The UK will enter a new year on Sunday, with most of us likely to be hoping for an easier 12 months than 2022.
But many of the themes that have dominated the last year are likely to continue into 2023. High inflation is set to remain with us during the first half of the year, which means the cost of living crisis is likely to be a major issue for households across the UK for some time yet.
At the same time, interest rates are set to continue to rise while the UK enters a recession. These issues mean house prices are likely to dip to at least some extent (albeit after two years of solid above-inflation growth).
Not only do these pressures mean we will have to watch every penny over the coming months, but they are also likely to be exploited by fraudsters. Criminals have increasingly sought to scam people by targeting the cost of living crisis - activity that has particularly targeted the vulnerable.
According to consumer watchdog Which?, this activity is only likely to continue and evolve as scammers relentlessly pursue our money and personal details. The website’s money editor Jenny Ross has urged people to be particularly wary of online ‘bargain’ or ‘get rich quick’ schemes.
So, what scams could be on the way in 2023 - and how can you spot them? Here’s what you need to know.
Money mule requests
According to Which?, these types of scam occur when people knowingly or unwittingly allow criminals to use their bank accounts to launder stolen cash.
Scammers may send funds into your bank account ‘in error’, before asking you to send the money back to a different bank account. They could also ask you to apply for credit cards or bank accounts on someone else’s behalf.
Often, these kinds of scam target individual victims via social media or email. They can result in up to 14 years’ imprisonment, so be alert if anyone suddenly asks you to handle anything to do with money, credit or bank accounts.
While this form of fraud has been around for a while, Which? is warning consumers to be extra careful with their cards.
For example, if you need to get cash out you should use ATMs inside bank branches wherever possible. These cash machines are less likely to have had card-stealing software installed.
The consumer group has also urged people to closely monitor their financial accounts and credit reports so that they can immediately spot any suspicious activity with their finances. If you see money going in or out of your account that you cannot explain, notify your bank straight away. Banks also offer free balance and payment alerts via email or text.
Fake apps that target bank accounts
Whenever you download mobile phone apps, they might ask you if they can access certain details or track your activity when you use other apps.
Which? advises people to read reviews of apps or developers before downloading them and accepting any of their terms, as it might reveal whether they’re legitimate or not. Those that are not legitimate may attempt to access your bank account.
Spoof calls or texts
Fraudsters often try to imitate legitimate companies, like banks. They may make automated calls with official-sounding pre-recorded messages that get you to speak to them about an issue, such as a suspect payment - a scam that affected Hollyoaks star Adam Rickitt in September 2022.
Criminal gangs can often have their victims’ personal details already, having procured them from the dark web. It means the scam can seem believable. They may also use fake texts to entice people to click on links that appear to be legitimate.
Which? advises people to never simply trust the caller ID that appears on a call. Banks will also never ask for personal information over the phone, so any attempts to seek out this information should be viewed as a red flag.
If you are unsure about the authenticity of a call or message, hang up and contact your bank or card issuer through a trusted method.
Online purchase scams
Sometimes, criminal gangs will pay for fake or misleading online adverts online that seek to lure victims in. These adverts may feature cut-price offers for expensive items, such as mobile phones or laptops.
If you click through on such an advert, warning signs to look out for may include spelling and grammatical errors or a lack of contact details. Which? suggests people stick to trusted retailers and remember that cards offer greater protection against fraud than bank transfers.
What other scams should I be aware of?
As well as the above scams, there are several other methods of attack fraudsters are likely to carry over from 2022 into 2023. Here are three common types to look out for:
Cost of living payment scams
The government released several packages of state support in 2022, including council tax rebates and energy bills discount payments. Criminals sought to latch onto these schemes.
With more support set to be paid out in 2023, you can expect more fraudulent activity to accompany it. If you’re in any doubt about whether a government cost of living scheme is genuine, contact the department responsible (usually the Department for Work and Pensions - DWP) or your local authority for advice.
Voucher code scams
Scammers targeted consumers by posing as supermarkets and other businesses offering vouchers and discounts in 2022.
You can expect more of these kinds of scams to pop up via email, text and social media in 2023, as criminals attempt to exploit people’s desire to save money.
Be sure to check the domain name of the sender, and take the time to ask yourself whether it looks like a real, legitimate offer. If it sounds too good to be true - it probably is.
Phishing attacks have been around for a while now, but could still catch you out.
The latest companies and services to have been targeted include accounting app FreshBooks and Apple Pay. NationalWorld has written a guide on how to safeguard yourself against all forms of phishing attack.
Additional reporting by PA