Fraudsters prey on people's anxiety around saving money - Kalkine Media

January 27, 2023 04:25 PM AEDT | By Mahendra Bajiya (Guest)
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Fraudsters are leaping new opportunities caused by the current cost of living crisis. Some frauds are directly linked to public policy announcements about energy rebates or benefits payments. Some fraudsters prey on people’s fears about rising costs with false offers for cheap loans or low rent.

Fraudsters use the same principles they have used for hundreds of years to con people into parting with their money. But nowadays, they’re armed with advanced technology and use emails, texts, and social media to mislead their victims.

But why do the old principles still work for swindles, and what can you do to protect yourself?

The latest fraud trends

In cases where fraudsters exploit government announcements, they send people official-looking but fake emails or texts with instructions to claim the extra support. Their malicious links dupe people into providing their bank details and other personal information; then, they clear out people’s life savings.

Since the cost-of-living crisis is widespread, fraudsters also know we’re looking for bargains and savings. They send people false adverts for unbelievable bargains or affordable places to rent, luring them into clicking malicious links. For example, landlords usually require a fresh credit score report, so a fraudster’s email link may lead people to a spoofed website. When people answer probing questions about their finances, fraudsters record the information and steal the money.

Fraudsters also sell things that don’t exist or never get delivered or dupe people into making payments via malicious cell phone apps that steal banking details.

How do fraudsters take advantage of our fears?

Our instinctive politeness sometimes overrides our good judgment. We don’t want to appear rude or give a stranger the impression that we distrust him even when we do. And so, we sometimes get into situations we should have avoided.

  • Did you just spot an advertisement for an expensive item at an unbelievable price? Fraudsters use sad stories, often involving children, about how they’re forced to sell something urgently for a very low price. They know people will buy things they don’t need or pay extra for an item because they feel sorry for the seller.

Don’t get rushed into paying quickly or get talked into downloading a special app to urgently get the funds to them. Strange apps could be spyware.

  • Fraudsters know people are hard-pressed for money. When a seller tells a sad tale as their reason for offering a mad price, we feel pity for the seller, but we also feel an instinctive drive to not lose out.

Don’t pay before you receive the item, and don’t get talked into paying via gift cards or vouchers. You may never receive the goods.

  • Even if you spot that something is amiss during a transaction, fraudsters have a reasonable explanation for everything. For example, they may say they’re selling something cheaply because they’ve just been kicked out of their flat, lost their benefits because of an admin mistake, or because they’re looking after Ukrainian refugees.

Don’t let them fool you into sending money to a foreign address or keeping the transaction a secret from your bank. When you realize something is amiss, it may be too late.

How can we protect ourselves against scams?

Where do fraudsters get our names, phone numbers, and email addresses? The answer is that they can buy data about our social media activities, addresses, birth and marriage records, and even official government information on the Dark Web. The data comes from a combination of thousands of data breaches, plus data from our unprotected activities while we’re on the internet.

  1. Get a VPN to protect you on the internet
    A VPN blocks spies and snoopers from seeing what information you exchange online. What is a VPN? It creates a private tunnel between your computer and the internet so no one can see your actions. It also encrypts all your data (for example, your credit card details) by turning it into a meaningless string of unreadable characters. Only the VPN can decode the information at either end, so your information stays hidden and private. An advanced VPN will also offer antivirus features and URL checking to block malicious links.
  2. Stop sharing your information online
    Marketing companies and hackers use data scrapers to harvest information from social media sites. It’s not hard to buy target lists of “families with teenage children” or “people who own pets” because we keep sharing that type of information on the internet! It’s better to set your social media profiles to private and to be cautious about adding personal details.
  3. Beware of phishing and spoofing
    Fraudsters can make it seem like an email from a legitimate organization (email spoofing). Treat all emails, certificates, or texts with instructions to claim financial support with great suspicion. Check the particular government website for instructions and phone their fair number. For most rebates or grants, authorities try to allocate funds automatically and don’t require you to go through an application process.
  4. Beware of false adverts
    Other fraudsters take advantage of people's growing anxieties about money and rising costs. They send out false adverts for fake bargains or loans, using Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) as a sales tactic. We all fear missing out on a good deal in the current economic climate!

There’s no such thing as a ‘cautious click.’ Ignore email or text message links and do a fresh web search for the company or special offer. Buy directly, not via a possibly poisoned URL.

What to do if you have been scammed

Contact your bank immediately and make a full disclosure, then confirm all the details in writing. Follow up using only legitimate phone numbers and email addresses. For additional assistance, you should also report it to And remember to spread the word! Help your friends and community by urging them to be cautious and protect their privacy.


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