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Scammers continue to trample the law, attacking people with phone calls, text messages, emails, social media requests, and even letters.
Some are easy to spot from a mile away, as many of us have been contacted by a Nigerian prince who needed help recovering his lost inheritance, or received a poorly worded email warning that at least 574 viruses have been detected in our PCs.
However, the vast majority are not so easy to detect and scammers invent new ones all the time.
According to research by Which? Shared exclusively with This is Money, there are five new scams people should be on the lookout for this year.
One step forward: Scammers are increasingly using technology to develop more complex methods of deceiving victims
Which? Consumer law expert Lisa Webb said: “Consumers can stay aware of the tactics used by scammers by signing up to our scam alert service, which highlights the latest scams circulating.”
‘The responsibility should not fall solely on the shoulders of consumers. “Tech platforms and the Government must up their game and prevent scammers from reaching their potential victims.”
You may have heard of phishing scams, in which scammers send mass emails purporting to come from reputable companies, including banks and government agencies, in the hopes that a handful of people will “bite.”
But scammers are now employing a more targeted approach known as “spear phishing”, according to Which?
They are compromising victims’ data and using that personal information to carry out targeted attacks, convincing them that they are the real organization.
These attacks use data that has previously been collected by scammers through massive data breaches, social media profiles, or previous scams.
The idea behind these scams is that the amount of research behind them will lead victims to believe that the email, text message, or phone call must be legitimate.
But real organizations rarely use cold calling to request sensitive information from their customers, so if you’re unsure, hang up and call the company back on its official number.
Warning: Spear phishing uses personal information to conduct targeted attacks
Scammers can now hijack your smartphone screen and force you to perform actions on your phone without realizing it.
Tapjacking works by displaying an overlay on your phone’s screen that is clickable.
But in reality that is merely an image, which prevents you from seeing what you are actually tapping on.
In a mobile game, for example, it may appear that you are interacting with in-game elements, but in reality your clicks are to make in-app purchases or sign up for a subscription through an invisible screen below the overlay.
Which? recommends sticking to apps downloaded through sources like the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, and reading reviews before you start installing them.
In another derivative of phishing, quishing, scammers use the QR code technology that we have all started to take for granted following its massive prevalence in restaurants and bars during the Covid pandemic.
Scammers use QR codes to take victims to fake login pages, where they can obtain your details or force you to sign up for expensive subscriptions without realizing it.
In some cases, these QR codes are sent via email, disguised as legitimate communications, often through previously compromised email addresses.
But there have also been reports of fake QR codes stuck on parking meters, leading victims to fake apps that then sign them up for expensive subscriptions.
Artificial intelligence and deepfake scams
The meteoric rise of artificial intelligence in recent years has changed the landscape for scammers, allowing them to impersonate real voices and even faces.
As AI continually improves, so do the tools scammers have at their disposal.
These scams are increasingly used to spread misinformation, with scammers using artificial intelligence or fake videos to impersonate reputable sources.
In January, The Guardian found more than 100 fake videos of Rishi Sunak, which were linked to a mock BBC news page promoting a fake investment.
With a UK general election due in 2024, there is likely to be a rise in artificial intelligence and deeply false misinformation to spread on social media.
According to Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, it will install labels to inform users if a video has been detected as AI.
Last year, the Online Safety Bill became law, but it has not yet fully come into force.
The law will mean that large online platforms will be held responsible for illegal content hosted on their site, including fraudulent ads.
For now, however, there appears to have been little change according to Which?
Telltale signs of scam ads are offers that seem too good to be true (because they are) and links that don’t match the ad being displayed.
For example, an ad could have been copied from an existing one, but the web address is fake.
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