THE past year Brits have been open to scams like never before.
Identity fraud, romance cons and cruel puppy farmers – I’ve seen it all during my career as a police officer.
The devastating impact these schemes can have on people is truly shocking.
With the pandemic and as we live our lives online more than ever there are plenty of more ways we can be conned out of cash.
Be a bit more guarded – act like a boxer and put your guard up so no-one can get to you.
Very often by doing a few simple checks you can find out it is a scam.
And if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
From online shopping to second hand cars, here’s my A to Z guide to spot the most common scams and stop fraudsters in their tracks.
*RAV offers security advice on Morning Live weekdays at 9.15am on BBC One.
The DVLA has seen a 20 per cent rise in reported car tax scams this year so this is one to watch out for.
Victims will receive emails, calls or texts offering a tax rebate which does not exist.
If in doubt, look for the DVLA’s contact details on their gov.uk site and contact them.
Natwest has warned that their customers are being targeted over the phone by criminals claiming to be officials.
It’s an attempt to get your personal details.
Courier fraud often involves someone pretending to be a police officer to say you have been a victim of fraud and asking for your bank details.
Take it from me, the police will never ask for this information so if you get this call hang up.
Dogs and cats
With everyone wanting a furry friend to keep them company in lockdown, animal crime is booming at the moment.
Always check out the breeder and ask to see the puppy or kittens parents – it’s a warning sign if they refuse.
Don’t forget to microchip your pets. It’s a legal requirement for dogs and is also likely to be for cats as well soon.
It’s quick, painless and could be vital if your pet was to go missing at any point.
Although generally a safe place to shop there have been a number of scams associated with this online shopping site.
Always check the buyers feedback and never deal outside of eBay with your seller over personal emails.
Sports fans have seen their online streaming subscriptions hacked into and their personal details stolen.
Always make sure you have a strong password and if possible enable two-step authentication.
We're online shopping more than ever before and this leaves us open to scammers.
Supermarkets like Tesco are asking shoppers to be on the lookout for scams offering free vouchers.
Watch out for scams including fake caravan and motorhome listings, refund offers and travel deals.
Con artists are looking to take advantage of uncertainty around coronavirus travel restrictions so always check reviews.
Scammers are contacting Brits offering them the chance to invest in foreign markets, according to National Trading Standards.
Always check a firm is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on their website before handing over any money.
Fraudsters will capitalise on new games console releases – and the pressure parents feel to find an in-demand game.
Always triple check where you are buying from – warning signs are the product is cheaper than other reputable outlets and is available when sold out everywhere else.
The pandemic has brought out the best in people but you should still be aware of random acts of kindness scammers.
If a stranger offers to help you financially or pay off your debt, act with caution before providing any personal details.
If the car you are buying second-hand has a logbook loan, you could see your treasured new motor repossessed.
Ask the AA or RAC to see the history of the car you are buying so you aren’t affected by its previous owner’s debt.
If you are buying a protective gear for yourself or business, be aware that many scam websites have popped up to take advantage of demand.
They will take your money but never sell you the product. Always check reviews for a business on Google.
Criminals have taken advantage of the Test and Trace programme to con people out of money over text.
The NHS will never ask you to make a payment, to download a link or for your PIN number.
If you do receive a text you can visit https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk and enter the code given to you to check it’s legitimate.
Romance scams are on the up as lonely Brits seek lockdown companions.
Never send any money to a potential date – no matter how attractive they are.
Since January 2019 it has been illegal to cold call anyone about their pension so if someone approaches you this is a red flag.
These callers might persuade you to cash in your pension or invest a lump sum – always avoid and check the FCA website for reputable investors.
You might get a call that asks a simple question like “can you hear me?” but if you don’t know who it is, don’t answer.
Your voice could be recorded and used to access any bank accounts you have with voice recognition.
Anyone who knocks on your door offering services out of the blue should be treated with suspicion.
Often they may do low quality or incomplete work while taking payment off you.
House buyers in a rush to beat the stamp duty window take note – always check your solicitors bank details by phone.
Scammers are taking advantage of the property boom by sending out bogus payment details.
As the tax deadline approaches on Jan 31, fraudsters are attempting to get their hands on your cash through dodgy phishing emails.
HMRC will never ask you to part with cash over email or text. Make sure you login to the Government portal for instruction on how to pay your bill or to get a refund.
Shady players have been posing as Jobcentre Plus over the phone and text asking for bank details.
If DWP contact you and you are unsure it’s the right number – ask to call them back and use the number on the gov.uk website.
The Covid-19 vaccine is only available through the NHS. It’s not for sale.
No one should or would ask you for your bank details or payment in any way. If they do, it’s a fraud!
Working from home
If you are job hunting at the moment, beware of bogus job adverts offering to let you work from home.
Alarm bells should be ringing if your prospective employer doesn’t contact you from a company email and if they ask you to cough up for training.
Sextortionists will contact you to say they have hacked your laptop and have compromising webcam footage which they’ll release without a ransom.
In most cases they don’t and are playing on your fears, report them to action fraud and don’t reply.
The first line of defence against scams is the way you behave.
Make sure you and your family’s email addresses and passwords are strong and secure. Always use two-step authentication where you can.
We're video calling our colleagues, friends and family more than ever and scammers know this.
Always put a password on your calls and never talk about sensitive information – someone could be listening.
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