Impersonation Scams

Scammers are targeting people with fraudulent messages offering tax rebates or government grants/funding related to the cost of living crisis.

They are also cold calling and sending scam emails and text messages where they pose as official organisations (such as HMRC) and companies (such as energy, telecoms or delivery companies) that attempt to obtain consumers’ personal and
financial details.

Common Impersonation Scams

Cost of Living Support Scams

  • “You are eligible for the government-funded £400 energy bill rebate. To complete your application click here…”
  • “You must apply for the energy bill rebate soon. Click here to set up a direct debit so that the money can be paid directly into your bank account”

You do not need to apply for the energy bill rebate. Any messages asking you to do so are likely to be scams.

HMRC Scams

  • “You are eligible to receive a tax refund of £500 as you have overpaid on your National Insurance contributions. Click here to find out more…”
  • “You owe over £300 in unpaid tax and you will be arrested today if you don’t pay immediately. You can pay via bank transfer or using gift cards.”

HMRC will not send notifications of a tax rebate or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email or text message.

Bank Scams

  • “Your bank account has been compromised – you need to transfer money to a safe account.”
  • “A new payee request has been submitted. Click here to authorise or cancel the request…”

Your bank will never cold call and ask you to transfer money to a ‘safe’ account.

Delivery Scams

  • “You missed a recent parcel delivery. Click here to pay a small fee to rearrange the delivery”
  • “Your package has an unpaid shipping fee. Pay now by tapping this link. If not paid a return to sender will be requested.”

Legitimate delivery companies will not contact you unexpectedly to ask for payments

Council Impersonation Scams

  • “I work for the local council and our records show that you are owed money as you have overpaid on your Council Tax. Please confirm your bank details so that we can process the payment.”
  • “I’m working on behalf of the local council to carry out house repairs. Mould has been discovered in your property and we’ll need to send a surveyor to take a sample so that we can arrange for insulation to be installed.”

Councils will NEVER cold call and ask for bank details – official information about Council Tax will come in
writing.
Councils will send letters to local residents if they are going to be working in their area.

Family/Friend Impersonation Scams

  • “Hi Mum, I dropped my phone and had to replace it – this is my new number. I’ve just received an unexpected bill – could you transfer me some money today and I’ll pay you back next week? Here are my account details…”
  • “Hi, can you help me? I need to get a gift voucher for my niece who is in hospital, but I can’t get to the shops today and my card isn’t working online. Would you mind buying a £100 voucher for me and sending me the code? I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”

Always verify the identity of someone asking you for money before sending a payment.

Remote Access Scams

  • “I’m calling from your internet provider – we’ve detected suspicious activity on your account. I’ll need to access your computer remotely to fix the problem.”
  • “We’ve discovered a problem with your internet connection. Please visit this link and download software that will allow us to access your computer remotely to perform tests and fix the connection.”

Legitimate companies will not cold call or message unexpectedly to tell you about a potential problem on your computer or to ask you to allow them remote access to your device.

Prize Draw/Competition Scams

  • “Congratulations! You have been entered in a draw to win £500 in shopping vouchers. Beat the cost of living crisis – click here to claim your prize!”
  • “Get 200 litres of fuel for just £1.50! Click here to take a short survey and be in with a chance of winning…”

Remember that you cannot win a competition/prize draw that you didn’t enter.

Avoid Impersonation Scams

  • Never give any details to a cold caller, even if they appear to have some of your details already
  • Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or text messages. If in doubt, call the company using an number found on their official website or in a directory
  • Never follow instructions given in an automated message
  • Be suspicious of any unexpected phone call or text message which appears to be from your bank, a government agency or a service provider and asks you to act urgently to avoid losing money
  • If you receive an unexpected message purportedly from your local council, hang up, clear the line and call the council using a publicly listed number to verify that the call was genuine
  • Remember that your bank or the police will never call you to ask you to verify your personal details or PIN by phone or offer to pick up your card by courier
  • Never follow instructions from an unsolicited caller or in an unexpected email or text message to download software or an app which would allow somebody to access your computer remotely
  • Before taking part in an offer or competition which is supposedly being run by a big brand, look at their official website or social media channels to see if it is genuine
  • If you receive an unexpected message asking you to transfer money or purchase gift cards, verify that it really is your friend or family member by calling them directly, or asking them to share a voice note. Only consider the request once you are certain that it is from someone you know and trust

Case Studies

‘Two-Step’ Scams

Iain, a chef from Dumfries, recently ordered a few games online for his nephew’s birthday. When he received a text, apparently from Evri, saying that he had missed a parcel delivery, he assumed it was genuine and clicked on the link in the message to rearrange the delivery. He was taken to a website with Evri branding, where he was asked to pay a small fee to reschedule the delivery and to confirm his contact details. He would usually have questioned the fee, but felt panicked as he needed to receive the games before his nephew’s birthday and entered his bank details.

That afternoon, his parcels arrived and he realised that the text message had been a scam. He was about to phone his bank when he got a call from someone who said they worked for his bank’s fraud department. They were aware that he had entered his details on a fraudulent website and told him that his account had been compromised and he would need to transfer his money to a secure account.

Again, Iain didn’t question the legitimacy of the call as he was so worried that he had given his bank details to a scammer. The call also seemed to come from his bank’s genuine phone number. He agreed to transfer over £2,000 to a ‘safe’ account.

Following the call, Iain logged on to check his bank account online – he discovered that the money had been transferred to an account with a name he didn’t recognise and immediately felt suspicious. He phoned his bank and they confirmed that they would never cold call customers and ask them to transfer money to another account. They were able to ensure that no further money was taken from his account by the scammers.

WhatsApp Scams

Anne, a retired carer from Edinburgh, was on holiday this summer when she got a WhatsApp message from an unfamiliar number saying: “Hi mum, this is my new number. Please update your contacts”.

She assumed it was from her daughter, who had been talking about getting a new phone, and changed the number. After sending a few messages back and forth, her ‘daughter’ asked Anne to help her pay an invoice as she couldn’t access her mobile banking.

Anne knew that her daughter was having work done to her house, so agreed to transfer over £500. As she was on holiday, she didn’t think too much about it and didn’t check her online bank account to verify that the money had gone to her daughter.

Once she got home from holiday, she phoned her daughter, who had not bought a new phone or asked her mum for any money to help with her house renovations.

Anne realised that the messages had been sent by a scammer and immediately contacted her bank.