Households are currently experiencing an energy bill hike of £693 and the price cap is expected to reach £3,200 by October, which will put further pressure on families. Recent research by Action Fraud found that fraudsters are exploiting this rise in energy prices, with many citing one of the “big six” energy companies in their scams. Cases of these crimes are up 10% this quarter compared to the same period last year, with January seeing a 27% year-on-year increase alone.

Vonny Gamot, Head of Consumer EMEA at McAfee, explained how social media platforms have “exacerbated” the proliferation of cost of living scams.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Ms Gamot explained: ‘The cost of living crisis means a time when people are being hit with higher bills and increased costs – which means they are looking to find as many ways as possible to save. silver.

“Social media platforms have exacerbated these scams, but it has always been a popular channel for fraudsters. More than half of the world’s population uses social media and, being opportunists, they know how to use these channels to obtain personal data or trick people into revealing valuable information about themselves.

“You post updates about your life, where you live, your work and your friends on social media. All of these details are a valuable commodity for cybercriminals, and with social media shopping on the rise, financial details related to accounts only make them a better target for scammers.

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Ms Gamot highlighted how scammers have adapted their operations and techniques during the pandemic and the cost of living crisis – and it seems that signing up for free Wi-Fi should be done with caution.

She explained: “Email scams are the most common, with 96% of phishing attacks occurring this way, while SMS scams, where fraudsters try to encourage people to click on to malicious websites are also prevalent.

“Similarly, crooks can call you or leave a voicemail pretending to be a trusted source. We are seeing more and more crooks creating a malicious free Wi-Fi hotspot that appears to be legitimate people’s phones and computers.

Giving examples of how cost of living scams are popping up on social media platforms, Ms Gatmot explained how scammers provoke gut reactions to get people to divulge their private information.

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She added, “We see several approaches on this channel; first, passwords based on common characteristics such as your birthday, street name or pet name, which scammers can easily figure out.

“Second, through contest win notifications. People may receive a message that they have won a contest, often in which they did not enter, and scammers will ask for your bank details to finalize the prize.

“And, finally, while there are many valid fundraisers and petitions on social media, we often see scammers trick users into inspiring strong emotion – using fear, anger or sadness – so that people open their wallets.”

However, Ms Gamot believes there are still things people can do to avoid falling for social media scams.

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“Fortunately, consumers can change a few habits to stop social engineers in their tracks,” Ms. Gamot said.

“First of all, scammers often target people who act recklessly out of strong emotion, so slow down before you respond to that urgent message or click on a link, ask yourself if it might be wrong. act a scam.

“Many of us have probably had active social media accounts for years, so people can start reviewing their friends and followers online and delete any unknown or suspicious accounts. Finally, always create a strong and unique password.

“It may seem unnecessary to create individual passwords for different accounts, but scammers use it to gain access to all of your accounts.”

The fraud expert also shared what people should know when looking for scammers online.

“The main things to look out for in a potential malicious phishing scam are lack of personalization, unusual URLs, incorrect spelling and when the message tells you to act urgently,” she said. .

“At the individual level, protecting your online footprint requires a combination of a robust security architecture and good user hygiene, such as strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.”