Beware cost-of-living financial scams

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to grip the UK, experts are warning individuals to be wary of the heightened risks posed by scammers and fraudsters. Here, we consider how businesses and individuals can protect themselves against scams and fraud.

Spotting warning signs

Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, recently warned that criminals are exploiting the UK’s cost-of-living crisis to target the public with energy rebate scams. In the two weeks from 22 August to 5 September, it received 1,567 phishing emails purporting to be from energy regulator Ofgem, offering individuals energy rebates.

Action Fraud outlined a handful of steps that the public can follow in order to better protect themselves from scams. These include:

  • contacting the company directly if you have doubts about an email or text message
  • refraining from using contact numbers or addresses in a suspicious message - use contact details from the business’s official website instead
  • forwarding dubious communications to

Action Fraud also highlighted its Take Five to Stop Fraud advice, which includes taking a moment to stop and think before parting with personal information or money; challenging a suspicious request; and protecting your accounts by contacting your bank if you think you’ve fallen for a scam.

Keeping personal information private

Many criminals attempt to obtain individuals’ personal information so that they can carry out their scams. Keeping the lid tightly sealed on all personal information is key to prevent it being stolen by fraudsters, who often use it to apply for loans or pay for goods or services.

It is vital to safeguard your sign in credentials and online banking password. Individuals may wish to make use of password managers - these can be great ways of creating strong passwords and keeping track of them. Many online services utilise two-factor authentication (2FA), which only grants the user access to an account once two or more pieces of evidence have been presented. These can be biometric, such as fingerprint and face scanning, or data-based, such as codes and passwords. 

When browsing online, check to ensure websites are secure - these are ones that use https in their URL or display a small padlock symbol at the beginning of the website address. 

Pension regulator’s scam-fighting plan

Pension savers are also being targeted during the cost-of-living crisis leading the The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to unveil a new scam-fighting plan designed to protect savers from scams.

TPR warned that savers could be duped by offers to access their pension savings early in order to cover energy or other household bills. It stated that criminals are also peddling fake investments ‘offering high returns that never materialise’. 

A new scams strategy published by the Regulator sets out to make savers aware of the risks scams pose. The strategy also promises to secure the intelligence needed to pursue and punish scammers.

The TPR’s three-pronged plan aims to educate industry and pension savers on the threats posed by scams; prevent practices which may harm individuals’ retirement outcomes; and combat fraud by disrupting and punishing criminals. 

Care should always be taken to protect your personal details and finances from criminals. Further advice can be found on the Action Fraud website.