Scamming online and offline is so rife that it is easy to be fooled into thinking something is real when it is not.
Scamming isn’t new – it has been around for over 30 years.
However, fraudsters are now devising new ways to trick people to part with their cash or their personal details.
This review will list ways to identify whether something is a scam and what to do if you believe you have been scammed.
Accident Claim Scams
You may have received a phone call out of the blue from a company suggesting that you have been in a car accident and are looking to make a claim. You, unfortunately, might have been in a car accident and believe this is a genuine call.
These companies are cold calling with the expectation that they will come across someone like you, who has had an accident. They are not aware of you being in an accident. If you tell them that you haven’t been in an accident, they may ask if anyone in your family or anyone you know has been in an accident.
Once you have said yes, they will start the process of taking your personal details.
If you have had an accident, go through your insurers. Why? Simply because you know who is at the end of the telephone line as you initiated the call.
NEVER give out your personal details to any caller.
Pension Scams are the most popular cold call scams. With the freedom for those nearing pension age to have more control over their pension pots, this is a great opportunity for scammers.
The scammer’s focus is to get you to buy into what seems to be legitimate pension schemes which are established or operated by fraudsters.
These schemes are unregulated investments which will only collapse leaving you out of pocket and the scammers making off with your investment. You may even be exposed to a high-risk loss of your capital.
In the UK, there was an increase of pension-related cold calls after the pension rule was changed. Check out the article here for more information about the consultation and what is being done to alleviate the risks.
If you are nowhere near pension age and someone calls you out of the blue offering to help you with your pension, its a scam.
If you have already given out information, notify your bank to stop any further payments and change your account.
Look up the company online and give them a call – scammers often operate using a legitimate company name.
Report the scam to the relevant authority in your country. Some companies have dedicated email addresses and phone numbers for this purpose so that you can contact them.
PC Fix Scams
Microsoft and British Telecoms (BT) PC fix scams are on the rise again.
Not all telephone scams are to do with money or investing. With the PC fix scams, scammers are after your details, which can be used for application purposes, passports and so on. With these types of scam, they may even ask you to download some software to assess the problem, at which point it will allow the scammer to access your data.
I had 4 calls, within a 2 day period from someone apparently from BT (Telecoms company in the UK) suggesting that there was an issue with my broadband connection which they needed to fix it urgently.
Alarms bells started to ring as I usually report faults to BT and I’ve never had BT call me about any issues before. With over 9 million customers, it seems strange that BT – or any company – would use this method to notify their users.
However, to give them the benefit of doubt, I asked them what it is they wanted me to do.
They asked if I was near my computer and to switch it on. I was near it and it was on.
They then asked me what ‘key’ was next to the shift key on my keyboard.
I was quite amused and said ‘If you are calling me to fix an issue, you should be telling me what to do, not asking me for information’. At that point, the person hung up.
I rang BT straight away to alert them.
BT said they didn’t call me and assured me that they are aware of the scam. They wanted to know if the scammers took control of my PC at any time. They didn’t.
I was able to retrieve the telephone number of the scammer by using the last number dial recall. However, BT customer services advised that these numbers are not real and if you call back, the number will probably be out of service.
There doesn’t seem to be any means of tracking back the number to an individual or a company.
These numbers are spoofed and you can find out how these numbers are being generated by reading this Wikipedia article.
If you receive a phone call to say there is a virus or a problem with your system, let the caller know that you do not have a computer. By doing so, they will know not to contact you again.
Notify your telecoms provider to make them aware of the scam. They may update their website with details so that other customers are made aware of what’s going on.
This one is clever. Who doesn’t like to be called up for a photo shoot?
They will send you a text message to say that your friend has recommended you for a FREE photoshoot. However, when you attend, they take lots of pictures and inform you that you have to pay for the sample ones which can be anything from £500+.
You may check with your friend and find that they did recommend you. However, this is part of the scheme – that they recommend someone else to get their discount and you will have to do the same to get yours.
You may receive a letter through the post to say you have won a trip, be the next postcode lottery winner or anything in between. Don’t even entertain the idea that this could be true. Whatever it is, I’d bin the letter straight away.
Most of these companies will invite you to a meeting at which point they want you to part with some cash in order to make the claim. You might have travelled far and think it’s worth the ‘gamble’ but as I said, just bin the letter.
Never get excited about these offers. If it’s too good to be true it probably is.
Throwing Away Paper
With a lot of emphasis on recycling, you may be inclined to throw whole documents into the recycle bin. However, you should think twice before doing so. Before you discard your documents, in particular, letters (including the scam ones) tear off the parts with your name and address and any details that can be used fraudulently used against you, and shred them.
