Fraud Focus - Ukraine donation scams and exploitation of rising energy bills
14 March 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.
Ukraine emergency appeal scams
Researchers have discovered numerous scams preying on people’s generosity towards the Ukraine crisis, particularly through cryptocurrency scams. By using phishing emails and forum posts to ask members of the public to donate Bitcoin and Ethereum, fake online crypto addresses are given which the criminals falsely claim are connected to the Ukrainian government.
Not only do these scams mean funds donated by members of the public don’t reach those they are supposed to help, but money lost in such scams could be used to fund further criminal activities.
It’s important that individuals wishing to donate to charities and causes do their research to ensure any charity they are dealing with is legitimate. Genuine details of charities registered with the Charity Commission can be found by searching the register at: https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information.
Numerous reports have been received of fraudulent correspondence being sent by a legal company purporting to be collecting outstanding payments for an energy company. With 40 energy organisations having gone out of business in recent months, this method of committing fraud is thought to have widened to other energy companies whereby a request for payment is demanded to settle outstanding debts.
Cifas is reminding individuals to take a moment to stop and think about the consequences of parting with their personal or financial details before doing so. Individuals should hang up the phone if they receive such a call, and phone the organisation back on a phone number they have researched themselves.
Impersonating Government Departments for Financial Assistance
Scammers purporting to be from the Department of Work & Penson (DWP) and other organisations are targeting those who are applying for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment as the cost of living crisis worsens. Furthermore, scammers have also been targeting individuals with false council tax refunds and energy bill rebates.
Any individual receiving such offers are advised to follow advice from reputable sources such as the GOV.UK website and follow official guidance for applying for financial assistance.
Criminals abusing personal details to commit tax fraud
HMRC has reported that criminals are operating on social media and asking individuals for their personal tax details. Criminals are then using these genuine details to apply for bogus tax refunds and offer to split the fraudulently obtained funds.
In this instance, the portion of funds staying with the criminal could go on to fund further crimes. There is also an additional risk that criminals could blackmail individuals after agreeing to this activity, or even use obtained personal details to commit identity fraud.
Research by Cifas has discovered 1 in 13 adults in the UK admitted to taking part in first-party fraudulent conduct in the last 12 months. Taking part in such a first-party or second-party fraud scheme is illegal and those caught doing so could face serious consequences.
Commenting on the latest risks to consumers, Cifas’ Head of Fraud Intelligence, Amber Burridge, said: ‘Criminals are exploiting the public by using techniques designed to catch victims while their guard is down. By focussing on individuals who are financially struggling or trying to urgently assist those in need, they hope potential victims will be less likely to undertake checks to ensure the legitimacy of requests.
‘I encourage anyone handing over their personal details, financial details or money to take a moment to stop and think before doing so. Consider if there are any additional checks that can be completed to ensure who you are dealing with is genuine.’
For further information, please contact:
Matt Pearson, Press & PR Manager
+44 (0)20 4551 7956
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