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21st August 2020

Barclays says scammers take advantage of COVID-19, cashing in on nations’ uncertainty
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Scammers have taken advantage of their reputation as social engineers to cash in on lockdown, new data from Barclays reveals. Scams are up 66% in the first 6 months of this year, with the trend showing no signs of slowing as recent figures indicate volumes for July are up a further 5% on June data.

The situation is reflected when looking at the value of scams too, with a 7% increase from June to July 2020. The increase is even more significant when compared to May(61%), suggesting that Brits’ efforts to regain normality through increased spending is providing scammers with an opportunity to line their pockets.

This month has seen a significant increase in the volume of investment scams being perpetuated up 49%. This is the highest Barclays has ever reported.

The delayed spike in Investment scams, compared to other forms of scam, is because of the time it takes people to realise they have even been a victim. For example, many could have been waiting for confirmation of an investment which never came meaning they didn’t realise until it was too late.

Jim Winters, Head of Fraud at Barclays, comments “Fraudsters have undoubtedly taken advantage of the nation’s uncertainty during the pandemic, in what is just another moment in the historical evolution of scams. The immediacy of our lives, even during lockdown, has allowed scammers to harness the constantly changing news agenda to target their victims, which is why we all need to remain vigilant.

“I would urge everyone that if they are ever in doubt and something doesn’t sound right, to take the time to check it out, or get a second opinion from someone you trust.”

Looking ahead, Barclays advises that consumers should be wary of scams related to investment, travel and social media in particular, due to evidence of their growing trajectory.

Barclays saw an increase in campervan scams, particularly on online marketplace sites. With the summer holidays in full swing, scams relating to staycations are likely to increase as Brits take advantage of the good weather to make plans closer to home.

Social media scams have been steadily increasing throughout lockdown with people spending more time online in an effort to stay connected with friends and family. Scammers have been using this engaged audience to seek out new victims.

As July’s figures show, con artists have taken a renewed interest in people’s investments and commitment to save. Reports of crypto currency scams have emerged throughout lockdown, with scammers targeting people with currency that doesn’t exist or a bogus investment that promises to put money into a legitimate crypto currency. It’s an area which Barclays expects to continue to grow as fraudsters become more sophisticated in their tactics.

Whilst all these scams differ in their execution, Barclays urges people to follow the same advice: Take your time and do your research.

Winters adds “You should never feel pressured into make a decision on the spot–banks, the police and investment companies will not expect large payments to be made instantly.

“If you feel threatened, or an opportunity sounds too good to be true, give yourself time to look into the person you’ve been speaking to, the website you’ve been browsing, or the company that’s been calling you. When researching investment opportunities, for example, ensure that the website is genuine, as it could be a cloned page. The Financial Conduct Authority(FCA) also has a register that customers can use to check whether the company is authorised to provide regulated financial services.

“Ultimately, if you’re unsure, seek a second opinion from a friend of family member, or call your bank and tell them about your suspicions. If you are ever in doubt, please, speak out.”