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Fraud Focus – Android billing, cost of living payments, driving licence renewals, free visas, service scams

20 July 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.

Android app billing fraud

Owners of Android smartphones are at risk of a new type of billing fraud designed to trick them into paying for premium subscription packages. Cifas has received reports of apps which may appear to be free, subscribing to a premium subscription package. These compromised apps rely on targeting specific network operators, in order to run the scheme. If these conditions are met, the app will subscribe to a service, completely out of sight for the device owner, and can even intercept one-time password SMS messages.

Android smartphone users are reminded to only download trusted apps from known developers. Check your smartphone bills and challenge any unauthorised transactions with your provider. Avoid granting any apps SMS (text) permissions unless you have a strong reason to do so, most apps don’t need it. Keep track of your app subscriptions by following the instruction manual from your smartphone provider’s official website.

Scammers targeting under 25s for VAT refunds

Cifas is warning young people not to give away their online credentials to fraudsters. following reports of under 25s being targeted by fraudsters offering to process a HMRC VAT Refund, in exchange for 50% of the proceeds. Criminals are approaching young people via social media, posing as a company offering a tax refund and requesting personal and financial information in order to transfer money to finance/current accounts. Young people are encouraged to take a moment before engaging with anyone offering a tax refund online. Question claims that you are due money you weren't aware of, avoid handing over your personal and financial information, and report the scheme to Action Fraud.

DWP cost of living payments scam alert

Cifas is reminding those eligible for the new cost of living payments to be wary of attempts by fraudsters to trick them into handing over bank details and other personal information. Fraudsters impersonating DWP may contact members of the public to request sensitive financial information on the pretext of depositing Government sums into accounts.

The first instalments of a £650 cost of living payment to eight million families on low incomes and means-tested benefits began to arrive last week, with most people set to receive payments by the end of July. If you believe you’ve fallen for this scam, report it to Action Fraud and contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your debit or credit card.

Covid-test text scams on the rise

The recent rise in Covid cases has led to a spike in scam text messages telling recipients they have been in close contact with a Covid case. These messages are designed to steal financial and personal information which can be used for identity theft.

The public are being advised that NHS Test and Trace will never ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product of any kind or ask for any details about your bank account. If you receive such a text, avoid clicking the links without first using our Check a website tool to verify whether the site is genuine.

If you believe you have received a scam text, forward it to 7726 so that your mobile network operator can investigate and potentially block the nuisance number.

Free UK visa scam operating on Whatsapp

Cifas has learnt this week that a free UK visa scam is circulating on Whatsapp. Users are being targeted by criminals claiming to offer a quick and easy route to gaining a UK work visa. This includes free housing, accommodation and medical access. The messages include a link to a website impersonating UK Visas and Immigration. The site then requests personal information which criminals harvest and exploit to commit fraud.

WhatsApp users are being urged not to click on links to websites offering free UK visas or hand over personal information to such websites. You can report a suspicious website to the National Cyber Security Centre. If unsure whether a website is genuine, use our Check a website tool in the first instance.

Driving licence renewal scam

Cifas has received reports of members of the public looking to renew their driving licence online, being directed to a fraudulent website which requests personal and financial information. When looking to renew your licence online, make sure you are visiting the official DVLA website.

Alarm company scam calls

Cold callers are targeting residential areas where community alarms have been installed. Residents have reported unsolicited calls claiming to be from a community alarm company. Criminals are asking for a payment, telling people their existing alarm company ’has gone bust’ and they have taken over the contract. Cifas is reminding the public never to give out personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller. Remember, many residential alarm systems have prominently displayed logos, which criminals can use to figure out your alarm service provider. If in doubt about whether a caller purporting to be from your alarm service is genuine, hang up and go to the company’s official website. Companies in liquidation will often put a notice of administration on their homepage. If unclear, be sure to check the Government’s official register, all you need is the company’s name.

GP ’Lifeline’ scams targeting the public

Cifas understands that fraudsters have been cold calling members of the public claiming to be from their GP stating they can fit a free lifeline device in their home and want to visit to get the paperwork signed. A lifeline device is a medical alert that allows you to contact either a designated emergency contact or an ambulance for help and usually charges a fee.

Anyone receiving a calls similar to this should decline giving out their address and personal details, and contact the official number they have for their GP surgery to check if the phone call is legitimate.

Commenting on the latest risks to consumers, Cifas’ Head of Fraud Intelligence, Amber Burridge, said: ’Criminals are quick to take advantage of recent trends, and fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in looking for new and innovative ways to exploit the public by accessing their personal and financial details to steal money and data.

’It's important whenever you receive a call or message asking you to download materials or hand over personal or financial details, to stop and think about the consequences. Challenge the request, you can reject or refuse or ignore it, only fraudsters will try to rush or panic you. Protect yourself by contacting your bank immediately and reporting to Action Fraud if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam. Going forward, do check to make sure the person or organisation you're dealing with is genuine. Only contact organisations using the contact details listed on their official website or through previous correspondence and use our Check a website tool for any suspicious links.’

Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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