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Scam 101: How to tell phishing from smishing

Scam 101: How to tell phishing from smishing

As scammers set their sights on the coronavirus crisis, how well do you know your phishing from your smishing from your vishing?

Fraudsters have targeted the scared and panicked since the pandemic began to spread, with Action Fraud reporting a 400 per cent increase in virus-related scams in March alone.

Action Fraud said the majority of reports related to online shopping, ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud, as well as coronavirus-themed phishing emails.

But some emails included investment schemes and trading advice, encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn, while others purported to be from HM Revenue and Customs offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest personal and financial details.

Sarah Drakard, IFA at Cruze Financial Solutions, said it was "really confusing" for clients trying to get their head around all the different avenues to be wary of when it came to scams, adding it was "disgusting" fraudsters were taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis.

She said: "Preying on people when they're vulnerable is how they win, though, when people panic about their circumstances. People become more open to suggestions and taking actions during this time, which makes them more vulnerable."

So far, the scams have mainly fallen into the ‘smishing’, ‘phishing’ and ‘vishing’ categories.

‘Smishing’ primarily involves the sending of text messages which appear to come from a trustworthy source like the government or doctor, which often try to steal personal or financial information.

Guidance includes avoiding the links, checking the government website or verifying an organisation’s phone number before engaging.

You’ve been ‘phished’ if you receive an email which tries to make you divulge information — personal or financial. At the moment, they may appear to be Covid-19 tax refunds, reimbursements from travel bookings, safety advice or donation requests, according to TSB.

Meanwhile ‘vishing’ is more like a classic phone call scam. Cold-callers will often ring, purporting to be the police or your bank.

However, in reality banks, the police or government will never ask a consumer to divulge personal information over the phone.

Advisers should tell their clients to call their bank on a listed number from a different phone if worried about the call.

TSB said purchase scams were currently focusing on protective equipment — such as sanitisers and other desirable products — the consumer would never receive. 

Just last week the Financial Conduct Authority warned the rising levels of vulnerability caused by the coronavirus lockdown could see more savers targeted by scammers as concerns about finances increase.

It teamed up with other regulators — The Pensions Regulator and the Money and Pensions Service — to urge savers not to make any rash decisions about their pension in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The regulator said: “When it comes to financial services, the scam activity is more nuanced and often appears after the initial shock of a major event. With that in mind, we are urging consumers to be vigilant for scams that could appear over the coming months.”