Some subscription letters will already have your bank details pre-printed, just ready for you to sign. Can you imagine what could potentially happen if this seamlessly irrelevant bit of paper lands in the wrong hands?
Always discard of important letters and documents in a sensible manner – remove all information that can be traced back to you.
Most email service providers will block SPAM emails and send them directly to your SPAM folder without you having to know about them. However, there are still those that come through as normal mail which may trick you into thinking it’s real.
Some of these emails may be from a friend’s genuine email address but by viewing the content, you know that this is out of character for them. You should contact your friend and check that it is really them that sent it.
Most scam emails look genuine but if you look closely, you will see spelling errors or you will see the SAME email from different spammers like the ones below.
The arrived in my mailbox within a day of each other!
My service provider has quite rightly identified this as a spam so I have the header ****SPAM*** added to the subject heading. I’m not sure if this is standard practice across all mail providers.
Not all emails that have ******SPAM***** as part of the subject line are spam.
If you weren’t expecting an email from a person and or company and it looks fishy, it’s probably a scam. Don’t click on any links in the email.
If it’s from a bank or a reputable company, inform the relevant authority.
Facebook is a great network for socialising and is also a neat way for scammers to disguise their true selves.
Do your research if you are unsure about a business or person.
Have you received a friend request from a friend that is already a friend? Check with your friend as it is probably someone impersonating them with the intention of getting at your details.
Keep all your details private so that only you can see them on your Facebook profile. If your date of birth, name, location get into the wrong hands, they can make use of your data for fraudulent purposes.
Some Privacy Settings you should use on Facebook:
As you can see, no one can see my friends list except me. So scammers have no way to send emails to me pretending to be a friend as they won’t have access to their names.
I have set ‘Who can send you friend requests?’ as ‘Everyone’ as I can choose to accept or decline people. By setting it like this, I am not cutting off real friends who genuinely want to make contact with me.
Your personal Facebook account is ‘private’ to you and your friends so you don’t want your details appearing all over the internet in searches.
Set ‘Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile’, to No.
Don’t accept Facebook friends from people you don’t know – no matter how nice they look. Also, don’t accept friend requests from people who are already on your friends’ list without first checking with them.
Every financial website that requires you to enter your personal details should be secured. When a site is secure, it will show ‘https’ in front of the website’s name.
For Barclays Bank in the UK, this will be https://barclays.co.uk.
If you land on a website where you have to enter personal details, such as your password, email address, address, date of birth and so on, before you do so, check that it has ‘https’ in front of the websites’ name.
The screenshot below shows internet security software being activated when an attempt is made to log into an online account. It shows that the site it is taking you too is secured – https://www.barclays.co.uk.
If you don’t have any internet security software enabled, speak with your bank, as you can get this free of charge. However, if you already have security software enabled, you may not see the ‘Switching to Protected Browser’ screen – each software is different – however, you should still see the ‘https’ protocol before the name of the website.
If you have clicked on a link in an email and it takes you to your bank site – check that the site begins with the https protocol.
For any site to have the ‘https’ protocol, the owners will need to pay a fee (unless it is included in a hosting package). Most scammers do not pay this fee as they will need to provide personal details which can be traced back to them, so most of their sites are unsecured.
However, still be vigilant as spammers are always trying to stay ahead of the game and they may soon have secure websites which are registered using false identities – taken from you – if you do not secure and protect all your data online and offline.
If the website address doesn’t begin with ‘https’ and it’s asking for personal details, don’t enter your details. If you believe the organisation to be genuine, give them a call and ask whether they have a secure site for you to enter your details.
Hopefully, I have given you enough ammunition to prevent the scammers from attacking you.
- Be alert to the fact that scams exist.
- If you receive a phone call, email, letter from someone unknown to you, consider it as a possible scam – even if it sounds genuine and you could make money.
- If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Never download software that a caller has asked you to download in order for them to carry out checks on your PC.
- If you receive a phone call, look up the number by typing it into Google to see whether this is a known scam telephone number or not. Block this number.
- Install a phone blocking app on your smartphone, to block future calls from spammers.
- Never give out your personal details over the phone to anyone.
- Never click on links in emails, unless you know the source to be valid.
- Discard of paper and documents sensibly – removing any personal information and shredding.
- You don’t need a photo shoot – you’re pretty already.
- Check with your friend if you receive a friend request to add them again to your Facebook profile – they may have been hacked.
- Invest in anti-spam software. If you bank online, you may be able to receive a free Internet Security software kit. Enquire at your bank.
- Ensure that websites that require you to enter your personal details begin with ‘https’.
If you have been a victim of a scam, would like to know more about scams or you know of other ways scammers are using to get at your data or finances, I’d love to hear from you.
Leave your comment below and I will get back to you.
Until next time … Avoid being scammed – Stay safe online and offline!