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Spring Budget Boon: Fertile Ground for Scammers

The UK government announced a series of changes as part of the Spring Budget on the 6th of March 2024. Now, Deryck Mitchelson, Field CISO EMEA at Check Point Software is warning people of the potential spike in scam calls or emails that offer early access to these new benefits which include reductions in national insurance, childcare contributions or increased savings allowance.
While events like this dominate headlines and spark discussions, there’s another group equally eager but for nefarious reasons – scammers. Phishing and vishing, already prevalent cyber threats, tend to spike around big fiscal events including budget announcements, as scammers capitalise on heightened public interest and financial uncertainties.

Crafting convincing lures

Budget announcements draw significant public attention, both from individuals and businesses, eager to understand how financial changes may affect them. Scammers leverage this heightened interest by crafting phishing emails, texts, or social media messages themed around budget-related topics. These often contain enticing subject lines promising tax breaks, cost of living payments, or investment opportunities, luring recipients into clicking malicious links or divulging personal information. The effectiveness of these spam campaigns has been enhanced by the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), making the schemes more legitimate, mimicking government agencies, financial institutions, or tax authorities.

Another method of attack is through vishing (voice phishing) where scammers cold-call individuals, claiming to represent government agencies or financial institutions, and trick them into disclosing sensitive information under the guise of assisting with budget-related queries.

Heightening vigilance

With scams proliferating during budget season, individuals must remain vigilant and exercise caution when interacting with unsolicited messages or calls. Here, Deryck provides some top tips to keep safe in the wake of the announcement:

• Always verify the authenticity of emails, texts, or calls by directly contacting the sender or organization through official channels.
• Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, as they may contain malware designed to steal personal information.
• Educate yourself and others about common phishing and vishing tactics, emphasizing the importance of skepticism and critical thinking in safeguarding against scams.
• Report any suspicious activity to Action Fraud or contact HMRC direct regarding specific scams relating to government benefits.

Deryck said: “As changes announced during the Spring Budget come into effect, individuals must remain vigilant against the surge of phishing and vishing scams that seek to exploit the heightened interest. Governments, law enforcement agencies, and cybersecurity experts should come together to raise awareness about budget-related scams and provide resources for individuals to protect themselves.

“By staying informed, exercising caution, and fostering collaborative efforts, we can collectively combat these frauds and safeguard our finances and personal information from falling into the hands of scammers.”