“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it”
While you might think ‘evil’ is a bit strong to describe the activities of con men and scammers the effect their activities can have on their victims should not be underestimated and this month it is time to do something about it. Why? Because from 01 May it is Scams Awareness month.
Scams come in lots of different shapes and sizes, including dodgy online adverts and tricksters using dating websites to build relationships with people they later defraud. Other common types including ‘phishing’ emails and ‘vishing’ phone calls designed to con people into giving away sensitive information, investment scams, and advanced fees requested to claim unexpected lottery wins.
Fewer than five per cent of people in the UK report scams to the authorities, Citizens Advice believes now is the time to fight back against scammers and is asking people to report dodgy adverts or sales pitches to the authorities and to speak to a friend or relative about any offers they get on the doorstep, by phone or email before signing anything or parting with money
Scammers frequently target elderly people with sophisticated scams, often posing as their bank or phone company. People regularly come to Citizens Advice with heart-breaking stories about con artists taking their money and it’s important that people know what to look out for and what they can do. Never disclose your financial details to anyone on the phone or the doorstep. If you have any doubts, check with someone you trust and report anything that sounds dodgy to your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Scams to watch out for
- Online shopping and auction scams – internet shoppers get lured into buying non-existent cars, mobile phones, pets or anything else you can buy online. Scammers use a range of tricks including bogus websites, spoof payment services and a nasty new variation called “second chance offers” tempting losing bidders with bogus opportunities. Online property market places are also infiltrated by scammers using legitimate property details and posing as landlords
- Investment fraud – also called “boiler room” scams because of the high pressure sales technique employed. Shares remain the most common product offered, but they also ask for investment in carbon credits, land, and rare earth metals
- Dating scams – using online dating websites scammers groom victims into long-distance relationships using emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. Once they are confident of the victim’s trust, scammers will tell them about a problem they are experiencing and ask for financial help.
- Software scams – fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it gives the appearance of legitimacy to their schemes. Methods include asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of operating systems, stealing personal information, and installing malware before charging to remove it.
- Courier scams (a form of vishing) – where people receive unsolicited telephone calls from scammers posing as police or their bank warning of a fraudulent payment on their card or that their card is due to expire. The fraudster will then attend the person’s address or send an innocent courier company driver to collect the card and sometimes provide them with a “replacement” fake card.
If you have been scammed, reporting it will help stop it happening to others. Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, your local Trading Standards office or your CAB