Cost-of-living crisis themed scams are on the rise and the public are being warned to watch out for fraudsters looking to take advantage.

Banking industry trade body UK Finance has warned the public that the cost-of-living crisis has made people more receptive to unprompted and potentially fraudulent approaches offering too-good-to-be-true investments in particular.

One in six (16%) of Brits say the rising cost of living has made them more receptive to such approaches according to the trade body, while more than half (56%) of adults are likely to look for income-boosting opportunities as inflation and interest rates bite.

Young people in particular are more at risk as their financial situation tends to be more precarious. One in three (34%) 18- to 34-year-olds said they were more likely to respond to an unsolicited approach about an investment or loan opportunity.

Three in five (60%) people are worried about falling victim to a scam, highlighting an awareness of the prevalence of financial scams among the public after years of rising losses suffered by individuals.

In the first half of 2022 some £610 million was lost to financial fraud according to UK Finance figures.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, comments: “The rise in the cost of living can be worrying and stressful and for many keeping on top of finances might be a struggle. It’s important for everyone to be conscious of criminals taking advantage of people’s anxieties around finances by staying alert for fraud.

“We encourage everyone to follow the advice of the Take Five campaign – always be cautious of any messages or calls you receive and stop and think before sharing your personal or financial information. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages”.

What scams should you watch out for?

UK Finance lists some typical scams that everyone should be aware of and has three key messages to help people protect themselves.

Those scams are:

1. Purchase scams. This is where someone looking for a cheap deal online finds a product for a too-good-to-be-true price. Often through search engines, fraudulent websites offer items such as expensive electronics at unbelievable prices. But if the website looks odd, has few reviews or the payment method is through an unusual format such as bank transfer, it is likely a scam.

2. Impersonation fraud. This is where criminals convince victims to pay for something while pretending to be from a trusted organisation. There are rising reports of fraudsters hacking service provider accounts – such as the emails of a solicitor, broker or other high-value professional service. The scammer then convinces the client to make a money transfer payment out of the blue using the hacked account. Anyone asked out of the blue in such a way should make efforts to speak to the known party either face-to-face or over the phone to confirm if the request is legitimate.

3. Payment in advance fraud. This is where a scammer offers a product, loan or other offering which seems too good to be true, with the fraudster requesting a payment in advance of receiving the product or service. The product paid for then never materialises or the fraudster vanishes and becomes impossible to contact.

4. Investment fraud. With the cost-of-living crisis worsening, UK Finance found 14% of people are more likely to search out new ways to earn money through investments. But this leaves many at risk from investment frauds – where unrealistically high interest rates, yields or other returns are promised in exchange for large cash investments. Like other scams this then typically either vanishes, becomes impossible to remove the cash from the scheme or a company will go ‘bust’ with the scammer absconding with the investor cash.

The three key messages from UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep people’s money safe are:

  • STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 9th November 2022.