How to avoid becoming a victim of a scam

by Kristen

Is there anyone who hasn’t been at the receiving end of a potential scam? Whether it be you have 3 million sat in a off shore bank account or you are the winner of a 10 day holiday to Bora Bora.

As much as I would love to be sat on a sunny beach with 3 million pounds, it seems like we are constantly hounded with offers that are unfortunately too good to be true.

Despite many warnings and efforts from various government programmes to increase awareness 1 in 10 people still fall victim to scams, an estimated amount of £670m is lost annually by victims according to Age UK.

There are many ways we can become a victim of scams, however there is many more ways to prevent it. Below is the most common scams and my top tips on how to prevent becoming a victim!

Credit Card or Loan

At some point in time we all receive that email which states ‘ Guaranteed Loan in seconds ‘, often believable as some credit card companies use a similar technique to attract new customers to their services.

Many of the emails state ‘ You have been pre-approved for a loan up to £200,000 ‘. offers as such can be quite temping at times when all you have to do is pay an up-front fee to gain access to this credit facility.

However most legitimate card companies will only apply the annual fee after you have received your credit card and it is applied to the balance.

Unfortunately, when you pay the upfront fee this is the last you will probably hear from the scammer and I can assure you, you won’t be getting a credit card through the post any time soon.

Telephone Scams

This has always been one of the most common ways to scam somebody, as it allows the criminal to gain your trust on the other side of the phone a lot easier than an email or a letter. Fraudsters have perfected their cunning skills making it a lot harder for us to tell straight away if it is a scam or not.

Telephone scams usually include a fraudster calling posing as your bank or various organisations. They then begin to convince you, telling you that you are at risk of fraudulent activity or your account has been compromised, but before they can do anything to help you must answer ‘security’ questions to gain access to your account.

You will be pressured to act immediately to transfer your money to a ‘ safe account ‘, which unfortunately is anything but a ‘ safe ‘ place. The account is actually your fraudsters bank account that will be either moved into an off shore account or instantaneously moved as soon the money is transferred.

Buying scams

There have been a number of reports over the past year, of peopling buying things such as cars online at a very reasonable price. This is an increasingly easy way for fraudsters to trick you out of your money, whilst mixing in the crowd of genuine car seller’s.

After a conversation or two with the seller, they will make you aware that they are unavailable to do a viewing now as someone is coming to buy the car and unless you can send them a deposit now the item will be unavailable.

Obviously, that is a huge red flag straight away however sometimes we subconsciously act fast in hope it will be true. I mean who doesn’t want a 2015 BMW 3 series for just £1400? So, after the fraudster has received your deposit for the item the seller and listing both vanish without a trace.

Unfortunately you’re then left out of pocket and without a BMW.

Pension Liberation Scams

Changes in pension regulations in April 2015 now allow over 55’s to take large sums of money from their pension pots, allowing you to access your pension in new ways.

There is many genuine schemes available, however the constant change and perfecting of fraudsters tactics make it extremely difficult to figure out which is which. It isn’t as simple as the fraudsters being completely blatant in the hope of someone falling for it, they tend to encourage you with certain offers such as offering free pension reviews, one-off investment opportunity, health checks and pension loans, upfront cash or other promotions to tempt you.

Romance Scams

It is so easy to think you’ve met your perfect partner online, with the technology at our finger tips to meet that millionaire doctor in Miami or the football player in Spain you can easily get carried away with your emotions.

Dating fraud is when you think you’ve met someone online, but they aren’t who they say they are. Gradually, you develop a long-distance relationship through emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. As the relationship develops and so does the trust, it might just start with sending them gifts, before you know it there in some sort of financial situation they need your help with, whether it be they owe money, a family member is unwell or various other excuses.

Statistics issued by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) showed the UK public lost £34 Million from romance fraudsters in 2014, which is a 33% increase from the previous year.

My Top Tips

  1. Every limited company is registered on the Companies House site, always ensure to do a quick check if you are unfamiliar with the organisation. Be wary if the records show just an email or a PO Box address. Also, you can also find out who registered the website, and when, on the Whois site.
  1. Never give out your security details. Your card PIN number, passwords or security numbers are personal to you and should not be shared with anyone – not even your bank.
  1. Never transfer money out of your account for ‘ security purposes ‘. No bank would ever ask you to do this so if you are asked to do so, hang up the phone and find your banks contact number on their online website and call them.
  1. Never provide enough information online or through social networks, always keep a password on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Fraudsters can gather your information together to create a fake identity or to target you with scams.
  1. Never open suspicious emails or pop up’s, threatening malware can easily not just ruin your computer but retrieve personal information to be used for criminal activity. Always ensure your computer is backed up and has up to date virus protection programmes installed.
  1. As technology is becoming so advanced making it easy for fraudsters to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If you receive a call that you are unsure if they are telling the truth or not, call back to a number you know is genuine and if possible off a different number to what they called you on.
  1. Never pay upfront for anything you have not yet seen or done the correct research on. Anything from credit cards, loans, debt relief to cars and ‘ upfront payment ‘ for a prize you’ve won!
  1. Always hang up on robocalls, these are illegal and more often than not the products or services they are trying to sell are fraudulent.
  1. Sign up for the FTC, to get the latest tips and advice about scams sent straight to your email. gov/scams
  1. Keep your computers, laptops and phones locked with a password, ensure they are backed up and never use a public computers or Wifi hotspot to access online banking or personal information.

Just remember if something sounds too good to be true, more than likely it is.

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