While people from across the UK, and indeed the world, tried to adapt to changing coronavirus restrictions, criminal gangs sought to capitalise on the pandemic, by tailoring scams to fit people’s changing lifestyles. Last year, the total number of Authorised Push Payment cases (whereby the victim is tricked into transferring money) rose by 22 per cent. According to UK Finance, there were 149,946 cases representing £479 million lost to scammers. As more people stayed at home, CEL Solicitors’ specialist fraud recovery team saw a huge increase in phishing, vishing and smishing scams, with the firm receiving hundreds of enquiries each month. Targeting people by email, phone and text, scammers played on people’s fears during the pandemic with a range of sophisticated scams that have seen people lose their life savings, including sums over £1 million. However, as we emerge from lockdown, and restrictions ease, scammers aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. So, if you’ve been scammed, take comfort in the fact you are not alone, and all is not lost. You can read more about common scams, and how we can help you recover money lost to scammers, here.

What is a phishing scam?

A phishing scam is an email scam, whereby scammers try to defraud, dupe, or mislead people by email. The term was first used in the 1990’s by American hackers, who, to use an angling analogy, were “fishing” for financial data from the “sea” of internet users.

Phishing scams during lockdown

As Covid-19 hit both individuals and businesses were targeted with emails, purporting to be from government departments, informing recipients of their eligibility for a tax refund or offering them financial support during the pandemic.

Other types of Phishing scams

Common phishing emails often see scammers pose as popular service providers. They’ll normally suggest payment information needs to be updated and will convince respondents to transfer payments to them instead of their normal provider. Phishing scams can also follow data breaches. For example, we’ve seen several incidences of cyber criminals targeting conveyancing solicitors. In these cases, they will intercept and replicate emails requesting payments, often large sums of money such as house deposits, and have the money transferred directly to them.

What is a vishing scam?

A vishing scam is a telephone scam, whereby scammers try to persuade people to share sensitive information, or make fraudulent payments, over the phone. As the scammers speak to their targets, its name combines the word voice and phishing to make vishing. Scammers using vishing scams often impersonate well known organisations to gain people’s trust and encourage them to make bogus money transfers.

Vishing scams during lockdown

During the coronavirus pandemic scammers continued to play on people’s fears by posing as trusted organisations such as the NHS and government departments. From payments to access coronavirus vaccines, to fines for supposedly breaking lockdown rules, many people were targeted by scammers posing as healthcare and government employees over the phone.

Other types of vishing scams

As well as piggybacking on the pandemic, criminals also impersonated organisations such as HMRC, the police, banks, utility companies and broadband providers, to name a few. These types of scammers often target people by phone and put them under some sort of duress, to defraud them e.g., by telling them they have an outstanding tax bill that they must pay immediately or telling them that their account has been hacked and they must move their money into a safe account as soon as possible.

Remember, your bank will NEVER ask you to move your money. It is important to sit down and educate any elderly or vulnerable friends or relatives.

What is a smishing scam?

A smishing scam is a text scam, whereby scammers target people by SMS / text message. The name combines the method of scam – SMS – with the well know phishing term to create smishing. In smishing scams, cyber criminals will often try to encourage people to click on a link to make a payment. This will then take them to a cloned site whereby the scammers can steal their bank details. Alternatively, sometimes the text message is used to encourage the victim to get in touch by phone whereby the scammers can encourage them to transfer money over the phone.

Smishing scams during lockdown

During lockdown, scammers capitalised on the rise in online shopping by impersonating delivery companies. Scammers, posing as Royal Mail, sent text messages asking recipients to pay a small fee for an undelivered parcel. The smishing text contained a link to a fake website where scammers could obtain the person’s bank details. Scammers then made a few spurious payments before contacting the person, purporting to be from the bank, to inform them they had been hacked and must move their money into a ‘safe’ account asap.

Other types of smishing scams

Common smishing scams often involve popular online services, such as PayPal, or subscriptions, such as Netflix. Text messages typically say that your account has been hacked or is about to be suspended and that you must change your password or login to update your details. However, texts will include links to fake or cloned websites with the goal of obtaining people’s personal and financial details to defraud them.

Getting money back from a scam

Here at CEL Solicitors, we specialise in fraud recovery claims, and have seen first-hand the devastating impact scammers have on their victims. However, if you’ve been scammed, all is not lost. Whether it is an impersonation scam, investment scam, romance scam or purchase scam, we can help you. Regardless of how you were targeted, be it by email, phone, text, social media or in person, you’re not alone. Your bank has a duty of care to recognise potential scams, which members of the public may not necessarily be aware of. It’s also best placed to spot unusual banking activity and make necessary checks to protect you and your finances. So, if you’ve been scammed, speak to one of our friendly advisors today. We work on a no win, no fee basis so you’ve got nothing to lose by getting in touch. Call us on 0808 273 0900 or fill out our form.

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