Coronavirus scammers target campervans and cryptocurrency – what to look out for

Scammers are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to trick people over cryptocurrency and campervan deals, a bank has warned.

New data from Barclays has revealed a 66 per cent rise in reported scams in the first six months of 2020, as conmen preyed on families during lockdown.

And the bank says investment scams are currently at the highest level ever reported, having gone up 49 per cent in July.

Barclays Bank
Barclays Bank

Most of the scams relate to travel, social media and investment, it said.

The bank said the trend was still rising and believes that’s because Brits are spending more money as lockdown restrictions ease and they try to get back to normal life.

Barclays said the delayed spike in investment scams, compared to other forms of scam, 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.”

Barclays advises that consumers should be wary of scams related to investment, travel and social media in particular, due to evidence of these rising trends.

Campervan sales have been targeted by scammers during the coronavirus pandemic
Campervan sales have been targeted by scammers during the coronavirus pandemic
(Image: Daily Mirror)

Travel

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.

Thousands of fake listings for campervans and motorhomes on eBay, Gumtree and AutoTrader have tricked people into handing over cash.

Fraudsters use fake listings copied from legitimate adverts, promising prospective buyers they will deliver the vehicle if they hand over the money, The Guardian reported.

The conmen relied on the fact that during lockdown, buyers were not able to leave their homes to go and see the vehicle first.

In one case PayPal links sent by the seller were fake and deliberately did not work, with the buyer then told to transfer the cash to a holding account where it would left until the vehicle was delivered.

Social media

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.

Bitcoin
Bitcoin
(Image: shared content unit)

Investment

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 Barclays expects to continue to grow as fraudsters become more sophisticated in their tactics.

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Mr Winters added: “You should never feel pressured into make 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.

Scam warnings

“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 of family member, or call your bank and tell them about your suspicions. If you are ever in doubt, please, speak out.”