We’ve previously written about how scammers can convincingly lead people into losing hundreds if not thousands of pounds. In this article we remind you of some of the scams we’ve seen or heard about throughout the pandemic, but highlight some newer or less well known scams.
Delivery Text Messages
According to Which? 61% of people have received fake delivery company texts over the past year, which comes as no surprise as many of us have been at home and relying on deliveries to our doors – something the scammers have exploited. Thankfully, nearly 80% have recognised these to be fake, but that still leaves just over 20% vulnerable to these scams. Again, according to Which? 3% had lost money to them.
Typically, the scammers purport to be from Royal Mail, but DPD, Hermes and DHL have all been impersonated.
You will only get a message from one of these delivery companies if you’ve ordered something and are expecting a delivery – but be careful as this is what the scammers are hoping for, that you’ll assume the text is legitimate, because you’re waiting on something. Royal Mail remind people that where customers are needing to pay surcharge for an underpaid item (where someone has paid the correct postage), they’ll leave a grey ‘fee to pay’ card. They wouldn’t request payment by email or text.
HMRC phishing scams
These scams were up 90% in 2020/21 according to one report* and related to tax rebates and refunds. The preferred route for these scams were by email, but SMS scams of this nature increased by over 50% and phone scams by 66%. If you receive an email from HMRC, for example, if you’re self employed or complete a self-assessment tax return – go on to the HMRC Government Gateway portal and see if there are any messages there. Don’t be tempted to click on any links in the email!
Mortgage free or empty properties
Fraudsters target properties to then secure mortgages against them. There’s a number of properties or people that are most vulnerable to this:
- Mortgage free
- Vacant properties
- Not registered on the Land Registry (normally where the property is mortgage free and has not changed hands since 1998).
- Where the owner lives elsewhere for example buy-to-lets or holiday homes
Scammers will attempt to transfer the property into their own name by falsifying various documents, using stolen identities etc. They’ll then raise money against the property leaving victims either at risk of having to leave their home or having to claim compensation from the Land Registry to replace their home.
You can protect your property by taking a number of steps:
- Register your property on the Land Registry if it is not already registered.
- Sign up for the free Land Registry Property Alert service. You can get alerts for up to 10 properties, meaning you can help protect vulnerable family or friends as well as yourself.
- Put a restriction on your title: this will stop the Land Registry registering any sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the application was made by you. This restriction:
- Costs £40 if you live at the property
- Is free if you do not live at the property but you own it privately
- Is free if a company owns the property.
Visit gov.uk for more advice on how to protect your property
Renting out other peoples homes
Fraudsters copy adverts from legitimate websites and pretend to be the owners of the property in order to secure deposits and rent from would be renters. Much of the advice given is to be extra vigilant when looking at ads placed on social media marketplaces, or the likes of Gumtree. The fraudsters tend to look for homes that are for sale, and market them as being available to rent – so if you’re looking for a property to rent, check the likes or Rightmove of Zoopla to ensure that it’s not listed for sale.
Make sure you are able to visit the property to ensure that it is available to rent or go through a well known or reputable agent. Most importantly, don’t be pressured into parting with money because the supposed landlords have others interested. If they ask for you to pay a deposit online to secure the property, before being able to view it – this should be a red flag.