‘Be very cautious’: Britons warned as the biggest online scams predicted for 2022 emerge

Britons were forced to shift their priorities over the last couple of years, as the pandemic led to businesses, consumers and criminals to focus on the online world more than ever. As coronavirus sped up the shift to an all-encompassing online world, a huge increase in cybercrime was seen.

Criminals take advantage of higher online activity

Action Fraud, Cifas, and UK Finance collectively received 822,276 fraud reports in 2019-20. Of which, 698,934 (85 percent) were online based scams.

The National Crime Agency also stated that, roughly, just 20 percent of scams are reported which highlighted the UK could be looking at a total figure of around 3,494,670 cases of cybercrime every year. In monetary terms, there was a £2.3billion reported loss, which means a possible total figure of around £11.5billion in just one year.

Based on growing trends and statistics, Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance, predicted what the biggest online scams of 2022 will be.

For the coming year, Britons will need to keep an eye out for cryptocurrency, NHS vaccine, NHS Covid pass and Payment diversion scams.

READ MORE: Supermarket scam alert: Fraudsters are impersonating well known firms

Cryptocurrency investment scams

Cryptocurrency investment has ramped up in recent years as the price of certain digital assets skyrocketed. Namely, Bitcoin and Dogecoin both saw their prices rise rapidly in 2021. However, with these gains came the rising likelihood of fraud. According to Action Fraud, £146.2million was lost to crypto scams between January and October 2021 alone.

This was almost 30 percent more than the amount that was lost throughout the whole of 2020. The average loss per victim was £20,500, making this a particularly damaging scam with the potential for huge losses.

Ms Andrews commented: “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.”

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NHS vaccine scams

The vaccine rollout has been at the forefront of the UK’s recovery but even here, scammers have no shame in targeting vulnerable Britons. Unfortunately, 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 coronavirus and desperation to get vaccinated.

Ms Andrews continued: “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.”

NHS Covid Pass scams

Currently, where Britons are attending an event in the UK or travelling abroad, in most cases they will have to show their NHS Covid pass. With Omicron posing a problem for the months ahead, many also feel vaccines and Covid passports could be made mandatory.

While this in itself could prove to be controversial, it should be remembered that at the moment, 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.

Ms Andrews explained: “These 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 to 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.”

Payment diversion fraud

Payment Diversion Fraud (PDF), also known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) or Mandate Fraud, affects businesses and customers where electronic financial transactions are taking place. According to Action fraud, criminals will contact businesses or customers via email, usually claiming to be from a company that the business or customer has been dealing with. They will request a payment to be made often or inform the recipient of a change of bank account details.

Criminals will often create fake e-mail addresses which are very similar to genuine business or customer addressees and send over fake invoices to make it more believable. All of this leads to payments from businesses and customers directly into bank accounts controlled by the criminals.

This is another scam which caused plenty of misery in 2021, with Action Fraud receiving 4,600 reports of payment diversion fraud in the year leading up to September, with the average loss being around £30,000 per business or individual.

Ms Andrews concluded: “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.”

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