Sadly the number of scams that fraudsters are attempting shows no sign of decreasing.
Here’s a look at some of the worst scams we've seen in the last 12 months:
The most convincing scam
Everyone likes a pizza or curry, which might explain why so many people were taken in by a scam promising a £10 Just Eat voucher simply by answering a few questions.
It appeared to be a genuine email asking customers to rate the service they received, with a £10 reward to be spent via the website for taking part. Inevitably, users were asked to enter their bank details in order to gain the £10 credit, allowing the fraudsters to steal their details.
The email was especially convincing because it contained victims’ full name and other personal details and asked them to sign in using their Just Eat details and password.
The most persistent scam
Criminals pretending to be internet service providers or software companies is nothing new. They ring up victims and trick them into allowing remote access to their PCs, usually claiming they have been infected with a virus.
The victim then allows them into their computer so they can ‘fix’ it. Some crooks even charge a fee for this service!
Obviously, once they have access they steal as much information as they can or blackmail you into paying them more.
However, in 2015 computer takeover fraud rocketed. According to Financial Fraud Action, there has been a surge in reported cases over the last 12 months. This is partly down to several high profile data breaches, which the crooks used as a cover story for why they needed to fix their victims’ PCs.
The most official-looking scam
Back in September, the DVLA warned drivers of reports of people receiving emails demanding they verify their details or risk losing their licence.
As with many phishing emails, it contained a link to a replica website that requested driving licence details and bank information. This unpleasant little scam tricked people by using a very convincing fake website, along with an urgent threat – few people can risk being left without a licence and so many responded before they even thought about it.
The most devastating scam
Pensions underwent some drastic changes this year, which had two key effects: first, they gave retirees access to large pots of money in one go and second, they resulted in a great deal of confusion.
Of course there’s nothing fraudsters like better than confusion and large pots of cash. It’s their dream scenario, which is why in September The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) put out a statement warning people that scammers were pretending to be official representatives, talking older people into signing up for shady investments.
The meanest scam
All fraud is cruel and has the potential to devastate the victim, but this scam was particularly mean. Rugby fans were delighted when the World Cup came to the UK, but so too were the scam artists.
It was against the rules to sell or transfer tickets, or to buy them from any but the official vendors and Rugby World Cup 2015 had reserved the right to cancel any tickets that had been passed on this way. That meant that many people bought genuine tickets at higher prices than the face value only to find they were out of pocket and could not receive a refund.
Not only that but some professional-looking websites were selling tickets that either broke the rules or had been faked, according to warnings from Which? There was even a rash of scams where people were told they had won tickets in a lottery and or automated ballet, which then required the ‘winner’ to pay an admin fee to claim their prize.
Those poor fans forked out a fortune for illegal tickets but found themselves ripped off and watching the games in the pub like the rest of us.
The sneakiest scam
When Microsoft launched its new operating system Windows 10 in August, fraudsters across the globe decided to cash in too. There were reports of Windows users receiving emails that appeared to be from Microsoft, offering them a free upgrade if they clicked on an installer in the message.
As soon as the recipient did so, the link released a load of ransomware onto their PC and warned them that their files had been encrypted. They would have to pay in order to unlock their files or lose them forever.
What made this scam so very sneaky was how genuine it looked – as long as you didn’t notice the occasional typos. It appeared to come from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and so looked very genuine, and it even had a disclaimer at the bottom saying it had been scanned for viruses.
The most subversive scam
While most scam artists hide behind computers and rip off their victims over the phone, a few went undercover this year. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau warned that customer service and front-desk banking staff are being befriended and then groomed by fraudsters, sometimes over months.
These bogus friends monitor staff and then ‘meet’ them on their days off, before gradually seducing them into stealing personal account data.
One ex-bank employee, who is now in prison for his part in the theft, explained that he met the fraudsters at his local market. “They were nice people. I had no idea they were fraudsters. This went on for a few months before they asked me to do anything. They were really clever and over time they got to know more about me personally.”
The employees are either bribed or coerced into sharing information. Of course, when the scam is found out the original criminals have vanished, leaving only the staff member to carry the can for their crimes.
The most likely scam for 2016
There have only been 16 reported cases of this scam so far, but experts have tipped it for big growth in 2016. The NFIB has warned of fraudsters ringing victims to tell them they have been in the wrong council tax bracket for years and are owed a rebate of around £7,000.
Once the victim is convinced, they are asked for an admin fee of between £60 and £350 to process the payment after which, you’ve guessed it, they never hear from the caller again.
According to Action Fraud, this scam has only just started targeting victims, typically aged over 60 and in the Sussex area, but they expect to see more of it. Definitely one to be wary of over the next 12 months.