Newsflash: Organised crime has not cut back its activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
If anything, fraudsters have stepped up their game. It seems that they have more time on their hands to upgrade their latest scams, which happen to be clone impersonations. If you have not been duped by one of these “look-alike-websites”, then consider yourself lucky. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning earlier this year that “Action Fraud data reveals consumers reported losses of more than £78 million between January-December 2020.”
As Covid surged across the globe, scam artists followed suit in 2021. Recent statistics reflect a 94% increase in what is called “impersonation scams”. According to a finance industry publication:
“Scammers have leveraged epidemic anxieties to mislead people into disclosing personal information, with phoney messages and emails frequently used to gather data. Links to bogus websites for vaccines or penalties for breaking lockdown regulations are two examples.”
Clone scams tend to be more insidious. They are more complex and require a heavier investment by the fraudster, but they quickly gain your trust by appearing to be a well-known and respected business enterprise. As more people work and stay at home due to Covid restrictions, the public has increased its reliance on all things virtual, from simple communications to shopping for whatever the family needs.
This sudden migration to being virtual has played right into the hands of a growing subset of scam artists, the ones that are familiar with plying their wares online. Security professionals have analysed the data and determined that forex brokers are prime targets for these rogue operators. Various ploys are used to attract unsuspecting victims to these “copycat” websites, where all manner of ruses are used to fleece the victims of information or, worse yet, their investments.
Over the past few days, one example appearing in the press is Scandinavian Capital Markets, a premier STP-ECN forex broker based in Stockholm, Sweden. A spokesman for the firm warned: “It appears the group that spoofed our website is highly sophisticated and put a lot of effort into the fraud. They have created multiple fake Instagram profiles claiming to be Cathie Woods. The way they work is that they offer mentorships to traders if the trader opens a brokerage account. That is when they guide the trader to their fraud website.”
How can you avoid this trap? Criminals must initially set the hook with an inviting opportunity. Check the details of the offer and review the FCA’s blacklist for bad actors. You may verify website and related email addresses with the FCA, as well. Details can, however, be deceiving. For the Swedish example: “Our website is scandinavianmarkets.com while the spoofed version is scandinaviancapitalmarket.com.”
Be wary of clone websites and the unsolicited offers they use to attract their victims. Regulators have been warning consumers of this threat for quite some time. The FCA alone sent out over 1,100 warnings in 2020 about such websites. With cloning scams nearly doubling in 2021, it is highly advised to be ever vigilant of this type of deception.
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