February 26, 2020
How to avoid being scammed
“Scammers target people of all ages, income levels, and backgrounds”
Everyone may be vulnerable to a scam at some time; there’s no one age group or demographic that’s more likely to be caught out. So, how can you avoid being scammed?
How to avoid being scammed
What do scammers want?
You can be scammed online, in person, by post, or by phone.
Most scammers want to obtain your personal details so that they can steal your identity or gain access to your bank accounts. Once a scammer has your personal information they may take out loans or credit cards in your name, leaving you with mountains of debt!
In one case, scammers obtained a homeowner’s details by stealing his post. Armed with this information, the fraudsters then sold the man’s house by auction, completely without his knowledge! The first the victim knew about the scam was when the new “owners” of his home turned up on his doorstep!
- give out your bank details, computer passwords or PIN numbers
- click on links contained within emails from sources you don’t recognise
- download files or attachments in emails from unknown sources
- send money or purchase anything from unknown sources
- call any numbers contained in letters or emails you receive
- let strangers into your home if they knock on your door unannounced
- use insecure public WIFI hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information; these connections can be hacked
The best way to avoid being scammed is to know how to spot a scam.
Scams – what are the warning signs?
If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to spot a scam.
There are a few telltale signs to be aware of:
- If you’re contacted unexpectedly by someone you don’t know, be cautious it could be a scammer.
- If you receive an email, phone call, or letter informing you that you’ve won something or inviting you to invest in a “not to be missed” scheme, it’s almost certainly a scam.
- If someone asks you to pay for something up-front, especially by bank transfer, it’s probably a scam. Also, be wary if you’re asked to use payment methods such as preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards. or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
- Be suspicious if you’re asked to divulge information such as your bank details, PIN numbers or computer passwords.
- If a caller tries to pressure you into making a quick decision about a purchase, be suspicious. Trustworthy companies don’t hassle people into buying immediately and will be happy to wait.
- Beware of making phone calls to numbers beginning with, 070, 084, 087, 090, 091, and 098. These numbers are very expensive, and you’ll be kept hanging on for as long as possible.
- If you receive an email from a suspicious source that has links or attachments within it, delete it immediately without opening them. Attachments often contain viruses that could damage your computer or even allow the scammer to remotely access your machine.
- Never respond to phone calls that offer to fix problems on your computer or provide you with an upgrade remotely. Once they have gained access to your machine, they will install a virus that will give them your passwords and personal details.
- Scammers often target external mail boxes. Use a box with a lock on it, and always shred bills and other important paperwork before throwing them out.
- Be wary of divulging too much of your personal information on social media sites, especially if you’re contacted by someone you don’t know. Scammers will use your pictures and information to create a fake identity or target you with a scam.
What checks can you make?
If you’re concerned that you have been contacted by a scammer, you can check current and recent scams on the Action Fraud website. For information on common financial scams, check out the information on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website.
You should only make investments or take out financial products through your bank or through a registered financial advisor. To check if the company you’re dealing with is genuine, see if it’s registered with the FCA. If it’s not, you’re probably at risk of being scammed.
If you’re having building work done, ask the contractor for references before the work begins. Citizen’s Advice have some useful information on hiring a trustworthy contractor on their website.
How to spot a fake website or email
Scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated. Here’s what to look out for when dealing with online scams.
“Phishing” scams are widespread. These scammers often pose as banks or building societies. They will try to obtain your personal details so that they can access your accounts and steal your money.
Look for these dead giveaways:
- Email or web addresses that come from an unusual or free provider such as Gmail.
- Fake websites often contain poor spelling and grammar.
- If the web address has a green padlock, the information you send is private.
- If you receive an email from a friend that seems unusual or out of character, check directly with the person. The email could be from a scammer who has stolen your friend’s details.
If you use a home computer, always have a good suite of anti-virus software installed. That will protect you from malware that could be used to steal your information.
If you receive an email that appears to be from your bank that asks you for your personal information, contact your bank directly via the phone number that’s printed on your card or bank statement.
Scammers are everywhere, and they’re after your money and your identity!
Always be skeptical of requests for your personal information, even if the person contacting you tells you that they’re from your bank or utility provider. Never give an unknown party remote access to your computer, and only buy online from a recognised, trusted retailer such as Amazon.com.
If you think you may have been scammed, take action! Notify your bank or credit card provider, tell the FCA if you’ve been caught by a financial scam, and inform the police too.
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