Many scams continue year after year with little change and some others rise or fall in popularity. Below are the ones NatWest Bank reports as the most common.
- Social media spying: People can be very open posting information on social media and not realise how much they’re giving away, but to a fraudster the posts can be very helpful in setting up a scam. E.g. A fraudster might spot a post from someone about moving to a new house and know it’s likely they will have funds from their previous property hitting their bank accounts soon. This could result in the fraudsters impersonating their solicitor and requesting for funds to be misdirected to them.
- Malicious software on smartphones: An emerging threat is how malware will appear in mobile banking on smartphones. This can be used by criminals to spy on the victim’s Internet activities.
- Bogus Brexit investments: Consumers should be wary of attempts from scammers to use Brexit to push fake investment opportunities. For example, scammers may email customers, warning Brexit will decimate their savings, and that they urgently need to move them into a seemingly plausible, but actually fake, investment product, safe from any potential Brexit fall out.
- Sporting Events Tickets and Travel: Some sites will sell tickets that are either fake – or will never arrive. It is also expected that counterfeit package trips to Japan for the Olympics in 2020 will be sold by fake travel companies. These trips will never materialise, and the money will have disappeared into the pockets of criminals.
- Money mules: Scammers trawl social media for potential targets – particularly poor students in university towns are often targeted – and use them to unknowingly launder money. Money mules receive the stolen funds into their account, they are then asked to withdraw it and wire the money to a different account, often one overseas, keeping some of the money for themselves. But this is illegal as it is money laundering.
- Wedding Scams: As the cost of weddings increases, experts fear brides and grooms are becoming easy prey for scammers who tempt victims with extravagant offers at bargain prices. Scammers can set up fake websites within minutes for elements of the big day like venue hire, catering, or wedding dresses that can look exactly like the real thing. Fake wedding planners will take people’s money and disappear.
- Romance Scams: More than 16 million people were using dating apps in 2017. Criminals create fake profiles to form a relationship with their victims. They use the messaging functionality to get personal details – where a person lives, a pet’s name, favourite sports team – and steal the customer’s identity and open credit cards and take out loans in their name. Alternatively, they work to build a trusted relationship with their victim. Just when the victim thinks they’ve met the perfect partner the scammer asks for money – for example; they need money to pay for travel to visit. The scammers who do this often have dozens of such relationships on the go at a time.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know, by email.