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Scams circulating in Lancashire that fall victim to thousands

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Thousands of innocent people fall victim to scams and tricks that everyone should be aware of.

Techniques vary from impersonating banks, family members or even Royal Mail. A new scam has seen criminals creating fake chatbots sneakily signing up victims for expensive monthly subscriptions.

It starts with sending phishing emails posing as Royal Mail asking you to ‘start a conversation’ to track or reschedule a delivery. Other scams include a fake NHS Covid-19 text that defrauded people of large sums of money.

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Around £880,000 in identity theft scams that started with fake NHS Covid-19 texts have been reported in Santander since January. On average, people are defrauded of £5,600, according to bank data.

We’ve rounded up recent scams from Which? have reported.

Royal Mail chatbot scam

Fraudsters are now creating fake chatbots in a new delivery scam, according to Which?.

The trick sees chatbots sneakily sign up victims for expensive monthly subscriptions. It starts with sending phishing emails posing as Royal Mail that urge you to “start a conversation” to trace or reschedule a delivery, Echo reports.

The fake chatbot then lists a delivery tracking number and shares an image of a package, explaining that “the label was damaged”, to convince you to reschedule the delivery.

However, clicking the link takes you to another website that asks for your name, address, and payment information. In the fine print that sits at the very top of the page and is only visible when you scroll up on a mobile phone, adding these details puts you in a game.

It’s called “Skill Game” and adding the details buys a three-day trial at bilingua.net which costs £2 and then £59 every 30 days. Which? reported a few days later, the form switched to promoting a different website – called proplanner.io – costing £62 every 30 days.

Fake investment bank offering “refunds”

A strange email from ‘GFC Investment’ which referred to itself as a ‘depositor’ was reported by Which?

It claimed to be an investment bank “working to acquire new, more robust regulations” and that part of the process involved reimbursing the person receiving the email.

According to consumer experts, this type of scam can lead to collection fraud. This is where scammers target previous victims, claiming to help recoup losses, only to then further defraud them.

Warning issued over WhatsApp scam where people are losing thousands

Fraudsters are increasingly turning to WhatsApp in a bid to scam users out of their hard-earned money.

Worryingly, the total number of scams reported to start on WhatsApp increased twentyfold between 2020 and 2021.

On average, victims of the scams lost around £1,950 each. Lloyds Bank has now released some message characteristics to be wary of.

Users are warned that scam messages can seem “very personal” and will often use the pretense of being a family member who has lost their phone. They don’t even need to know your name, because “mom” or “dad” can suffice.

Lloyds Bank said: “The story they tell may vary, but more often than not they claim that as it’s a new phone they don’t have access to their internet or mobile banking account, and so they need urgent help to pay a bill.”

Warning as scammers target thousands of self-assessed taxpayers

Scammers also target taxpayers subject to self-assessment. According to figures, 570,000 incidents were reported last year.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) urges customers to be on their guard after the self-assessment deadline. This time of year, self-assessment customers are at increased risk of being scammed, even if they don’t mention the self-assessment.

People can be fooled by scam texts, emails or calls offering a refund or demanding unpaid tax, thinking these are genuine HMRC communications referring to their tax return. In the 12 months to January 2022, nearly 220,000 scams reported to HMRC offered bogus tax rebates.

Criminals will target unsuspecting customers in an attempt to steal money or personal information, often mimicking government messaging to appear authentic. In January 2022, phone scams increased to 3,995 from 425 reported in April 2020.

Myrtle Lloyd, chief executive of customer services at HMRC, said: “If someone contacts you saying they are from HMRC, wanting you to transfer money or give out personal details, please be sure your guards. Never get pushed around, and if you’re in doubt, check out our advice on ‘HMRC scams’ on GOV.UK.”

Customers had an extra month to submit a completed tax return and if filed by February 28, 2022, they would avoid a late-filing penalty. HMRC has a dedicated team working on computer and telephone crimes using innovative technologies to prevent misleading and malicious communications from reaching the customer.

Santander warning to customers after fake NHS text scam

Santander has warned customers of a fake NHS Covid-19 text scamming people out of large sums of money.

Around £880,000 in identity theft scams that started with fake NHS Covid-19 texts have been reported in Santander since January. On average, people are defrauded of £5,600, according to bank data.

In one case seen by the bank, a couple transferred over £20,000. The scam works by fraudsters sending fake texts stating that the recipient has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The texts include a link to a fake NHS website to order a PCR test. The website asks for their personal details and a small amount of money is requested to cover the cost of postage for the PCR test. This means that payment card details can be retrieved by the fraudster, who then contacts the intended victim posing as their bank and convinces them that they are being scammed and need to transfer their money on a “secure account”.

The name on the secure account is often someone else’s and the fraudster will concoct an explanation as to why it is not in the customer’s name. In reality, the account is controlled by the fraudster. Once the money is sent, all contact is cut off and the victims’ details are sometimes sold to other criminals.