Fraud Focus – Investment scams, self-assessment scams, blood donation phishing, malware-infected apps, and police impersonators
25 October 2022
Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is highlighting the latest fraud threats, and warning the public to stay vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information.
Young professionals targeted by investment scams
Cifas has received reports from the City of London Police as part of Operation Broadway, which raises awareness of investment scams, as young professionals are increasingly targeted via social media. The total amount lost to investment fraud in the 2021/22 financial year rose by almost half, with more than £890m lost to investment fraud last year.
The public are reminded to be wary of ‘too good to be true’ investment schemes, offering high returns over a short period. A potential red flag for a scam is if the conversation begins on a well-known platform, and shortly after, the intended victim is urged by the fraudster to move the conversation or funds to an unknown email address or account. Vague inferences to a ‘friend of a friend’ or the namedropping of a financial institution without visiting their official platform may also indicate a scam is present. If you feel the slightest hint of unease, stop and take time to think carefully before parting with your money or information. Only a fraudster will try to rush or panic you.
HMRC warning for self-assessment taxpayers
As the 31 October self-assessment paper tax return deadline approaches, HMRC is urging Self-Assessment customers to be alert to fraudsters and scams that ask for their personal information or bank details. In the 12 months to August 2022, HMRC responded to more than 180,000 referrals of suspicious contact from the public, of which almost 81,000 were scams offering fake tax rebates.
Criminals claiming to be from HMRC have targeted individuals by email, text and phone with their communications ranging from offering bogus tax rebates to threatening arrest for tax evasion.
HMRC will never call threatening arrest, and if a taxpayer receives any such communication, then Cifas advises reporting this to HMRC immediately. Suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC can be forwarded to 60599 and emails to email@example.com. Any suspected tax scam phone calls can be reported to HMRC using the online form on GOV.UK.
Blood donation phishing warning
Cifas is warning of potential phishing and smishing messages claiming to be from the NHS Blood Donation service. In response to a genuine NHS amber alert over donor blood stocks, which currently remains in place, the Blood Donation Service has seen a spike in website visitors and phone calls offering donations.
The public are reminded that they may receive scam texts purporting to be from the blood donation service, which ask for their personal information. If the message purports to be from the NHS Blood Donation Service then don’t click on any links, but instead visit www.blood.co.uk or call the service on 0300 123 23 23.
If you believe you’ve received a suspicious text, forward it to 7726 for the National Cyber Security Centre to investigate.
Meta has announced they have identified over 400 malicious iOS and Android apps which harvest Facebook login credentials in 2022. These apps were masquerading as photo editors and games. A key indicator of these apps is a lack of functionality until the user provides their Facebook credentials to login, at which stage the malware collects this information, providing attackers with full access to the victim’s account.
Smartphone users are encouraged to only download trusted apps from known developers and to check smartphone bills regularly. Members of the public should consider running regular anti-malware scans on their devices to check for any malicious software.
Cifas is asking the public not to engage with any received letters of this nature and to report any such communication to their local police force by calling 101.
Amber Burridge, Head of Intelligence for Cifas, said:
'With winter approaching, criminals continue to find ways to deceive a public struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
‘Self-assessment taxpayers are frequently targeted and, as people look to make extra income during a time of rising inflation and shrinking household budgets, investment scams have been making the rounds on social media.
'Fraudsters continue to look for victims from whom they can steal money and personal information which can be used to commit further fraud. Stop and think carefully before responding to unsolicited texts or emails and challenge requests to part with your personal or financial details.
‘Remember to only download or visit apps from trusted sources and developers.’
Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a scam should contact their bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk.
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