The Spanish National Police have issued a public awareness campaign due to the rocketing number of reports of online fraud in 2021.
The most recent has been a wave of reports from victims who claim they responded to what they thought were their own banks with text messages saying: “We have detected suspicious attempts to access your account. You must activate the online security system or your account will be blocked.”
Victims who responded with their details found that their bank accounts had been hacked and their savings ransacked.
However this is just the latest in this post lockdown surge of online scams. To bring some awareness, we have compiled the Top 10 Spanish scams that seem to be the favourites of unscupulous fraudsters who prey on us all.
TOP 10 ONELINE SCAMS
1. Text Message Scams
Apart from the latest bank scams a popular ruse has been to impersonate the postal service, Correos, or other courier companies. People may receive fake e-mails or text messages telling them where to track their orders, but instead, it redirects you to a page pretending to be Correos,
designed to steal your data as well as seeking a fee to ensure delivery!
In some cases, victims are diverted to fake websites that require them to download an app to track delivery – in fact they can then take control of your mobile device to add to your misery.
2. Agencia Tributaria Tax Declaration Confirmation Mails
Victims fall to fake e-mails from the Spanish Tax Agency which coincide with the annual tax declaration deadline at the end of June.
The fraudsters claim to be officers of the agency and that you either need to make a payment, or are due a tax refund – in either case, the link that you are sent to confirm your details takes you to a fake mirror image site where your details are taken and from there you are ” picked clean” sometime doubling up so you are encouraged to download the new app which then takes control of your mobile device.
3. Holiday Rental Scams
This year has seen a deluge of this familiar scam as fake sites pop up and holiday maker plans ruined. Most commonly copying real ads of properties, including posting them on holiday rental websites and luring victims off the portals under the guise of offering cheaper options by saying they can save on the commisions. In fact the ads are designed to tempt victims with “too good to be true” prices – which is exactly what they are. You are advised to do some rudimentary checks such as checking reviews and number of people who have rented the property before, as well as asking for payment guarantees. If through a well known portal – dont be tempted off it to save a few quid!
4. Amazon order and Amazon investments
The Amazon con has taken a life of its own after a successful guerilla marketing campaign that has taken much of Spain to the cleaners this year.
Under the guise of joining the Amazon phenomenon with equally eye popping returns, the courts have been filled with victim complaints as they realise that they have been duped. Starting as an initial “investment” of 250 Euros this scam first appeared in South America and has quickly taken root in Spain. Victims are then bombarded with urgent requests for additional “investment,” or risk losing their original one. A professional team of telesales operators mount a round the clock bombardement so that every time a new investment is made, the victims are quickly pressured to make a new one.
The other, more familiar route to take your money is the Amazon “confirmation order” email or text which then takes your details once you log in or download the fake app from a mirror image site. Fraudsters then order on your behalf from your account as well as steal your personal details.
5. Cryptocurreny Scams
Cryptocurrency have also become more commonplace this year, usually using fake endorsements from well known figures and celebrities to get you to try investing in crypto. Often the ads will ask you to send Bitcoin or another crypto such as Ethereum where you will double your money!
This year courts have been flooded with cryptocurrency scams cases. One of the biggest scams reported is the one associated with a company named Algorithms Group, which scammed more than 280 million Euros from at least 300 investors ( possibly as many as 4,000) , may of whom were professional investors including lawyers and finance managers. They fell for the pitch by Javier Biosca, who acted as a broker buying and selling cryptocurrencies offering weekly interests of 25% per investment. However, the business went sour quickly and Biosca disappeared with the money.
6. Mercadona Discount Voucher
Playing on the good name of Spanish supermarket giant, Mercadona, this discount code has been used widely this year. They spread quicky as cybercriminals tempt victims with greater discounts if they share the offer with their Whatsapp contacts. Again the familiar formula of entering your details on a fake site where your details are taken and the scammers take on your identity for more mischief.
7. Phone Company Scams
Similarly the concept of using well known brands is being applied to the more established telephone scams, particularly from Vodafone. Scammers try and gain access to your account by sending you an e-mail pretending to be from them, telling you that you have an unpaid invoice that must be settled or charges will be incurred. By clicking on the link that they provide you end up downloading mailware onto your compueter which then steals your personal details and accesses your other accounts including banking.
8. Fake WhatsApp Verification Codes
WhatsApp account hijacking has become common and recently there has been a spike in these types of scams. Basically, what happens is that the cybercriminal configures WhatsApp on their phone using your phone number. As WhatsApp only allows one profile associated with each phone number, a verification code will be sent to make sure you want to do this. The scammer will then ask you to resend the code and if you do, they can take control of your account.
9. Sim Card Cloning & Swapping
Sim card cloning has been rising over recent years in Spain and which consists of cloning or swapping your sim for another. Of particular value is the two-factor authentication used by most Spanish banks, who send an SMS to the client’s phone with a code before authorising a transaction. You are advised not to let your phone with other people and especially if being taken for repairs.
10. Phishing: Video Conferences / Streaming
The lockdown and subsequent surge in online meetings and activities has been an opportunity for criminals. As life moved online so did they. Zoom was hit by one whereby victims were invited to meetings which were in fact to fake sites and where again the harvesting of personal information is the goal.
Sreaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have also been a honey pot for cyber criminals who offer an array of incentives such as reduced subsriptions to tempt you. The objective is always the same – to access your login details.
All have the common theme of stealing your data – be careful out there!