What To Do If You Think You’re Being Scammed, well back in the day, if you heard that someone had been scammed, it was likely that some morally corrupt chancer had knocked on the door of an elderly relative or neighbour and done them out of a few quid. And to be honest it wasn’t always surprising was it? Afterall, these scum prey on the vulnerable, don’t they? – on those who might get easily confused, and who are too trusting. It wouldn’t happen to you, would it?
Except fast forward to today and these people are no longer just knocking on doors. They are invading our homes via email, social media, and through our phones. And with their techniques becoming increasingly sophisticated, their scams are getting harder and harder to spot.
It All Looks SO Official!
The classic scam-of-the-moment seems to be the email scam. An incredibly official looking email appears in your inbox, seemingly from the HMRC or your bank, a utility company or mobile phone provider, with a story along the lines of them needing your help in processing funds, or in sorting out some sort of security breach. You need to change your password IMMEDIATELY! Your account has been compromised!! You need to act now! etc…and a link will take you through to a frighteningly convincing website, where you will be asked to enter your personal details.
And why wouldn’t you? The website could pass as the real thing, and these are companies you know – you deal with them all the time, plus they’re trying to help you! Time is of the essence!! What was my dad’s cousin’s best mate’s dog’s name??
So what signs should you be looking out for that this isn’t as legit as it might appear?
- Basically any email or text that asks you to provide personal details or passwords. HMRC, for example, will NEVER contact you via email, only by letter. Instead of opening any links that might be included in an email seemingly from your bank/SKY TV/O2 etc, find the company’s official contact details via Google or from any official correspondence you may have received through the post, and give them a call to check the email or text’s authenticity.
- One of the latest scams is done over the phone, where a caller pretends to be from somewhere such as your bank or credit card company. They often add insult to injury by pretending to be a scam protection call, and, like with the email scams, will act as if they are calling in your best interest. Ask if you can call them back – an employee from a legit company won’t mind at all, and then find the company’s official number rather than calling them back on the same number they called you from. Particularly sneaky scammers will often not hang up when you do, and instead play a dial tone, essentially tricking you into thinking it’s a new call. But guess who answers! To safeguard yourself from this I recommend you either don’t call back straightaway, or, better yet, call from another phone. If you have to use the same phone call someone else first (a friend/relative), that way if your ‘credit card company’ answers, your suspicions will be confirmed!
- Look out for poor grammar and spelling in emails – or any that start with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ – that’s a huge red flag!
- Be aware of anyone trying to rush you over the phone into making a decision, or getting irate if you start asking questions or want to call back at a later date. A real company wouldn’t do this even if they did cold call you for some reason.
Of course scammers who are really determined to get their hands on your money will be aware that you know all this, and will likely avoid you checking up on them by being incredibly charming and courteous, and act as if they’re going out of their way to be of service to you.
Scammers tend to call early evening, when they know you’ve likely just got in from work, or are distracted by the kids or are preparing dinner, and perhaps don’t have the time or mental wherewithal to do any more than quickly confirm your name and address and tell them your password.
The truth is, a lot of us won’t even realise we’ve fallen for a scam until it’s too late, and often it’s hard to tell if you’ve been scammed at all! How can you tell?
- Check your bank account and credit card statements regularly for any transactions that look suspicious – is your account £60 lighter because there’s an outgoing payment to someone you don’t recognise? Or is it because you drunk-ordered a 6ft inflatable unicorn off Amazon on friday night?
- Keep an eye on your credit score to protect yourself against fraud, like someone else trying to apply for credit in your name – a sign might be if you get rejected for credit even though you know that you have a good credit rating. You can do these checks for free, so look out for any financial products that you don’t remember applying for that could indicate that you’ve fallen foul of a scam!
And what should you do if you have been scammed?
It’s Happened To Me!
First off, don’t beat yourself up over it – these scams can be so cleverly orchestrated that even the most savvy and diligent are falling prey to them on a regular basis, but there are ways you can fight back…
- If you realise that you’ve responded to a scam email or phone call, don’t be tempted to call and tell them exactly what you think of them – as satisfying as that may feel. End all further communication immediately.
- Call your bank and explain what has happened, cancel any recurring payments that you might have been scammed into fraudulently setting up.
- Report the scam to the police – you can do this anonymously through their Action Fraud website or by calling the Action Fraud hotline.
Taking swift action can very often result in you getting some of your money back, or in the very least not losing any more, and the more we report and publicise the ‘popular’ scams, the more aware and therefore cautious people will be.
Of course, scammers are aware of this too and will quickly shut down one scam once it stops being profitable and move on to the next one, and they’ll seize upon any opportunity that comes their way in order to do it. Even a pandemic….
With the country preoccupied with the threat of Coronavirus and the impact it has had on our lives, scammers have used this to their advantage by preying on our fear and vulnerability.
Some scams we have become aware of are:
- Medical equipment and face masks being advertised at high prices. Scammers are trying to make a quick buck out of selling masks, gloves, and even hand wash and sanitiser at ridiculously inflated prices. Don’t be tempted by these scans – official government and NHS guidelines will advise you of cheap or free alternatives to these items – don’t line some chancer’s pocket with your fear.
- ‘Government’ texts or emails. As with any other email or text from an official body, don’t give out any personal information without carrying out some checks first – remember that there are very few companies that will randomly contact you in this way.
- Emails offering cheap Life Insurance against Coronavirus. Again, always exercise caution if you are sent a random email offering a product such as insurance. Your best bet is to contact a reputable Insurance company or broker directly if you have any insurance-related questions – either about Coronavirus or anything else.
- People knocking at the door asking for charitable donations. We know that people shouldn’t be knocking door to door in the current climate anyway, but there have been instances of scammers in full hazmat suits and masks claiming to be collecting for various charities, and really tugging at the heartstrings. First of all, don’t let these people into your house – if we’re not allowed to let Grandma in at the moment then we’re certainly not allowed to let in some random stranger with a clipboard – hazmat suit or not. Collectors from registered charities should carry a form of ID, and on the incredibly weird off-chance that a legitimate charity is doing the rounds, representatives will have no problem with you closing the door and calling the number on the ID card to verify who they are. And that stands whether there’s a pandemic or not.
And so there you have it; today’s scam artists aren’t out there twiddling their ‘taches and just looking to fleece little old ladies any more – they are sat in your inbox armed with their official-looking websites and all the right jargon at their disposal, just waiting for you to hand your money over….so stay cautious, and stay safe.