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Fraudsters target vulnerable during Covid crisis

Impersonation scams have increased dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Impersonation scams have increased dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Nicolas Herrbach

Fraudsters have used coronavirus as a way of frightening people into transferring money or personal details, Suffolk Trading Standards has warned.

National figures revealed a sharp rise in impersonation scams – where a victim is convinced to make a payment to a criminal claiming to be from a trusted organisation – in the first half of this year.

UK Finance, the banking industry representative body, recorded nearly 15,000 impersonation scam cases between January and June, which was an increase of 84% compared to the same six months last year.

More than 8,220 cases involved criminals impersonating the police or a bank – a year-on-year rise of 94% – while fraudsters imitating other trusted organisation, such as utility companies or a government department, went up 74%.

Scams involving criminals impersonating a bank or the police often begin with a phone call or text message claiming there has been fraud on the victim’s account.

The customer is then convinced that to protect their money they must transfer it to a ‘safe account’ which actually belongs to the fraudster.

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Other common scams involve text messages or emails claiming a victim must settle a fine, pay overdue tax or return a refund that was given by mistake.

MORE: Suffolk warning over coronavirus death windfall and TV licensing email scams

UK Finance said the rise in impersonation scams is being partly driven by criminals exploiting Covid-19, with fraudsters sending emails or text messages pretending to be from government departments and offering grants related to Covid-19.

Kate Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Always take a moment to stop and think if you receive a request to make a payment from someone claiming to be from an organisation you trust. Instead, contact the company or organisation directly using a known email or phone number, like the one on their official website.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Trading Standards said: “Unfortunately we have seen people falling victim to impersonation scams in Suffolk, particularly scammers using Covid-19 as a way of frightening people into transferring money or personal details.

“We echo the advice given, never give personal details or transfer money over the phone or online. Put the phone down and call back the bank or utility company, using a number from their website, a bill or statement.

“It is unlikely that these scammers are from Suffolk, they can be from anywhere in the UK or across the world.

“However scammers and rogue traders are active in Suffolk, who may knock on your door out of the blue, often claiming that urgent work is needed on your house. Never allow these people to carry out work on your property straight away, take your time to get a second opinion from family, friends, neighbours or a trusted tradesman.”


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