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Uncertain Times

With Russia’s war on Ukraine creating the most uncertain of times since the Second World War, we look at how scammers are using this backdrop to create heinous scams. They are looking to steal your money in a range of ways, and we must all beware and take steps to protect ourselves.

Uncertain Times blog

Fraudsters are using Russia's invasion, declining stock values and spiking oil prices to come after your money – beware!

In times of crisis and uncertainty, it’s a sad fact that scams and fraud increase as scammers prey on confusion and fear.

Scammers often use political and world events to take advantage of people and their good nature, and the current tragedy in Ukraine is no different.

Here we highlight some of the scams emerging from the war in Ukraine to look out for and show you how to protect your money.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is the fastest-growing refugee crisis since WWII with millions of people being displaced. And yet believe it or not, scammers are seeking to prey on people trying to offer support to the refugees during the crisis. You have to wonder what goes on the minds of these people, but they are out there and we all need to be aware.

The most common types of scams include phone calls, emails, banner ads and text messages that ask for donations and seem entirely legitimate.

Think before you donate

Probably the most prevalent scam to look out for is the 'Donation Scam', where scammers attempt to lure you in with fake and elaborate stories alongside requests for money. These often make emotional but fake appeals for solidarity with the people of Ukraine or urging the public to help fund the country's defence efforts.

Donation requests from charities you don't recognise, particularly those that claim you’re a past contributing member, should raise red flags. If you don't remember supporting the charity in the past, it's likely to be a fraudulent email. If you’ve donated in the past, always, go directly to the charity's website and donate there, rather than rely on links from targeted emails.

Scammers are using this crisis to set up spoof websites that look like those of official registered charities and fundraising sites like GoFundMe. Be extra-vigilant about donating money to GoFundMe pages.

Remember, it's important not to get caught up in the urgency of a situation, and still use your common sense and carry out due diligence to ensure you're donating to a legitimate organisation. The real tip is the URL, which will often show you it's a fake approach.

Our advice is to stick to who you know - anyone who is unsure about a fundraising page, or the charitable efforts of an individual, should ONLY consider donating to organisations already providing support in Ukraine like the British Red Cross, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, or another registered charity.

First-time donors often make the mistake of donating with debit cards, which are directly linked to their bank accounts and are therefore considered a more vulnerable payment method. Our advice is that the safest way to make a charitable donation is by credit card which offers additional layers of protection. Never donate in the form of gift cards or wire transfers.

Are your friends stuck in Ukraine needing your help? Probably not!

Then there is the appeal for money from someone who is stuck in the war-torn country. Be particularly cautious if you receive a request from someone (even if it's a friend or family member) claiming to be stuck in Ukraine or who says they need help with repatriation or travel costs.

'Friends and family stuck scams' with tales of lost passports and urgent financial assistance to buy plane tickets are becoming all too common. Also, don't be fooled by the photography of them in Ukraine, these days it's all too easy to fake images so always check before you help. People should always fact-check for false information, and not take videos and social media posts at face value.

Also, talking of family, be wary of anyone requesting financial assistance for the burial of a loved one, or from people claiming to be "defending freedom".

Watch helping anyone move money out of Ukraine!

Financial and banking scams are also seeing people being asked to assist in 'moving money out of Ukraine' - but beware this could result in you being charged or even becoming implicated in money-laundering activities.

This is similar to the old Nigerian Prince scam where someone with a lot of money needs to move that money to leave Ukraine – but they can't do it without your help. Of course, you'll need to pay transfer fees. Our advice is if you receive such a message, report it as spam and delete it immediately.

You can report a financial scam to the FCA.

Lower energy prices – too good to be true

We’re all concerned about rising energy prices, spiking oil prices and the increase in the cost of living because of the crisis.

But people should not be caught out by energy scams relating to recent price increases, which may see fraudsters offering reduced energy prices or short-term special deals to enter fixed-rate tariffs because of the current situation.

However, be warned that this could create a window of opportunity for scammers to con you into handing over your bank details.

Our advice is to be aware of any unsolicited contact requesting monetary donations, and/or personal and banking information.

It’s important to remain vigilant and report scams and suspicious activity to the correct authorities.

And don’t lose your retirement pot

Stock markets are down, and you worry your investment account won't return what you need to live a financially peaceful retirement.

Not to worry. Criminal enterprises are ready to persuade you that they have a guaranteed way for you to invest and earn big money without any risk.

Rising inflation makes con artists jump for joy because they know frightened investors are more likely to fall for scams involving gold, cryptocurrencies, foreign currencies, or fake investment opportunities.

Our advice is to “trust nothing and verify everything” to avoid losing your hard-earned money.

So, what else can you do to protect yourself from scams?

Stop-scammers in their tracks by reducing your digital footprint - use Rightly Protect now. Our Rightly Protect service enables you to identify companies that have your data and then, in a single click, request that your data is deleted. Removing your data from companies that no longer need it reduces the risk of your personal information being stolen by hackers and sold on to scammers.

With all scams, our advice is that the more people that hold your personal information and the wider your digital footprint the more chance you are likely to be targeted by these scammers.

To avoid harm from the data we share, consumers need to be vigilant about what they are giving away to avoid future digital harm. It’s never too late to find out who has your data and request its deletion to protect yourself.