MT Week - Parcel fraud, rail fare rise and stamp duty unfreeze
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Fraud related to parcel deliveries is on the up
With Christmas on the horizon and increased coronavirus restrictions around the country, more of us are shopping online than ever.
But that in turn has led to more fraud and specifically a rise in scams involving parcel delivery services.
Action Fraud revealed this week that since June this year, £242,000 has been lost by victims falling for messages from scammers pretending to work for delivery firm DPD.
The messages typically tell the recipient that the delivery driver was “unable to deliver your parcel today” as “you weren’t in or there was no safe place to leave it”. It then provides instructions for arranging a re-delivery, except the links in the messages lead to fraudulent websites that request a small payment.
Once a person makes the payment, they’ll then get a phone call from the scammer pretending to be someone from the victim’s bank. This can appear genuine as the fraudsters would clone numbers, messages or emails to make them appear legitimate.
During the call, the victim would be told that their bank account may be compromised and that they must transfer their money into another account for security - except that account actually belongs to the criminal.
In other scenarios, fraudsters would use the call to get additional personal details and security information so they can take out a loan in the victim’s name before transferring the money to themselves.
In November alone, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the City of London Police’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), received 5,478 reports of such suspicious DPD emails. And the numbers appear to be going up significantly as we creep closer to Christmas.
What it means for you...
Being aware of the scam can help a lot so make sure you tell anyone who you might be sending a parcel to or are expecting a delivery this Christmas.
While the scam highlighted here involves DPD, it can potentially apply to any parcel delivery company.
DPD, meanwhile, have said: “We are aware that there have been a number of fake DPD emails trying to get consumers to send money for parcels to be re-directed. We would never do this nor would we ask consumers to give us their bank details.
“There is an easy way to check the email is safe, only emails sent from one of three DPD email addresses are genuine. These are dpd.co.uk, dpdlocal.co.uk or dpdgroup.co.uk. Fake or scam emails are nearly always sent from a private email address and certainly not from an official DPD one. Any other sender email address, especially if the email is asking for money is highly likely to be a scam email.”
You can also report any suspicious emails by forwarding it to firstname.lastname@example.org, while suspicious texts can be sent to 7726.
And if you think you may have been scammed, the first step is to report it to Action Fraud. Having a crime reference number from them means you’ll be able to take the first step in getting your money back through your bank and Action Fraud may have additional advice about what you can do next.
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Rail fares are going up, but with a delay
Regulated rail fares are going up again next year but rather than the usual increase in January, the government has delayed the start date to 1 March 2021.
The rates are set to increase by 2.6% in the spring; this is essentially July 2020’s inflation rate as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI), which was 1.6%, plus an extra percentage.
In context, this increase is actually slightly less than this year - regulated rail prices went up by an average of 2.7% in 2020. But this big increase was largely down to the comparatively higher inflation rate in July 2019, which was 2.8%.
So despite being a marginally smaller increase, the rate is in fact the first time rail fares have risen above inflation since 2013.
The good news is, if you are still a regular commuter, you’ll have until 28 February 2021 to renew your season ticket at this year’s prices.
Stamp duty freeze won’t be extended
I wrote about how the end of the stamp duty freeze might affect house prices and sales last week.
At the time of writing, there was very much uncertainty around whether or not the freeze might be extended.
But it seems the government had already responded, via a petition to parliament.
On 10 December, HM Treasury wrote: “The SDLT holiday was designed to be a temporary relief to stimulate market activity and support jobs that rely on the property market. The Government does not plan to extend this temporary relief.”
It added: “When the SDLT Holiday ends, the Government will maintain a SDLT relief for first time buyers which increases the starting threshold of residential SDLT to £300,000 for first-time buyers that purchase a property below £500,000. In addition, a new Help to Buy scheme will be introduced from 1 April 2021. This scheme will run until March 2023.”
I talked about that on Times Radio with Calum Macdonald this week (as usual, I’m in the business segment about 10 minutes from the end).
People are still hopeful of course. Once the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the government will have to debate the issue in Parliament, which may well trigger a U-turn.
There’s also hopes that because the next budget is before the end date for the stamp duty freeze, Rishi Sunak may well change his mind - as he has done for the now extended (again, again) furlough scheme.
This week’s key numbers
Inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) has dropped to just 0.6% in November according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It was largely dragged down by falling prices for clothing, and food and non-alcoholic beverages - although it was also countered by increased costs for games, toys and hobbies, and accommodation services.
The ONS has the average house price in the UK at £245,000 in October 2020 - it’s a record high and is 5.4% higher compared to the same month last year.
The furlough scheme has now been extended to the end of April 2021, with the government continuing to pay 80% of wages until then.
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A little reminder that this is the last MT Week for this year. The next one will be landing in your inbox on 10 January.
Meanwhile, thanks for sticking with Money Talk - I hope you’ve found all the content as useful and enjoyable as it has been for me to put together.
For now, take the time to rest and enjoy the festive period, wherever and however you’re celebrating it.
PS, if you’re stuck for a last-minute gift idea, why not buy a gift subscription? It’s £3.65 a month or £40 for the year. As well as MT Week every Sunday, premium subscribers get a monthly bonus skills course in the shape of MT Focus.
For the year ahead, I’ve planned pieces on everything from insurance and wills to cryptocurrency and side hustles.