The Growing Threat of Scams and Fraud
Scams and fraud are becoming an increasing problem across both North Tyneside and the UK as a whole, particularly affecting elderly people and those with disabilities.
During June each year, Citizens Advice offices across the country run a Scams Awareness campaign to alert our clients and the general public to emerging types of scams, how to spot them and what potential victims should do to avoid further problems.
In the quarter leading up to our Scams Awareness campaign (April-June 2019), Citizens Advice North Tyneside have seen three times as many potential scam victims as during the same period last year. In fact, the number of people we’ve seen needing advice on scams in this period – in just three months – amounts to two-thirds the number of people who came to us for advice on scams during the whole of the year before.
We’ve also noticed some common trends among the people coming to us for advice on scams during last financial year (2018-2019):
- 24% of them also needed help with financial capability
- 33% of them had a disability or long-term health condition
- 33% of them were aged over 65
An increasing number of scams also involve people pretending to be calling from government agencies. In one case seen by North Tyneside Citizens Advice, a client was called by someone claiming to be from HMRC and saying they owed £1792 for tax fraud, and that they would face an arrest warrant if this wasn’t paid by the end of the day. Although the client sought advice from us instead of paying the money, she was in a vulnerable living situation with two young children and was very distressed by the call.
The BBC have also covered the growing number of fraudsters making fraudulent Universal Credit claims in other people’s names under the pretence of offering them a loan or government grant. We have seen two separate people recently affected in North Tyneside, who thought they were obtaining loans from a broker and instead found themselves owing money to the DWP for benefit advances they never received. They also encountered problems with their existing benefit claims because of this.
If you’re contacted about something you think might be a scam, look out for any of the following signs:
It might be a scam if:
- it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s significantly cheaper than you’d expect it to be
- someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
- you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
- you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
- you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
- you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
- you haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed
You can protect yourself by checking whether a company is registered on gov.uk – which will tell you if they’re a real company or not – and whether they’re on a business standards register like the Business Approval Register.
For further advice on protecting yourself online, see our national website.
If you think you’ve been affected by a scam and need advice, please contact us.