Scams: ‘sickening’ fraud attempts on the rise amidst cost of living crisis - what messages to look out for

One 71-year-old victim sent £1,700 to a criminal who pretended to be his daughter asking for help with her energy bills.

More people are being targeted by “sickening” scammers as criminals look to capitalise on the cost-of-living crisis, according to a bank.

TSB has revealed that “friends and family” scams - where criminals pretend to be a friend or family member when asking for money - were up by 58% in July compared to the same month in the previous year.

In these scams, fraudsters will ask for help paying their bills. This comes as millions of families across the country are worried about being able to afford rising energy bills, as surging living costs continue to take their toll.

Scammers are using the cost of living crisis to target vulnerable people. Credit: Mark Hall / NationalWorld

One victim of these scam requests was a 71-year-old customer of the bank, who sent £1,700 to a criminal after he received an urgent, emotive request to help with bills from someone impersonating his daughter. Another fraudster stole £50 from a 29-year-old customer, after pretending to be a close friend and asking for money for energy payments.

Fortunately, both cases were refunded in full through TSB’s fraud guarantee - but victims elsewhere may not be so lucky. The bank’s analysis indicates that the average loss in cases like these is £1,500. Its research also suggests that a £500 fraud loss would leave 3/5 of households struggling to afford food for more than one week.

According to TSB, “friends and family” scams are on the rise. Credit: PA

Scams pretending to be Government support schemes

TSB is not the only organisation warning against scams. Earlier this year, charity Citizens Advice told people to be on extra guard against opportunistic fraudsters taking advantage of the Government’s support schemes.

Some of the scams they saw included emails and texts from people claiming to be the regulator Ogfem, where the recipient is asked for their bank details so they can be ‘given’ the £400 energy rebate.

The Energy Relief Scheme is automatically applied to bills. You do not need to apply for the scheme, or give out bank details to receive the discount.

The Energy Bills Support Scheme is automatic and you do not need to apply. Credit: PA

On social media, many users are talking about their experiences of scams and warning others not to fall for the tricks. Some have also expressed concern for desperate people who may be tricked into making mistakes.

Jake Bradwr shared an image on Twitter of a scam text from someone pretending to be the Government, commenting: “Shameless. Scamming desperate people and hijacking a cost of living crisis that is worrying everyone.”

Joseph Glass was targeted by the same scam - where the fraudster asks you to input your bank details to claim the Government’s energy discount - and admitted that it “almost caught him”.

He then condemned the “evil” scammers who “are trying to take advantage of people’s very real fears.”

User @YagmanX voiced similar feelings, writing: “It’s sickening how far some will go to exploit others.”

£200,000 scam targets vulnerable

Meanwhile, others have spoken of scammers, also claiming to be the Government, offering £200,000 at random to people who are of pension age, disabled or on a low income.

Paul Davis, director of fraud prevention at TSB, said: “A fraud loss will be particularly painful for households during these tough economic conditions, so we are urging the public to be extra vigilant to unsolicited contact or online offers that could well be a scam.

“With over half of fraud losses not refunded to victims by other banks, take your time and don’t rush in, no matter how emotive and urgent the request.”

TSB has warned people about scammers taking advantage of the cost of living crisis. Credit: PA

Scams: common warning signs to look out for

TSB has said that victims typically receive a message from a new number alongside a plausible story about why their number has changed.

After striking up conversation, an emotive request for payment is sent through – something made more believable and pressing due to the current economic climate.

The majority of fraud attempts took place on Whatsapp, according to the bank, but people can also be targeted via text message or email.

Scams also often include spelling or grammar mistakes, as well as a link that takes you to a site to steal your details - so look out for these too.

TSB is also urging people to watch out for frauds where they may be persuaded to pay up-front fees for loans, services or prizes which do not exist.