Barclays reports a significant spike in scams during pandemic

Barclays has reported a significant spike in scams during the coronavirus pandemic with scammers looking to take advantage of the national lockdown.

According to Barclays, new data revealed scams were up 66% in the first six months of this year. Moreover, the trend shows no sign of wilting as recent figures indicate volumes for July are up a further 5% on June data.

The situation is reflected when looking at the value of scams too, with a 7% increase from June to July 2020. The increase is even more significant when compared to May (61%), suggesting that efforts to regain normality through increased spending is providing scammers with an opportunity to line their pockets.

The delayed spike in investment scams, compared to other forms, is because of the time it takes people to realise they have even been a victim. For example, many could have been waiting for confirmation of an investment which never came meaning they didn’t realise until it was too late.

Jim Winters, Head of Fraud at Barclays said: “Fraudsters have undoubtedly taken advantage of the nation’s uncertainty during the pandemic, in what is just another moment in the historical evolution of scams. 

“The immediacy of our lives, even during lockdown, has allowed scammers to harness the constantly changing news agenda to target their victims, which is why we all need to remain vigilant.

“I would urge everyone that if they are ever in doubt and something doesn’t sound right, to take the time to check it out, or get a second opinion from someone you trust.”

Looking ahead, Barclays has mapped out which sectors customers should be specifically wary off, due to the growing trajectory. This includes: 

  • Travel related scams: During the months of lockdown, Barclays saw an increase in campervan scams, particularly on online marketplace sites. With the summer holidays in full swing, scams relating to staycations are likely to increase as Brits take advantage of the good weather to make plans closer to home.
  • Social media related scams: Social media scams have been steadily increasing throughout lockdown with people spending more time online in an effort to stay connected with friends and family. Scammers have been using this engaged audience to seek out new victims.
  • Investment related scams: As July’s figures show, con artists have taken a renewed interest in people’s investments and commitment to save. Reports of crypto currency scams have emerged throughout lockdown, with scammers targeting people with currency that doesn’t exist or a bogus investment that promises to put money into a legitimate crypto currency. It’s an area which Barclays expects to continue to grow as fraudsters become more sophisticated in their tactics.

Winters added: “You should never feel pressured into making a decision on the spot – banks, the police and investment companies will not expect large payments to be made instantly.

“If you feel threatened, or an opportunity sounds too good to be true, give yourself time to look into the person you’ve been speaking to, the website you’ve been browsing, or the company that’s been calling you. 

“When researching investment opportunities, for example, ensure that the website is genuine, as it could be a cloned page. The Financial Conduct Authority also has a register that customers can use to check whether the company is authorised to provide regulated financial services.

“Ultimately, if you’re unsure, seek a second opinion from a friend or family member, or call your bank and tell them about your suspicions. If you are ever in doubt, please, speak out.”