June is Scams Awareness Month.
A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Other names for a scam include fraud, hoax, con, swindle and cheat.
Anyone can fall for a scam. Scams are getting increasingly sophisticated and even the most cautious people can be caught out. If you are scammed or suspect a scam report it!
Contact www.actionfraud.police.uk . Tell your family, friends and neighbours about it so they become more aware. And for help and advice about scams contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.
Some prevalent scams to look out for are:
Contactless card scams – contactless cards are ‘skimmed’ (where details are
read or copied) by a card reader or phone nearby.
Online shopping and auction sites – items are advertised for sale, often at a bargain price with pictures to make the advert appear more genuine. The buyer may be pressured into paying via bank transfer and one the payment is made the item is either not received or is counterfeit.
“Money Mules” – young people and students who are short of cash may be approached with what looks like a genuine job offer, asking them to receive money into their bank account and transfer it onto someone else, keeping some of the cash for themselves. The money is from criminal funds and the person targeted could be implicated in money laundering themselves.
Copycat Government official service scams – bogus callers or websites claim to be official government departments and sell services for a ‘fee’, for example passports or driver’s licenses. There are also reports of calls from “the Government Grants department” telling people they are eligible for a grant of several thousand pounds for being a good citizen as they pay taxes and bills time. They may demand a down payment to release the money or trick victims into handing over payment details.
Pension scams – pension freedoms introduced in April 2015 give consumers added flexibility but opened the way to increased fraud. In a survey, 88% of consumers selected a pension offer containing scam warning signs, including out of the blue offers promising high returns, pressure to sign paperwork, and offers to access pensions before the age of 55.
Investment scams – often initiated with an unsolicited phone call, frequent scam investments include wine, shares, rare earth minerals and land investments overseas. Losses can be very high.
Subscription traps or free trial scams – some unscrupulous companies use subscription traps, and in particular continuous payment authority (CPA), to help themselves to consumers’ accounts.
Job scams – scams include taking money to write CVs, carry out security checks or holding a phone interview which costs the applicant hundreds of pounds in call charges. Some offer expensive training programmes or jobs that don’t exist.
Computer scams – people are cold called and told they have a problem with their computer which, for a fee, can be fixed. Alternatively the victim might initiate the contact in response to an online advert or prompt claiming that their device has been infected with a virus. Older or less technologically-aware people are most susceptible. Payments are either taken over the phone or made via money transfers. In severe cases callers steal financial and personal details. Other computer scam methods involve offering bogus virus protection or warranties.
Ticket scams – consumers buy tickets from a website but the event is already sold out or the tickets haven’t yet gone on sale. Sometimes they are never delivered, sometimes victims are told to meet a customer representative at the venue on the day but nobody turns up and
sometimes the tickets they are given are fake.
Council tax re-banding scams – this involves a cold call naming your local council and offering a rebate for council tax overpayment for a fee.
Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or call blocking scams – scammers demand payment for the free TPS or sell call blockers which either do not work properly or are part of an expensive subscription service.
Advertising scams – cold callers target self-employed people and small businesses asking for payment for services or offering false opportunities to advertise.
Locksmith scams – victims are visited by a ‘neighbour’ for money to pay a locksmith because they are locked out, with the fraudsters often saying a child is alone in the premises.
Vishing – phone scams where scammers impersonate someone from a bank, the police or other legitimate organisation such as a telephone or internet provider. Victims are tricked into transferring money or pass on financial and/or personal details.
Smishing – text messages are sent that lure people into looking at scam websites or invite them to call premium rate numbers or download malicious content.
Phishing – emails and harmful links that are designed to deceive people into revealing personal or financial details. False emails, email addresses, websites and payment services can trick people into believing they are dealing with genuine banks, traders and/or authorities. For example, people who have had building work carried out have received what looks like an e-mail from their builder asking them to pay what they owe into a specific account. Unfortunately they then receive a second invoice and discover that the first e-mail was from a fraudster who has duped them in to parting with often thousands of pounds. Similar stories are emerging of house buyers who are about to complete on their purchase being tricked into paying into an account other than their solicitor’s.
Advance fee scams – scammers get people to send money for a range of faulty, mis-advertised or nonexistent goods and services – or to collect lottery “winnings”.