Every year millions of people get targeted by scammers. A scam is a dishonest way to make money through trickery. Scams target people all over the world, from all cultures, ages and income levels. There is no single group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, at some stage all of us may be vulnerable to a scam.
Scams work because they look like the real thing and when you do not expect it, they catch you off guard. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and take advantage of emerging technologies, emerging goods or services and big events to build believable claims that will convince you to offer them your money or personal information.
Scammers do their homework and find information about you before they make contact. They use a variety of techniques, including flattery and emotional manipulation, to draw you in. Older people may be more vulnerable because scammers often target people who:
- live alone
- are at home during the day
- have money or valuables
- may feel lonely and want to talk.
Some scams are very clever and they can be hard to spot. Things to look out for include:
- offers that come out of the blue
- requests to share your bank account details or verify a password or PIN
- prizes that ask you to send money up front to claim your winnings
- time-limited offers that ask you to act quickly
- companies with vague contact details, such as a PO Box or mobile number, or a
- companies that call you repeatedly and stay on the phone a long time
- confidential offers that you are told not to tell family or friends about.
As a general rule, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
But with Covid-19 underway, here are some of the financial support scams to be wary of.
1. Fake government emails, which look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information.
2. Scam emails offering access to “Covid-19 relief funds”, which encourage victims to fill in a form and hand over their personal information.
3. Official-looking emails offering a “council tax reduction”. The emails contain links that lead to a fake government website, which harvests personal and financial information.
4. Benefit recipients are offered help in applying for universal credit, but fraudsters grab some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
5. Phishing emails claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. They lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
6. Fake adverts for non-existent coronavirus-related products, such as hand sanitizer and face masks, which simply take the victim’s cash and send them nothing.
7. False emails and texts pretending to be from TV Licensing, telling people they ‘re liable for six months due to the pandemic for free. Victims are told their direct debit has been a issue and are asked to click on a connection that will take them to a bogus website that steals their personal and financial details.
8. Emails asking people to update their TV subscription services payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.
9. Fake profiles on social media sites are used to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Criminals will often use the identities of real people to strike up conversation with their targets.
10. Fake investment opportunities on social media platforms are marketed, urging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn” Bitcoin services use emails and advertising on social media channels to persuade unsuspecting victims to use fake websites to bring money into fake businesses.
Scammers are smart and persistent and will do everything they can to get your personal information. Be very careful who you are giving your personal information to. Never give money or trust somebody you don’t meet. And remember-your bank or police are never going to ask for your PIN or password, or ask you to transfer money for fraud.
So take head of these tips to stay ahead of the scammers.
- If anyone comes to your door, make sure you check their ID. Don’t let anyone in if you don’t want to.
- If you are interested in what they are offering, don’t agree to buy anything there and then. Take your time and check their credentials.
- If they are offering a service, get quotes from two or three other businesses as well.
- Install anti-virus and firewall software and make sure you keep it up to date.
- Don’t click on links or attachments in an unsolicited email, even to unsubscribe. Go to the organisation’s own website.
- Don’t reply to scam emails even to say no – this lets the scammer know the account is active.
- Don’t do any financial transactions – eg online banking or shopping – over public WiFi.
- Be wary of cold callers. Hang up if you think they could be a scammer.
- Ask for the name of the person who is calling you and who they represent. Check the information by calling the company’s head office.
- Wait for at least 20 minutes before you call an organisation or company that has called you unexpectedly or use a different phone line in case the caller has kept the line open.
Stay alert and stay safe.
Check out my related post: How to win at the claw machine?