Terrifying fake Government grants ‘tip families into financial crisis’

Fraud victim finds it hard to trust anyone after falling for scam

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For one in four (24 percent) UK adults, losing just £100 would tip them into a serious financial crisis, unable to pay bills, buy food or buy other essentials. Consumer vulnerability is on the rise, as we see far more situations and marketplaces that can cause this vulnerability. A study by the Financial Conduct Authority (2018) found that 50 percent of UK consumers currently show one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability based on their health, financial resilience and capability, and on life events that could be having a detrimental impact on them.

That’s potentially over 25 million people in the UK. This was four years ago pre-pandemic and everything that has come with that. With the cost of living crisis impacting people all over the UK, criminals are taking advantage of consumer vulnerability and financial hardship. Criminals are using Government grants to scam people out of their hard-earned money.

The Government is offering help for households but beware of criminals pretending to offer these support schemes. These scam emails, calls, and text messages come in many different forms and promise financial gain. They are often official looking and pretend to be from the Government or HMRC.

Examples include:

  • Fake cost of living related grants
  • Fake cost of living relief funds
  • Fake council tax reductions, rebates or refunds
  • Fake tax rebates from HMRC
  • Fake offers of assistance to help with universal credit applications

Criminals have set up websites claiming to be operating on behalf of the UK Government. The criminals call you offering grants or financial support. You may then be asked to fill out an online application form with all your personal information.

Once the criminals have your personal information, they may continuously target you with scams. You may also be asked to pay an administration fee to obtain your grant, this money will be lost.

For more information look at the recently updated Friends Against Scams website. Look out for text messages and emails asking you to click on a link and check the official Government website – do you need to apply for the support or is it paid automatically?

Households across the UK will receive a £400 non-repayable discount off their electricity bills, via the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme. So, there is no need to apply for the scheme. You will not be contacted by the Government or Ofgem asking you to share your bank details to claim this benefit. Find out more about the Government support available at Help for Households.

Did you know? You can easily report scam text messages and emails for free:

Text messages – forward the text to 7726.

Emails – forward the email to report@phishing.gov.uk.

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I got completely baffled with what I should or should do to claim for the energy rebate, I think I may have fallen for a scam.

You could be targeted again. Criminals sometimes contact you again claiming that they can help them recover lost money, this is just another scam. Do not speak to any callers that claim they can get your money back for you.

A criminal may steal your identity. If you suspect your identity may have been stolen, you can check your credit rating quickly and easily online. You should do this every few months anyway. Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. You can also use Rightly to stop fraudsters sharing your data exposing you to scams.

Tips of the week

Contact the bank. If the bank won’t refund, look at the toolkit on how to access a refund on the Friends Against Scams website. And, refer a complaint about the bank to the Financial Ombudsman Service

Report it to Action Fraud. The UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, contact Police Scotland on 101

Remember: If you have received a text you think is a scam then you can forward to 7726 or take a screenshot and send it to report@phishing.gov.uk. If you are receiving lots of unwanted phone calls or text messages you can also consider removing your details from data brokers, ensuring that you use a right to object to processing of your data. You can learn more about this on Rightly to stop the sharing of your data exposing you to scams. And you can take a free training course on how to fight against scams on www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk. The more we talk about scams the more we take away the shame.

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