The cost of living remains high – and the number of people being targeted by scammers has risen. According to Citizens Advice, there was a 14% increase in the number of UK adults targeted by scammers between 2021 and 2022. Thankfully, understanding how different scams work and what to do if you think you’ve spotted one could potentially help you avoid losing money to scammers. Here are some things to know.
What are some different types of scam?
‘Friend in need’ scams
‘Friend in need’ scams usually refer to texts or instant messages where someone pretends to be a loved one of yours. For example, they may start the message by saying “Hi Mum” or “Hi Dad”, or by impersonating a friend. They may contact you using a number you don’t recognise and claim to have lost or broken their phone. They might say they’re in difficulty and ask you to send them money.
Action Fraud says it got 1,235 reports of this kind of scam between February and June last year.
Many of these scam messages are being sent at a time when it might not be a stretch to believe a loved one is facing financial issues. But it’s important not to rush to send money. Instead, you could try to call your loved one on a phone number that you know is theirs so you can hear their voice and ask them about the message.
You can report suspicious SMS messages by forwarding them to 7726 (find out more on Ofcom’s website). You can often block the number the suspicious message came from. And you could look for an option to block and report senders on social media or instant messaging platforms.
Parcel delivery scams
Citizens Advice reports that parcel delivery scams are the most common type of scam that people are coming up against in 2023.
These can involve texts or emails that look like they’re from delivery companies. The sender might say they need to reschedule a delivery or that you need to pay a shipping or delivery fee. You might be asked to click a link and put in personal details. Or you might be encouraged to download an app to supposedly track a parcel.
The result may be that a scammer gets your bank details or that you end up downloading an app containing spyware.
Try to avoid clicking on links and avoid downloading any apps messages like these instruct you to. If you are expecting a parcel, you could try to find out the real web address of the delivery company and type this into your search bar online. You could check if there are contact details on their site if you have a query.
Remember, you can report any suspicious SMS messages to 7726 and emails to email@example.com.
You can also visit the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) website for more information on how to avoid a ‘missed parcel’ scam and what to do if you think you’ve been the victim of one.
There have been instances of scammers pretending to be from Ofgem or the government and encouraging people to apply energy discounts – like those offered through the Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS). The messages have included a link, which might then lead to requests for bank details.
In reality, EBSS discounts were given automatically – nobody needed to apply for them. The scheme ended in March of this year. But GOV.UK is still warning people about potential scams.
It’s a good idea to avoid clicking on any links or putting in any details if you get a message about energy discounts. You can report suspicious SMS messages to 7726 and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This isn’t the only type of energy scam that people encounter. You may be contacted by scammers over the phone or on your doorstep, offering you ways to make your home more energy efficient. And while it’s understandable that you might want to take steps to do this, it’s important not to make any on-the-spot decisions. Visit the Citizens Advice website for steps you can take to stay safe from scammers when trying to make your home more energy efficient.
Pension scams won’t always look the same, but there are various tell-tale signs to look out for. For example, a pension scammer may encourage you to invest your pension savings into unusual, high-risk funds. Or they may claim that they can help you access your pension savings before you turn 55. This is normally the minimum age you can access your pension savings from – although it’s rising to 57 from 6 April 2028.
Pension scammers may contact you via phone, text, email or on your doorstep (cold-calling about pension plans has been banned since 2019, but that doesn’t mean a scammer won’t do it).
The FCA has warned that people may be more vulnerable to pension scam tactics while the cost of living is high. If you’re finding your financial situation tough, you may be more tempted by the idea of taking your pension savings earlier than planned.
Pension scams can result in you losing some or all of your pension savings, so it’s important to be vigilant. Read our see our article on how to avoid pension scams to learn about how pension scams can work and what precautions you can take against them.
Our website has resources you can use to stay safe from scams. These resources include lists of suspicious phone numbers and email addresses that are worth checking if you’re contacted by someone claiming to be from Standard Life.
We’ve given you just some examples of scams that people may find themselves facing, but this article is by no means exhaustive.
For more information on scams – including how to recognise them and how to check if you can get your money back – visit the Citizens Advice website.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, there are ways to report it. If you’ve experienced an investment or pension scam, contact the FCA. If you’ve lost money to a scam, you can also report it to Action Fraud.
Remember, if you’ve been scammed, you’re not alone. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your situation, helplines like Samaritans are here for you. You can contact them for free on 116 123 at any time, day or night, if you need someone to listen to you without judgement or pressure.
The information here is based on our understanding in July 2023 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice.
Standard Life accepts no responsibility for information in external websites. These are provided for general information.