How to avoid scams and report them
New scams are emerging all the time. Scammers are increasingly using more far-fetched and imaginative variations on familiar themes to try and part victims from their cash.
Employing techniques such as instilling a sense of urgency, don’t miss out opportunities and even threatening behaviours, scammers are now ripping off victims by an estimated £5billion annually – but with as little as 5% of scams being reported the true value is much higher.
And with the new pension freedoms that have been put in place recently it is essential that consumers make informed decisions about their savings. But alarm bells should ring when you hear phrases like “one-off investment”, “free pension reviews”, “legal loopholes” and “cash bonus”. And be especially aware of unsolicited phone, text or email approaches which move on to engaging you into trust then being forced or encouraged into making hasty decisions resulting in not only losing your savings but also face a hefty tax bill as well.
And there are many other scams, old and new, that are constantly being employed by criminals to get you to part with your cash or identity:
- Vishing - phone scam where fraudsters pretend to be from a bank, the police or other legitimate organisation. Increasingly the scam involves persuading you to transfer your money into a new “safe” account.
- Courier scams – unsolicited calls or texts alerting you to a “banking fraud” resulting in you agreeing with the caller to collect a bank card from your home address.
- Subscription traps – consumers find themselves trapped in long-term contracts after taking up a “free” or trial offer with products usually relating to health and well-being.
- Dating scams – the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reports that online dating fraud has risen by 33% with losses of more than £34million
- Computer software service – cold calling and being told you have a problem with your computer which can be fixed for a nominal fee. Victims are encouraged to provide logon steps so the fraudster can gain remote access to the computer where they can then get personal and financial information.
- Online shopping - a range of scams including auction sites, bogus sites, fake payment services and great deal offers for non-existent goods.
There are also many more variations and fraudulent activities including helping someone transfer money out of a foreign country – usually with the promise of a percentage of the money being moved through your account – resulting in your own money being removed from your account.
Old favourites include Phishing (emails from “your bank” to update or confirm private details) SMShing (text messages directing you to fraudulent websites or premium rate numbers etc, and Pyramid selling.
The best advice is if it seems too good to be true then it is. So always seek advice if you are unsure.
You can report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud www.actionfraud.police.uk 0300 123 2040.
And you can help reduce the risk of receiving unwanted telephone, postal and doorstep calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service www.tpsonline.org.uk or 0845 070 07 07, the Mailing Preference Service at www.mpsonline.org.uk or 0845 703 4599 or use phone blocking services provided by TrueCall at www.truecall.co.uk, or Call Blocker at www.cprcallblocker.co.uk
Or contact the council for Consumer and trading standards consumer advice.
Other useful organisations include:
Citizens Advice Consumer Service 03454 04 05 06
Pensions Advisory Service 0300 123 1047 www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk
Pensions Regulator website - www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/pensions-scams.aspx
For other financial scams visit the Financial Conduct Authority website at www.fca.org.uk which holds a register of authorised firms and a list of firms implicated in scams.
And general online safety tips and advice can be found at www.getsafeonline.org