It’s a sad reality that some people will seek to exploit a crisis for their own dishonest purposes.
According to figures released by Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, as of Friday June 19, over 2,500 victims have lost a total of over £8m to coronavirus related scams.
Be it cyber-attacks, scammers sending texts, emails, making calls to landlines or mobiles or confidence tricksters attempting to access properties, scam artists have sadly continued their crimes during the coronavirus lockdown, with both individuals and businesses targeted.
Only this week I heard from a colleague who had been targeted by scammers purporting to be from a major energy company who had called her with a seemingly attractive offer to switch her from a pay as you go meter to a smart meter, supposedly to keep her energy supplies switched on if she didn’t have credit. The number calling even appeared to be the genuine company number.
Fortunately, my colleague was able to spot this as a scam as she doesn’t have a pay as you go meter and already has a smart meter. The matter was reported to Trading Standards and it’s a good example of the kind of scams that are out there at the moment.
Currently its Scam Awareness Fortnight, an annual event which this year is taking place between 15-28 June.
As Britain’s largest gas distribution network and provider of the gas emergency service Cadent has a great deal of interaction with the public.
We’ve done a lot of work with Trading Standards and our fellow utilities through Utilities Against Scams to take a stand against scams and increase awareness of how to spot, stop and prevent them.
Recently we launched a short online training course available for our staff to help them become more scam aware which should help ensure both they and our customers are less likely to fall victim to the scammers.
So how do you spot a scam?
If you know what to look out for you’re less likely to fall victim to a scam.
Examples of things to beware of include unexpected, unsolicited calls with recorded messages asking you to either speak to an operator or press a button on your phone for more information.
If you speak to an operator, you could be at risk of giving them your personal information or your financial details, which could result in identity theft or financial loss. If you press a button on your phone you could be connected to a high-cost premium number, leaving you liable for a significant call cost. Fake texts purporting to come from the Government are another ploy sometimes involving a demand for payment of a fine or the offer of a tax refund of some kind.
A good way to avoid failing victim to such scams is to familiarize yourself with the official government communication channels, such as https://www.gov.uk/
As a gas distribution network, Cadent, sometimes need to access people’s properties to carry out essential work. If this is planned gas pipe replacement work you should receive a letter in advance. If we’re there to deal with a suspected gas escape, you may be expecting us, having called the national gas emergency number (0800 111 999*calls are recorded and may be monitored).
In both instances there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from any potential scammers.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that a caller is wearing an official looking uniform or driving a branded vehicle, as these could be fake.
Anyone working for Cadent carries an official identification card which should be inspected before giving access to your property. Remember like branded uniforms and vehicles, IDs can be fakes. If you’re in any doubt close the door and do not admit the caller. You can verify if someone works for us by calling 0345 835 1111
, select Option 2 and we can confirm whether the visitor works for us or not. Anyone working for us is trained to understand the verification process and will not be offended.
If you arrange an appointment with us through your gas supplier, the engineer can also be given a password to use to keep you safe on the doorstep.
Alternatively, you can also have a password set for energy companies like Cadent to use through the Priority Services Register (PSR). This is a register that supports people who may have reduced mobility, additional communication needs, a serious illness or who is currently living in a vulnerable situation. It’s free of charge to register and can give you extra peace of mind – to find out more speak to your energy supplier or contact Cadent on 0345 835 111 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sum up it’s about using your common sense and intuition, if something doesn’t feel right it may well not be, so just follow these simple steps to protect yourself from the confidence tricksters while also ensuring you don’t miss out on essential services.
A good three step process in dealing with suspected scams of all types is as follows:
SPOT: If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is
STOP: Take some time to stop and think before parting with your details, money or letting people into your property – it could keep you safe.
PREVENT: If you spot a scam or think you’ve fallen for a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and get help (If you feel in immediate danger call 999)
For advice visit: