Utility scams: What they are and how to handle them
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Reports to Lloyds Bank of impersonation fraud originating on Instagram increased 155 percent in the 12 months leading up to March 2022. Meanwhile, Facebook and Snapchat scams fell considerably but social media scammers are using different tactics to con people.
Michelle was contacted on Instagram by someone who said they worked at her local church asking her for money.
Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, said: “Social media is now intimately woven into our lives – it’s how we stay in touch with people, see what’s in the news, treat ourselves to something new and keep up with influencers.
“Sophisticated organised criminal gangs know this, and are ready to adapt their deceptive methods instantly, lurking around every virtual corner to try and part you from your hard earned cash.
“These nasty impersonation scams target people’s natural desire to help family and friends as, instead of impersonating the police or the taxman, fraudsters are creeping closer to home and pretending to be those dearest to you.
“When using social media we should all remain guarded, be vigilant against fraud attempts, and remember that if something seems fishy – you’re probably right.”
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While this data relates to a growth in impersonation scams, fraud on social media can come in various guises such as purchase scams, investment scams and romance scams.
Fraudsters use social media platforms to advertise products or services that don’t exist or, if they do arrive, are fakes.
Common purchase scams include designer trainers and in-demand games consoles.
The seller will ask for payment via bank transfer, then block the buyer as soon as the money arrives.
People are also being urged to look out for investment scams which usually offer very high rates of return, yet the companies either don’t exist or the rates are unachievable.
Scammers often use the names, logos and descriptions of real financial services companies to lull victims into a false sense of security.
They may also ask for ID and proof of address from the victim before taking any cash to create the appearance of a real investment.
However there are some things Britons can do to stay safe.
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Staying safe – top tips for avoiding scams on social media
- Watch out for unexpected requests for money, even if it appears to come from someone you recognise. Always do further independent checks using other contact methods to verify the person’s identity. If it’s genuine, they won’t mind, and if you’re being put under pressure to transfer money quickly it should be a red flag.
- Never give your social media log-in details to anyone else and don’t stay logged into your social media on shared devices, or in public spaces, such as computers in libraries.
- Go through your social media account settings, and put two-factor authentication for log-ins in place, where available. This means you will receive an alert to a phone number or email address, that you specify, letting you know someone is trying to log-in.
- Be on your guard when asked to share or like content on social media, or fill in a form asking for your personal details, particularly if there is an incentive to do so like a free tablet or games console. This is a common way fraudsters amass your details, including lists of people you’re friends with, so they have more targets to go after.
- Be suspicious of adverts for products and services that are otherwise difficult to track down – such as in-demand games consoles or very high rates of investment return. If you can’t find the items or services offered through well-known retailers or financial providers, then it may be a scam.
- Never ignore warnings from your bank – they are there to protect you. Recent research found that one in 10 people in the UK would ignore a warning about payee details not matching.
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