Barclays is reporting a 66% increase in scams for the first six month of this year, as criminals take advantage of lockdown pressures to line their pockets.
The trend is showing no signs of slowing down, as recent figures indicate volumes for July are up a further five percent on June data.
July also recorded a 49% jump in the volume of investment scams being perpetuated, the highest Barclays has ever reported.
The delayed spike in investment scams 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 says: “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."
Investment scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their approach, says Winters. Scams perpetrated include ‘genuine investment intercept’ where fraudsters intercept emails from legitimate investment companies without the victim realising, or ‘cloned companies’ where scammers create fake websites that attract customers actively searching for investment companies.
Winters cautions customers: “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 also has a register that customers can use to check whether the company is authorised to provide regulated financial services."
Looking ahead, Winters advises that consumers should be wary of scams related to investment, travel and social media in particular, due to evidence of their growing trajectory.