Four new cost-of-living scams to watch out for this summer
Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £15bn package of additional financial support for millions of households across the UK who are finding it increasingly difficult to stretch their budgets to meet the rising cost of living.
The new measures will see millions of the most vulnerable households across the UK get £1,200 of support later this year along with a non-refundable £400 discount on their electricity bill, which is paid directly to providers and is deducted from bills for six months.
But while the increased cash will help households cope with rising costs, the crisis is also a breeding ground for con artists and fraudsters looking for ways to exploit the financially vulnerable.
Tapping into the need for cash of struggling households and people eager to save money or earn a little more, some deals may seem tempting.
Here are four scams that everyone should be aware of in the coming months.
Some 2.1 million Tax Credit customers are expected to renew their annual claims by July 31.
Criminals will mimic UK government messages to make them appear authentic in their phone calls, text messages and emails.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) says scammers may try to threaten people about non-existent tax bills, or they may try to lure them into ‘tax refunds’. Scammers may also claim that there is a problem with the person’s National Insurance (NI) number or direct debit.
HMRC suggests searching gov.uk for genuine information and guidance.
Motorists may be tempted by supposedly cheap insurance deals, particularly young drivers, who often pay more for their insurance and may not have experience shopping for coverage.
But insurance giant Aviva has warned people to be wary of offers from unsolicited or unusual sources, especially if it involves social media or word of mouth.
‘Ghost brokers’ pretend to be genuine brokers offering car insurance. Policies are purchased through legitimate companies, but they use false information that is then manipulated and sold; often only when someone claims they realize the policy is invalid.
People can check the status of a broker on the websites of the Financial Conduct Authority or the British Association of Insurance Brokers, or contact insurers directly.
Tourists may be looking to cut their costs on short breaks, but it’s worth remembering that figures from Action Fraud show that victims of holiday and travel fraud lose £1,868 on average.
Action Fraud suggests that people check whether companies are members of Abta (look for slight changes to the website they are viewing, such as the domain name moving from .co.uk to .org) and do a thorough search online for reviews to see if anyone else has had problems with the company.
Scammers may also try to exploit people who are struggling to cope with rising energy bills.
There have been reports of criminals calling people to get their bank details, claiming to be officials who need them to process council tax returns to help people deal with the rising cost of living.
Stay safe online advises people to hang up immediately if they receive such a call.