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25 Dec 2021

The strangest scams of 2021

From the parcel prowler with pruning sheers to a mysterious windfall from James Bond, we revisit the most peculiar scam attempts seen this year

It's been a turbulent year in the pandemic, with the recent rise of the Omicron variant turning the tide of earlier optimism into one of concern about our festive plans.

Even as we were enjoying the relative freedoms of summer - with some of us even jetting off on holiday - fraudsters didn't take a single day off.

We continued to receive hundreds of scam reports every month from concerned Which? members - and sadly, some victims who lost substantial sums of money.

But for every sophisticated scheme spun by scammers, there are the more preposterous attempts which are capable of raising a smile - even in these worrying times.

Read on to see some of the strangest enticements, from caves stuffed with 'gold and crystals' to random windfalls from Hollywood actors.

The Iraqi cave of gold

This is a creative variation of the classic 'Nigerian Prince' scam which promises fabulous riches, if only you stump up a small fee to 'release' your windfall. It's the 'let me know if you are interested' that really makes it.

The 007 impostor

It looks like Daniel Craig has found his post-Bond calling as the unlikely star of this ludicrous scam attempt. As with the Iraqi cave of gold above, this is likely another 'advance fee' fraud, which aims to con you out of an upfront payment and probably your personal details too.

In this case, the fraudsters are employing the common trick of using a celebrity's reputation to seem more credible - though arguably it has the opposite effect here.

Parcel prowlers

We've seen a worrying trend in fraudsters stealing innocent people's identities to order expensive goods. The goods are then dispatched to the victim's home, with the criminals using live delivery tracking to intercept them.

One victim reported a laptop had been fraudulently ordered to their address using a store card taken out in their name. The scammer, knowing the delivery was about to take place, audaciously stuck a note to the victim's door while they were in the house, asking the delivery driver to leave the package outside without ringing the doorbell because the occupants had 'bad Covid.'

Fortunately the delivery driver knocked on the window and gestured that he was leaving the parcel, alerting the occupants to the delivery and the entire ruse.

Another victim found footage on her neighbour's CCTV showing someone arriving at her home while she was at work. This person pretended to prune the hedge in the front garden (with garden shears they'd brought along) for about 15 minutes before a delivery driver turned up with a fraudulently ordered iPhone, which the scammer accepted, and then took off.

The trading platform called '.'

A subscriber to our Which? Scam Alerts Service shared this bizarre email testimonial for a trading platform from a young businessman.

If you attempt some basic due diligence by Googling 'Akshay This Morning,' you will find that a teenager called Akshay Ruparelia did indeed appear on This Morning in 2019, talking about how he became one of Britain's youngest millionaires.

However, this email has no affiliation whatseover with Ruparelia - a genuine businessman who has made his money founding his own businesses.

Anyone responding to this email and supplying their contact details would likely have been plagued by calls from investment scammers for the rest of time, urging them to pour money into a fake trading platform for bitcoin or binary options.

The call 'from Which?'

A Which? member reported receiving a phone call 'from' Which?, asking them to 'reconfirm' their payment details. Needless to say, we would never do this. You should treat any unsolicited requests for your payment details with the utmost suspicion.