Scams will always be lurking in the background and some seem obvious whilst others are quite elaborate and believable. The reason they exist is because they work for the criminal. They work on a numbers game and even if one out of a thousand only responds, the financial gain makes it worthwhile.
Armed with information and a sceptical curiosity, can we beat them and make it less worthwhile for them. The many ways for these criminals to gain access to our information, data, personal details and their most cherished commodity and motivation, money. Read on to see some of the ways they are using to conn the unsuspecting public.
Boiler room schemes
You get a call out of the blue with offers of an exciting investment with big returns, but big losses usually follow. Normally advertised with haste to get this one time offer as fast as you can.
Check up on these investments before parting with any money.
Phishing scams & smishing scams
Phishing (email scams) & smishing (texting scams) are the most common scams. They pose as an official organisation, such as a bank, government body or service provider. They send you an email or text asking you to click a link or verify your account/password details. The fraudster will be waiting for any responses and will act swiftly to empty accounts of money that you probably will not get back.
Look out for any suspicious-looking email addresses and email attachments and do not open anything you’re not sure about. Banks will never ask for security details over the phone. Contact them directly to check the legitimacy of this.
Pension Freedom Schemes
Scammers are mass emailing people aged 55+ with fake asset opportunities to try to get their hands on your pension savings. Quite commonly touted as investment opportunities abroad. With free pension advice and low interest rates tempting people to take on these fake schemes usually by post, phone, or email.
Again, offered as a “must-have” or a “right-now,” “time-limited” deal. Contact a registered independent financial adviser.
This scam seizes cash transfers on the lead up to the exchange and completion of a house sale. A computer hacker checks emails sent between solicitors and clients. Just before the money transfer, the fraudster emails the homebuyer or seller pretending to be the solicitor. They advise of the solicitor’s bank account details have changed. The unsuspecting homebuyer sends their cash to the fake account and is withdrawn faster than it was deposited.
If you are buying or selling a property, watch out for any emails regarding payments, or a change in bank details at the last minute. Contact your solicitor if you’re in any doubt.
Apparent free products or trial offers are conning people of millions of pounds a year. To get access to these freebies, you are often required to provide your card details. You are not normally charged for this product, but you may have unknowingly signed up to an expensive subscription that is hard to get out of. Normally, you will receive no further notifications of charges being made on your account.
Look for the terms and conditions before sending over your details. Do not get carried away with the prospect of freebies. Everyone loves a freebie but the sweetness of one can be soured by the delayed large costs.
Some scammers are calling at homes and their manner is quite friendly and professional. They will offer services such as grant schemes, home improvement, surveys and pose as a bogus charity collector, trader or official.
Only let people in if you are expecting them and they are trusted or known by you. Do not feel pressured to let them in. Check credentials and contact organisation from the official website. Do not share personal information with them. Call the Police on 101 for non-emergency or 999 if you feel threatened or in danger.
Will phone out of the blue offering really good offers or use scare tactics to make you fearful and purchase their product or service at very high prices. They report to be from the Bank, computer fixers from Microsoft, compensation calls, HMRC for tax refunds. Some scammers know which service providers you use and they can say they are from organisations you currently use. High pressure sales and scare mongering you into making a purchase. They can use number spoofing to mask the number they are phoning from and can display the company name on your phone to make it look more official.
Don’t reveal personal details, hang up if you feel harassed or rushed. Ring them directly using the phone number on their official website. Some services they are charging for are normally free or can be found at a far lower price.
Use the Telephone Preference Service to stop cold callers and marketing calls. It’s a free official service for business and residential numbers.
Catfishing is when someone publishes a fake profile and tricks people out of their money by posing as someone looking for a relationship. They normally engage with people and use flattery to gain trust. Once they feel they have your trust, they will start asking for money to fund their trip to you or they have a sick relative. They will avoid video chats or meeting up and their story doesn’t quite add up or often changes. Some can ask for quite a small amount and then build up on the amounts.
Search on Social media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or search online for their name.
What to do
If you are faced with any of the scams, the most important thing is stop and think about what maybe happening. Sure, we may feel stupid and embarrassed but don’t let that stop you talking to someone about it. A lot of people are duped into these scams everyday and are becoming more elaborate and believable. If you feel you have been scammed, talk to your bank, report it to the Police, contact Citizens Advice, Action Fraud or Victim Support.
Most offers are time limited, too good to be true rewards misleading you to purchase quickly without thought. If you are faced with high-pressure decision tactics, distance yourself from it by advising you will take some time to think about it. Once distanced, speak with friends or family, get their opinions. Wise judgements and a collective opinion will aid towards a rational decision.
“Which” have recently setup a scam alert service keeping you updated of the latest scams to help you keep informed of the criminals activity and their efforts.
It doesn’t cost a penny to be more vigilant, but you may lose all of your hard-earnt cash if you run aimlessly towards what seems to be an amazing offer. Check legitimacy, speak to friends or reach out to the organisations listed below.
Action Fraud on 0300 1232040
Read also the blog on Personal Data Safety to keep your information private.