The last couple of years has seen fundamental changes in what businesses, consumers, and criminals do online. More and more aspects of our lives were already shifting towards the internet, but this was accelerated by the pandemic while we couldn’t see our loved ones, meet up with friends, or go to work in the office for most of 2020 and start of 2021.
This shift in behaviour has seen a huge increase in cybercrime as criminals take advantage of higher online activity.
Action Fraud, Cifas, and UK Finance collectively received 822,276 fraud reports in 2019-20 (1). Of which, 698,934 (85%) were online based scams. The National Crime Agency also state that, roughly, just 20% of scams are reported so we could be looking at a total figure of around 3,494,670 cases of cybercrime every year.
Looking at this in monetary terms, there was £2.3bn reported loss, which means a possible total figure of around £11.5bn in just one year.
Based on growing trends and statistics, Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance and personal finance expert, predicts what the biggest online scams of 2022 will be.
1: Cryptocurrency investment scams
Cryptocurrency investment scams have increased significantly over the last couple of years with a staggering £146.2 million being lost to crypto scams between January and October this year alone (2).
This is almost 30% more than the amount that was lost throughout the whole of 2020.
The average loss per victim was £20,500, making this a very dangerous scam with the potential for huge losses
Young adults (aged 18 – 25) accounted for the highest percentage of crypto scam reports and over half of victims were aged between 18 and 45.
Holly says: “It’s very important to watch out for adverts on social media as this is a very common tactic that these scammers use. They will often use a photo of a well known celebrity or social media influencer with fake testimonials making it look like they endorse the investment firm or product.
They will also promise high returns in a short space of time in order to appeal to those who are looking for a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. But, as we know, cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and it would be impossible to guarantee a profit, so genuine investment firms would never make this statement.
Before making an investment into cryptocurrencies, it’s very important that you check the FCA Register to ensure that you’re dealing with an authorised firm. You can also check the FCA’s Warning List for companies to avoid.
And always remember, if something seems too good to be, then it most likely is.”
2: NHS vaccine scams
Scammers have been taking advantage of the pandemic in every way they can since it began.
The vaccine roll-out, in particular, has been exploited as scammers preyed on people’s fear of COVID-19 and desperation to get vaccinated.
Holly says: “With the Covid-19 booster roll out set to continue into 2022, there’s no doubt that scammers will continue to use this as the subject for scams.
Since the start of the initial vaccine roll-out in December 2020, scammers have been trying to con people into paying for vaccines by sending out fake NHS text messages, emails, and also by cold calling.
The NHS are contacting patients via letters and text messages to let them know when it’s their turn for their vaccine or booster, however they will never ask you for your personal information, log-in details and passwords, or bank details.
It’s very important that you don’t respond to requests for payment as Covid-19 vaccines are free for everybody under the NHS.”
3: NHS COVID Pass scams
If you’re attending an event in the UK or travelling abroad, in most cases you will have to show your NHS COVID pass.
These passes are completely free to obtain by going on the NHS website or app, but scammers have been exploiting this by sending text messages to people asking for payment.
Holly says: “ Theses text messages appear to be from the NHS and read something along the lines of ‘you are now eligible to apply for your COVID Pass, proving you have been vaccinated’. A link will be included which will take you to a malicious website, designed to look like the NHS website, where you will be asked for your personal details and for payment to obtain your pass.
It’s important to remember that the NHS will not contact you regarding your NHS pass as this is something you need obtain yourself through their website or app when you need it.
It’s also important to remember that you will never have to pay to access your COVID Pass, so stay well away from anybody asking for payment.
4: Online dating scams
With most of 2020 and the start of 2021 spent in national lockdowns, this forced more people to turn to online dating website and apps to find love.
This has evidently caused an increase in the number of online dating scam reports.
According to UK Finance’s half year fraud update 2021 (3) , romance scams have increased significantly over the last couple of years. The number of romance scam reports increased by 38% when comparing the first half of 2019 to H1 2020, and by a massive 74% when comparing H1 2019 to H1 2021.
Holly says: “Romance scams typically involve malicious minded criminals who develop relationships with people over a long period of time so they can build their trust. Once they’ve built up enough trust, they’ll start to make up reasons why they need money and plead for your help.
Alternatively, they may try to convince you to make an investment in cryptocurrencies or another commodity. They will explain how they’ve made thousands of pounds doing so, when in reality, they are just trying to get your bank details.
It’s your choice who you want to give money to, but never under any circumstances, transfer money to someone that you haven’t met in person and fully trust.
If someone tries to convince you to make an investment, then make sure you do your own thorough research or seek professional advice. Never invest money through a link that has been sent to you by someone online.
If you’re suspicious of someone’s behaviour on a dating website, or if they’ve asked you for money or to make an investment, then it’s important that you report them on the site or app. This will protect not only you, but others from being scammed too.”
5: Payment diversion fraud
In the year leading to September 2021, Action Fraud received 4,600 reports of Payment diversion fraud, with the average loss being around £30,000 per business or individual (4).
Scammers like to take advantage of big ticket transactions, so small to medium sized businesses and home buyers are the most common target for this type of scam.
Holly says: “Payment diversion fraud can be a very dangerous scam as it can see businesses and individuals losing thousands of pounds that they may not be able to get back. Some victims have lost entire house deposits through this type of fraud.
PDF involves scammers intercepting payments or creating /amending invoices in order to divert money to bank accounts under their control.
For businesses, scammers may pose as a genuine supplier and send you an email letting you know that their bank details have changed for future invoices and payments.
For home buyers, the scammers will pose as the individual’s solicitor and say the same, giving new bank details to which the house deposit should be transferred to.
Be very cautious if you receive an email from a supplier, or solicitor, requesting you to change the bank details you have on record for them. If you receive an email like this, phone them directly and check that this is genuine. Don’t email them back or use any contact details provided in the email, go to a known trusted contact or use the contact details on their website.
When corresponding with somebody via email, always check the sender’s email address to ensure that it’s the same as usual, or the one that the details displayed on their website.
Most importantly, remember to never send money before you are absolutely sure that it’s the correct person and correct bank details. Genuine suppliers, solicitors, and companies won’t mind you taking the extra time to keep your money safe. Only scammers will put pressure on you and urge that you don’t need to check.”