Has the number of scams increased during COVID ?
The short answer is probably 'Yes!'.
Scammers leverage fear & uncertainty to create their opportunities, and so Covid has created a unique set of circumstances for them to exploit.
Pre Covid a scammer's bread & butter would be targeting older people who have not bridged the technology gap.
Older people who did not grow up with computers and/or computer games have a significant disadvantage in today's tech driven world. I mention 'computer games' too because they are actually a good way to become familiar with how things like menu systems (and how to navigate them) work and that knowledge can be carried over to other pieces of software. It's really about familiarity and repetition that helps somebody become comfortable using a computer.
Scammers are organised as businesses with many running call centres where employees clock on and off just like a legitimate job. They have performance bonuses and monthly pay-cheques.
The names and details of any people who have been successfully scammed are listed as prime targets for more of the same treatment going forward. If you are interested - have a look at the video below showing some of the workings of an Indian Scam Call Centre.
One of the main things that I have seen evidenced is the leveraging of traditional Landline telephones by the scammers. There will be many reasons why this is so;
large coverage via mass automated calls
proportionately more senior people using landlines as primary telephone
older people have a different / more trusting value system
cheaper and easier to hide vs mobile lines
easier to pose a some kind of service provider
The common or garden Tech Support Scam
This is where a target is cold-called and are informed that 'Microsoft' (usually) are calling and that a problem has been detected with their computer. The scammer then tries to connect to the target's computer, lie about the results of a scan and attempt to 'fix' a problem for a fee.
This scam is targeting the older, less tech savvy person who doesn't realise that Microsoft don't know what state of repair an individual person's computer is in and they never cold call people either.
If you consider the Data Protection Act for a moment, it would suggest that it would actually be illegal for any company to monitor your computer without your permission. Add to that the logistics of Microsoft cold calling all their customers - it isn't plausible
The 'No Hang-up Scam'
This scam is where the target is cold called by the scammer posing as their bank. They are told that there is some kind of urgent problem that needs addressing & that they need to call their bank ASAP.
The scammers do not hang up the line on their side, and hand the call off to another member of the scamming team who then pose as the bank and attempt to extract the personal information that they want.
This is a callous trick that would be much more difficult to pull off on a mobile phone.
The Hallmark of many Scams
Many times during a scam, the customer will be persuaded to allow 'remote access' or hand over control of their computer.
This is actually the place where any potential target needs to stop and re-evaluate what is going on. You could go as far as to say that if you are cold-called & then asked for remote access to your computer then it is most likely a scam.
Remote access to a client's computer is not a problem in and of itself, but the problem is the fact that the target was cold-called and does not know the person in control. Once the scammer has control of a target's computer - the tone of the call can often change for the worse, Scammers have been known to regularly hide or delete a target's folder of Photographs (or something else along those lines) to use as leverage to get what they want.
It's advisable to always just refuse everything, hang up and go and search the internet to see if there are any reports of anything that sounds similar (there often are). To combat this the scammers will probably try to introduce some kind of urgency or time constraint to the situation.
During Lockdown more people are at home and anxiety levels as a whole are generally higher, and because scammers are so callous this presents them with an opportunity.
Many new scams that relate to Covid and/or the NHS have popped up recently using tactics such as; Covid compensation letters, requests for donations and false offers of financial support. The best way to spot fake solicitations like this is to look for spelling and grammar mistakes, look carefully at the logos and any contact details and also check phone numbers and website addresses which may for example only have 1 character that is different from the real website. Many of these scams are fake Government/NHS sites because it has the appearance of legitimacy to most people. Always do a google search to see check the legitimacy of any unsolicited contact.
Be vigilant and never be persuaded to do anything immediately.
If you are asked to provide any sort of PIN, bank details or for a stranger to take control of your computer, then refuse and end the call.
Take your time, do some research and consult a family member or friend.
You could also sign up for the Which scam alerts email which should give you a head start & a flavour of what you might expect. Here is the link; https://campaigns.which.co.uk/scam-alert-service/