Scam Awareness – April 2021

In the previous 12 months the various types of scams have increased and currently Email and social media account hacking is on the increase as are fake texts, delivery and telephone scams.

1. Over 15,000 hacked email and social media accounts reported in one year.

If a hacker got into your email or social media account, what would they find? Health and banking information? Names and contact details for your friends and family? Private photos and messages? For most people, it’s at least one of those.

Your email and social media accounts contain a wealth of personal information about you, which makes them a lucrative target for cyber criminals. Between February 2020 and February 2021, Action Fraud received 15,214 reports about email and social media account hacking. The majority of reports (88%) were made by individuals, with 12% of reports being made by businesses. Analysis of the crime reports revealed that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were the most affected social media accounts, with phishing messages being the most common tactic used by cyber criminals to lure unsuspecting victims.

The motivation behind the hacks is varied and can range from financial gain, to revenge or personal amusement. Some victims are extorted for money, whilst others have their accounts used to send malicious links to their contacts. One victim who had multiple email and social media accounts hacked paid over £2,000 to regain access to them. Another victim reported that her hacked Facebook account was used to trick her friends into sending money into a PayPal account they thought belonged to her.

You can secure your email and social media accounts in just a few minutes. Here’s what you need to do:

1: Use a strong and separate password for your email, as well as other important accounts, such as your banking or social media accounts.

2: Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). It will help to stop hackers from getting into your online accounts, even if they have your password.

3: If you can’t access your account, search the company’s online support or help pages. You’ll find information about how to recover your account.

For detailed instructions on how to reset your password or enable 2FA on your accounts, visit:

2. Royal Mail: fake texts, calls and a cloned site

Fake texts purporting to be from mail and courier services have been on the rise. In this case, fraudsters attempted to wipe out a person’s entire bank balance by impersonating Royal Mail. The text informed the recipient that a parcel was being held due to an unpaid shipping fee and included a link for them to enter their personal info and bank card details.

The link in this text is disguised to look as though it points to the genuine website, this is done by capitalising the letter ‘I’ so it will appear to be the letter ‘L’. Therefore the link is actually ‘’ which redirects you to a slick phishing website: Delete immediately.

3. Phone scam calls are on the increase:

These days for many of us genuine callers on landlines are often outnumbered by the scams callers.
Such calls are a lot more than just a nuisance.

One woman had a mobile call telling her that there was an ongoing court case against her over an unpaid tax bill. The judge and jury were on the line, the scammer told her, but if she immediately transferred payment of £999, the case would go better for her. She panicked and paid but was told it was not enough. So she went to the bank, with the scammer still on the line, and sent another £4,000. “As soon as she had done it, she realised it was a scam,” said Louise Baxter-Scott, head of the national Trading Standards scam team.

According to Trading Standards, there has been a surge in such calls during lockdown. “Everyone is at home so they are easy prey,” said Ms Baxter-Scott. And the scams are getting more sophisticated and more threatening. One currently doing the rounds, purporting to be from the National Crime Agency, claims there is a warrant out for your arrest for “serious offences”. Another common claim is that National Insurance numbers have been stolen, which might seem plausible given the number of data thefts. Although the request to immediately send money to the tax office should ring alarm bells, increasingly the calls are coming through to people’s mobile phones, often appearing as a UK number to add another layer of legitimacy.

The top three problems Trading Standards identified were:

a) people selling insurance for white goods, offering cover for fridges, freezers and washing machines
b) impersonation callers claiming to be from the NHS, BT, Amazon or utility firms
c) domestic home repairs such as boiler services and drainage

Some of these are defined as nuisance calls because they are actually selling something – albeit it something you probably do not need. Others are out-and-out scams. People are thought to receive an average of seven scam or nuisance calls per month and be aware that the scammers are particularly targeting the elderly.

David Rose

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