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Future scam threats: what to watch out for in the next 12 months

Bogus cryptocurrency investments, counterfeit goods, fake Euro 2020 tickets and modelling scams have all been flagged as threats by the National Trading Standards

Cryptocurrency investments, counterfeit goods, fake Euro 2020 tickets and social media modelling scams have been identified as some of the emerging major scam threats.

The future scam dangers were named in the National Trading Standards’ (NTS) new Consumer Harm Report which revealed what the trade body was doing to crack down on scams. This included:

  • convicting 70 criminals
  • handing down prison sentences totaling over 129 years and suspended sentences of nearly 39 years
  • confiscating more than £8m from criminals
  • banning 16 criminals from serving as company directors.

Social media modelling scams

A growing scam trend is bogus modelling opportunities being posted on social media by fraudsters with fake modelling agencies.

The scammers pretend to set up a fake photoshoot then pocket a fee sent by the hopeful model.

Some cases have even resulted in people handing over thousands of pounds in return for a modelling portfolio which is never made.

The scammers use adverts on all forms of social media, including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter and LinkedIn.

NTS’ eCrime Team member, Mike Andrews said: ‘Many people dream of a career in modelling, attracted by the fame and luxury lifestyles associated with the world’s most famous models.

‘It’s completely understandable that adverts claiming to offer a pathway to this kind of life catch the eye.

‘Sadly the reality is that the people who pursue these ‘opportunities’ will likely end up out of pocket, sometimes to the tune of thousands of pounds.

‘Before responding to modelling adverts like this on social media, people should remember the age old saying – if it looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.’

Not sure how to spot a social media scam? Read our free guide for tips.

Counterfeit goods

The volume of unsafe and non-compliant products which have been intercepted by the NTS at the border is growing.

And they’re usually from China and the Far East – especially since the opening of the Yiwu-London railway line in 2017.

NTS identified particular threats as:

  • mini toothpick crossbows
  • counterfeit film merchandise from high profile upcoming releases such as Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and the new Lion King.

Can you spot counterfeit goods from the real deal? If you come across a fake, read our guide on how to report fake goods or counterfeit products.

You can also use the tools, tips and advice on our Which? product safety hub to protect you and your home.

Fake Euro 2020 tickets

NTS has already identified criminal groups planning to hawk fake Euro 2020 tickets and fake merchandise, such as replica t-shirts and tournament memorabilia.

Some tickets are already for sale online even though the Union of European Football Associations hasn’t yet listed any for sale.

If you’d like to buy tickets, you need to register on the official UEFA website and wait for the tickets to go on sale there.

If you buy a counterfeit ticket, you’re likely not going to be allowed access to the stadium.

Find out how to avoid dodgy ticket sellers online in our free guide.

Cryptocurrency scams

There’s been unprecedented interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies due to the huge fluctuations in their value.

Scammers have been exploiting this by promising huge returns but instead drain a victim’s bank account, steal from their virtual wallet or create entirely fake platforms which are then closed down.

NTS has warned this is likely to continue.

NTS Scams team member Louise Baxter said: ‘Anyone thinking about investing in cryptocurrencies should exercise extreme caution.

‘You should very carefully research the websites you are using to invest your money and the currencies you are planning to invest in.

‘As has been seen with the volatile price of Bitcoin, investing in cryptocurrencies is risky – it moves from risky to disastrous if you end up putting your money into a scam.’

There are often tell-tale signs that an investment opportunity is a scam – such as being contacted out of the blue or being told to keep it quiet.

You can find out more about how to spot an investment scam in our free guide.

Illegal skin lightening creams

Ingredients which are highly dangerous and banned throughout the EU have been found in skin whitening creams for sale in the UK.

Those banned ingredients include:

  • hydroquinone and corticosteroids, which can cause irreversible skin damage and other serious health conditions
  • the highly toxic mercury, which can damage the kidneys, liver and brain.

The NTS has warned about the dangers people but themselves at risk of if they buy these illegal creams and said they were taking enforcement action against those found to be selling it.

Report a scam

Consumer Minister Kelly Tolhurst said ‘Ensuring markets work fairly and effectively for consumers is central to our modern Industrial Strategy, and I am proud to say the UK’s consumer protection regime is among the strongest in the world.

‘This report underlines the vital work of National Trading Standards in protecting consumers from scammers, dangerous goods and shoddy services, with nearly £200m saved in the last year alone.’

If you’re approached by someone or a company and you think it’s a scam, you should stop all contact and report it.

There are different ways to report different types of scams, such as phone scams, email scams or social media scams.

National fraud and crime reporting agency Action Fraud is usually the first port of call but you can find out the specifics of how to report a scam in our guide.

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