Beware of scammers as the cost-of-living crisis bites warns Trading Standards Service

Date published: 13 June 2022

The Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service (TSS) is warning consumers to be on their guard as new research by Citizens Advice has found that millions of people have been targeted by scammers as the cost-of-living crisis continues to take hold.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons pictured with Damien Doherty, Chief Trading Standards Officer for Northern Ireland and Trading Standards Area Inspector Linda Houston at the launch of the National Scams Awareness Campaign which runs from
L to R: Damien Doherty, Chief Trading Standards Officer NI, Linda Houston, Trading Standards Area Inspector and Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons MLA

Ahead of many households receiving vital government help for the cost-of-living crisis, TSS in conjunction with the UK’s Consumer Protection Partnership, has launched its annual Scams Awareness campaign to help people protect themselves from opportunistic scammers.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said:

“We know scammers prey on our worries and fears and the cost-of-living crisis is no exception. As the purse strings are tightened and financial pressures pile on, it is more important than ever we recognise the red flags. Anyone can fall victim to a scam. People of all ages and backgrounds get scammed. It is important to be on your guard – if you are not sure about something, take your time and get advice.”     

Damien Doherty, Chief Inspector for Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service, said:

“Unfortunately we have seen over many years that scammers seek to exploit vulnerability. During times of difficulty, we often see a corresponding increase in relating scams and from early data, the cost-of-living crisis seems to be no different.

“TSS has seen a range of different cost-of-living scam tactics used by scammers including impersonation scams and cryptocurrency scams.

“With more than three quarters of UK adults having said that they have been targeted by a scammer this year, a 14% increase compared to this time last year, if you think someone might be trying to scam you, it is important to act straight away. If you need advice, guidance or support please call Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or log on to their website.”    

Some of the most common types of scams reported to TSS include:

  • Deliveries, postal or courier services smishing scams
  • Someone offering a fake investment or financial “get rich quick” schemes
  • Someone pretending to be from the government or HMRC
  • Someone pretending to be from your bank
  • Online Shopping
  • Fake loan scams
  • Health or medical  
  • Energy scams

If you have been scammed:

  • Talk to your bank or card company immediately if you have handed over any financial and sensitive information or made a payment.
  • Report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, use the Action Fraud online reporting tool, and contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 for advice.
  • Text scams can be reported to your mobile phone provider by forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM)
  • Beware of follow up scams.  Sometimes after reporting a scam, you might get targeted again by a fraudster who says they can get your money back.  Change your contact details- sadly, if you have been scammed once, you are more likely to be targeted again.  It might be worth changing your number and/or email address if you are being bombarded by cold calls and spam.

Notes to editors: 

1. TSS has seen a range of different cost-of-living scam tactics used by scammers including:

  • Impersonation Scams-.  Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website and say all the right things. Criminals will mimic UK government messages to make them appear more authentic in their phone calls, texts and emails. They may try to threaten people about non-existent tax bills or try and tempt them with “tax rebates”.  Scammers may also claim there is an issue with the person’s National Insurance (NI) number or direct debit.
  • Cryptocurrency scams-As the cost of living climbs many people will seek out ways of maximising their existing assets so they go as far as possible.  In some cases, this is likely to involve resorting to online investment platforms, which in many cases are poorly considered “get rich quick” schemes. Fraudsters will use social media platforms to advertise and convince victims to sign up to cryptocurrency investment websites.  If you are thinking of making an investment, get independent advice and thoroughly research the company first by checking the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Register.

3. It might be a scam if:

  • It seems too good to be true- like an email saying you have won a competition you do not remember entering
  • You suspect you are not dealing with a real company or genuine person- take a moment to step back and double-check
  • You have been pressured to transfer money quickly
  • You have been asked to pay in an unusual way- like by an iTunes voucher or a transfer service
  • You have been asked to give away personal information such as passwords, PINs or other verification codes.

4. Yonder Data solutions surveyed a representative sample of 2,088 adults living in the UK. The sample was weighted to be nationally representative of the UK. Fieldwork took place between 18 and 19 May 2022. Polling respondents were asked the following questions: (a) Since the beginning of the year (1 January 2022), have you been contacted by anyone that you think was trying to scam you? 1,616 out of 2,088 respondents (77%) said they had been contacted by someone that they think was trying to scam them, this included 5% who said they had been scammed. Using the Annual Population Survey estimates via Nomis of 53,200,000 adults (18+) in the UK, we estimate that this has affected 41 million people; (b) How worried, if at all, are you about you, about the cost-of-living crisis on your personal finances? Of those who had been scammed, 83% said they were very worried or fairly worried.

5. Scams Awareness is an annual campaign which aims to create a network of confident, alert consumers who know what to do when they see a scam. This year's campaign will take place over two weeks, from the 13 -26 June. The campaign includes a range of organisations across the Consumer Protection Partnership, including Trading Standards, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Citizens Advice Scotland.

6. More information about scams can be found on the nidirect website 

7. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at .

8. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

9. Follow Trading Standards Service on Twitter - @TSSNI

10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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