NatWest issues urgent fraud warning – Royal Mail & HMRC tax rebate scams target consumers

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NatWest has warned over three in four students are actively targeted by criminals through a number of well known brands and services. The 2021 NatWest Student Living Index ,which is due to be released in full on August 6, has highlighted a number of “shocking” statistics.

NatWest warned fraudsters are using a common delivery service scam, sending a text message advising an attempt was made to deliver a parcel and there would now be an additional charge.

The text message then links to a fake Royal Mail or DHL website and requests additional information which will then later be used to scam the student.

Additionally, HMRC tax rebate scams are also increasingly targeting vulnerable consumers.

Over three in five students detailed they had been contacted with either fake emails, texts and calls claiming entitlement to a tax-rebate.

The criminal aims to gather personal details such as name, date of birth, address and sometimes even payment card details, the fraudster will then call the customer, impersonating the bank and using the details to build trust and confidence that it is the bank calling.

Students studying in Exeter, Edinburgh and York are the most likely to be targeted by fraudsters with over four in five in each of those areas having experienced fraud.

Glasgow students are the least likely to be targeted, but the numbers are still high, with over three in five having been subjected to fraud.

The NatWest Student Living Index surveyed more than 2,300 students across the country.

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Students were asked a range of questions, on fraud and scams, on how much they spend on essentials such as food, rent and bills, and how much time they spend studying, working and socialising.

The full 2021 NatWest Student Living Index will be revealed this week and ahead of this, Andy Nicholson, the Head of NatWest Student Accounts, commented: “This year’s NatWest Student Living Index reveals a large number of students are being targeted by criminals.

“In raising awareness of these types of scams we hope students can avoid becoming a victim.”

Fortunately, Natwest also provided guidance on how students can stay safe and secure.

NatWest issued the following tips:

  • Try to shop online with websites that you know and trust using your debit or credit card. If you see a deal online that looks too good to be true from a website you’ve never heard of, it’s probably a scam. If you have doubts, don’t make the purchase.
  • If an online seller asks you to send money direct from your bank account to theirs, this is probably a scam. If they fail to deliver the goods you will lose your money. When it comes to buying online, use your credit or debit card to pay, or carefully follow the scam advice on auction sites such as eBay and Gumtree will help you avoid falling victim.
  • Don’t give away your personal and bank details too easily. Criminals use online competitions or offers of free shopping vouchers as a way of harvesting information from their next victims.
  • Watch out for social media investment scams. These will often use fake celebrity endorsements and the promise of getting rich quick.
  • Be sceptical of unsolicited phone calls, texts or emails asking for personal or bank details. The bank or the Police will never ask for a full PIN or password, card reader codes, or ask you to move money from your account.
  • Do not recycle passwords and definitely use a unique password for your bank accounts and your email account.
  • Pass this information on to your family and friends, especially anyone you think might be vulnerable.

These tips will likely need to be heeded by everyone and not just students as recently, data from a number of security experts showed there was a 667 percent increase in malicious phishing emails at the height of the pandemic.

According to analysis from Barracuda Network, this spike in fraudulent activity was partially due to scammers taking advantage of home working – which left many increasingly vulnerable.

The price comparison website money.co.uk also noted multiple lockdowns over the last year meant consumers were shopping online more than ever before, with online sales up 46 percent in 2020, adding more potential risk.

These risks, unfortunately, did not seem to reduce as restrictions were eased as in the second quarter of 2021, there were 81,018 cases of fraud and cyber crime, resulting in a reported £382.3million lost to criminals.

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