The UK’s Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, has issued new advice in warning consumers to be aware of frauds.
This warning comes at a time where the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions has begun to make cost of living payments to millions of houses. As such, criminals are increasingly trying to capitalise off people’s financial vulnerability in the cost of living crisis through offers of support payments, grants and even rebates.
Key advice is that people should be urged not to give out any sensitive or personal information over text message, email or over the phone. This is because support payments from the Government are typically automatic. Any requests for information should thus be ignored and reported.
This article will outline three cost of living scams highlighted by the Money Saving Expert that are prevalent right now, as well as how best you can try to avoid them.
- Texts asking you to claim or apply for cost of living support
If you are eligible for cost of living payments, you will automatically receive the initial payment worth £256 into your bank account. You would not need to apply in order to claim it.
Some people may receive communication via text messages from sources claiming to be ‘Gov.org’, or the Department for Work and Pensions. Some of these texts may even be followed up by an email asking for the recipient to call a fake number to provide more information.
As mentioned earlier, you should never hand out any sensitive information on the phone. Thus, ensure that you report this communication straight away.
- Messages from the Council asking for bank details
Local councils across the UK are urging households to not give out any bank or card details over the phone if someone calls regarding the £150 council tax rebate.
Typically, if you are eligible for the council tax rebate, this would be paid automatically to your account through a direct debit. Further, most people should have already received this payment by now if they were eligible for it.
If you are eligible and do not typically receive payments from your council by direct debit, then it is likely that your local council will be collecting your bank details through a secure online form.
Thus, if you are unsure whether a caller is genuine from the council, you should hang up and contact your local council using the number provided on their website or from previous written communication.
You may find similar scams with people asking you for your bank details or to pay money into an account in order for a loan to be granted. When applying for a financial product, you should never usually have to pay any kind of fee and you should always check the FCA register or for online reviews to see if the lender is safe to use.
- Messages from Ofgem offering a £400 energy rebate
It is important to note that Ofgem is not offering a £400 energy rebate.
Last month, the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem, wrote to all domestic energy providers asking them to make their customers aware of a scam in the form of text communication inviting them to apply for a fake £400 rebate.
For some, they may believe this to be the electricity supply grant announced by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak back in May. However, there is no need to apply for this, and it has been announced that this would be paid automatically in lump sums from October onwards.
As such, you would never be texted by Ofgem directly to sign up or provide any information in order to receive a rebate. Ensure to report any texts like this if you receive them.
What should you do if you have been scammed?
Firstly, ensure that you end all communication with the scammer. You should then contact your bank directly and make sure that any recurring payments are cancelled.
You should then report the scam to the British Police through Action Fraud on the number 0300 123 2040, or anonymously on the Action Fraud website. Further, if you need any advice on the matter, contact the free Citizens Advice Scams Action through the Citizens Advice website, or through their helpline on 0808 250 5050.