Most common scams revealed by UK watchdog, from dating cons to missing person appeals
Which? magazine has completed an investigation into the most convincing scams of 2023 thus far, in hopes of informing consumers so that they can better protect themselves.
It comes shortly after the Government revealed its three-year strategy to tackle the fraud epidemic across the nation, with scamming making up two out of five reported crime incidents.
Talking about their study, Which? tech editor Lisa Barber said: “It’s appalling that 2023 has seen scammers continuing to thrive, as a new wave of convincing scams bombards consumers from every direction. The sad theme of all these scams is that tech platforms — whether social media, app stores, or payment services — don’t always keep you safe.”
But what are the most common scams in the UK this year and how can you protect yourself?
“Pig-butchering scams” refer to fraudulent activity that sees the scammer “fatten up” its victim before executing a “slaying”.
In recent years, the technique has been used incredibly frequently for romantic-connection cons, with fraudsters meeting potential victims on dating platforms, “love-bombing” the victim, and slowly grooming them. Then, one day, the scammer will come up with a story that asks the victim to send money for a convincing reason.
For instance, the scammer could say there is an amazing business or investment opportunity the target can get involved in or, like the infamous Tinder Swindler, they could say they were targeted by “enemies” and needed a quick loan to fly back home as their credit card was glitching.
To avoid the scam, users of dating platforms are encouraged to look for signs of “love-bombing”, reluctance to meet in person, and requests for money in any form.
Fake missing person appeals
Recently, there has been an increase in fake viral posts on community pages worldwide, asking for people to reshare them with their friends and families.
Once the posts gather enough likes and shares, the user edits its content to be about an investment opportunity or another way to get consumers to send money. Given the high number of likes and shares, online users often end up thinking the investment opportunity is credible and legitimate, and end up being defrauded.
To avoid the scam, the best rule of thumb is to only like and share posts from official and/or legitimate online accounts, like the police force or the Missing People charity.
This scam sees consumers being sent a “money request” from a genuine PayPal address like email@example.com. The request is often for high-value items, and will seem to come from official sites such as the HMRC, demanding that you pay overdue payments and warning that you will face legal repercussions if you don’t.
The best way to protect yourself from such scams is to never pay PayPal invoices that they don’t recognise and to never use phone numbers on those invoices to check their legitimacy. Instead, contact PayPal directly from the numbers listed on their platform or, if it seems like it’s the HMRC, head over to gov.uk to reach them.
Fake app scams see applications downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play target consumers by installing malware on their phones to steal their data and perpetuate scams.
To avoid the scam, always click on the developer’s name and check what other apps they’ve created in the past to judge their legitimacy. It’s also wise to have a look at the app’s reviews, paying particular attention to the negative ones as the positive ones could be fake comments they paid people to write. And avoid giving the app lots of data permissions until you know there is a legitimate need for it and the app is trustworthy.