Scammers have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “cash in,” with scams skyrocketing since pre-lockdown, figures show.
Scams were up 66% in the first six months of 2020, and are likely to continue rising, with recent figures indicating a further rise of 5% from June to July, Barclays said.
The value of scams has also increased — up 61% from May to June, and another 7% from June to July.
Brits’ attempts to “regain normality through increased spending” could be “providing scammers with an opportunity to line their pockets,” the bank warned.
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Scammers can also benefit from people taking a while to realise they’ve been conned — for example, waiting for confirmation of an investment that never came, Barclays said.
Going forward, Brits should “be wary” of scams related to travel, social media and investment, in particular, Barclays added.
There has been an increase in travel-related scams, with fake advertisements for campervans on online marketplace sites especially prevalent. With the summer holidays fully underway, scams relating to “staycations” are likely to continue increasing, the bank warned.
Additionally, with Brits spending more time online than ever during lockdown — due to increased home working, keeping up with loved ones while social distancing or just out of boredom — it is even easier for scammers to target victims.
Investment scams, particularly those relating to crypto-currency, are also up. Brits are being conned with fake currencies and bogus investment opportunities, and scammers are consistently growing “more sophisticated in their tactics,” Barclays said.
Investment scams alone spiked 49% since May — the biggest increase Barclays has ever reported.
“Fraudsters have undoubtedly taken advantage of the nation’s uncertainty during the pandemic, in what is just another moment in the historical evolution of scams. The immediacy of our lives, even during lockdown, has allowed scammers to harness the constantly changing news agenda to target their victims, which is why we all need to remain vigilant,” said Jim Winters, head of fraud at Barclays.
“I would urge everyone that if they are ever in doubt and something doesn’t sound right, to take the time to check it out, or get a second opinion from someone you trust.”