losses of over £7.9bn since the start of May.
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.
“Our research showed around half (51 per cent) 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,” she continued.
“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.”
Watch out for scammers targeting people about #CostOfLiving Payments
If you're eligible
- You do not need to apply for the payment
- You do not need to call us
- Payment to you is automatic
- We will never ask for personal details by SMS or email
— DWP (@DWP) July 8, 2022
Other scams include bogus calls claiming to be from your local council asking for bank or card details in order for your £150 council tax rebate to be paid, and fake messages claiming to be from Ofgem.
As well as contacting your bank or finance provider, people who are concerned they’ve been targeted by a scammer can also report scams to Action Fraud, the police, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Ofcom.
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.”
Tips to avoid cost of living scams, according to TransUnion
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.
Additional reporting by PA