Protect yourself from scams

How do you avoid getting scammed? Would you be able to spot a fraudster? Do you know the difference between a fraud and a scam?

Being part of the community for nearly 50 years, Foys really don’t like hearings tories of our clients or the members of the lcoal community getting ripped off through the multitude of scams pervasive in soicately and online today. So we thought we’d like to share a basic guide into how to spot a scam and the things that should raise red flags and help you identify whether or not you are dealing with a scammer.

Banks and other financial institutions see a scam as the customer being duped into allowing authorised transactions to take place. They might have been fooled into handing over access information or believe that they are making moving money for legitimate reasons. However the police view fraud and scams as the same thing. And it can happen to anyone.

How many scams happen a year?

3.7 million instances of fraud were reported in the year up to March 2020. A figure that is consistent with the previous year. Bank and credit card fraud along with consumer and retail fraud accounted for the vast majority of these.

Fraud and scams also increased during lockdown with a rise of 33%. So it’s time that you began to protect yourself by understanding the different types of scam and how they work.

How can you identify a scammer?

Scammers want to get at your money and everything they do is aimed at making this happen. Ideally, they require you to help them out by giving them money directly but they are also after personal details or information. Technology and the rise of online banking have been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you are less likely to keep money in the house as you can use cash points and make online payments. On the other hand, the scammer looks to exploit these things. Online shopping, social media and email have opened new ways for old frauds to be worked and you need to stay alert.

You probably know about phishing; that is attempts to dupe you into giving away vital information via email. But did you know about vishing and smishing? These are much the same thing but using a phone call or a text message to achieve the fraudster’s hoped-for outcome.

Scams include a mix of the following key features:

  • A sense of urgency. You need to take action immediately whether you think you’re helping the police with an investigation or being offered an investment opportunity.
  • Handing over of personal details. With these it’s possible to steal your identity.
  • A source you think you can trust. The phone call or email comes from a person or organisation you would usually trust like your bank or the police.
  • Providing access either by providing information or by making transactions yourself.
  • Offering something that sounds like an amazing opportunity – one you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Different types of scams

Scammers are after two things; information and money. Ideally, they want you to hand over your funds to them so be aware of the ways they try to do this.

Counterfeit goods

The easiest way to part you from your money is to sell you something. But the designer goods being sold at the car boot sale will turn out to be not quite the quality or brand you took them for. Or they may be sold on online. Although the major auction sites such as eBay don’t allow fake goods to be listed this doesn’t stop it happening and spotting a fraud is more difficult online. It’s easy to get sucked in if you think that you’re getting a bargain.

Avoid being scammed by not rushing into making a purchase. Examine the product carefully and check the labels. Look at the packaging. Would a high-end item really be sold in a plastic bag?

If you’re buying online check reviews for the seller before making a decision. Online shopping became more popular during lockdown. And North Yorkshire Police have reported a rise in auction site frauds during the same period. Scammers will go where they can make money.

Always ask yourself it’s too much of a bargain? If the price is truly astoundingly low then, unless you know the trader to be reputable, walk away. And don’t forget to raise your concerns with your local Trading Standards team. While some fake goods are just a rip-off others which don’t comply with health and safety standards are actually dangerous.

A royal request

The email or letter comes out of the blue. You’ve never heard of the sender who might be a prince, a grieving widow or a religious leader but they sound feasible. And they have a lot of money that they need you to help them move out of their country. If you help them out you’ll have done a good deed for a stranger and you’ll get some of the money. It sounds great until they ask for funds from you to pay transaction fees, administrative costs or similar.

In most cases, the poor grammar and spelling plus the too-good-to-true offer will alert you to this fraud.

Money Mule

Jobs can be hard to come by and this one sounded like a great way to make some money. Your employee transfers money to you and you send it on to someone else after taking a cut. You won’t be told that it’s money laundering, although it does seem a bit odd that you receive the funds in the form of vouchers.

Always be wary when anyone even a friend asks you to move money through your account. Being involved in money laundering has serious consequences. Likewise, payment that comes in an odd form is a flag that this isn’t legitimate.

Romance scams

You’ve met your perfect match online. They got in touch with you, are really good looking and are so interested in every detail of your life. Then they ask if they can borrow some money. The reason sounds legitimate; it might even be to cover travel costs for coming to meet you.

It’s a scam. Even if you don’t give them the funds they request they can use the personal details you’ve shared to try and steal your identity. Don’t be swept off your feet without arranging a video call. Inevitably they’ll find an excuse not to because they look nothing like their photo.

Is that website legit?

Buying fake goods isn’t the only scam waiting to catch you out online. You also need to watch out for spoofing. This is where a website appears to at a different address to the one it is actually at. So you’ll think that you’re visiting the legitimate site when you’re actually at one created by scammers.  If you go ahead and log in or place an order then the scammers have you.

Avoid getting scammed by checking the site carefully. Does the website address seem a bit odd, maybe with just a reference to the brand in question? Are there lots of spelling and grammatical errors? If so, warning bells should be ringing. Check carefully for reviews before you consider buying from such a site. At best you’ll be unlikely to see your money again.

Investment scams

It’s a great opportunity for investment. But actually you’ve not had any previous contact with the company and they seem in a bit of a rush to get you signed up. Before you get carried away with the amazing returns on offer go the FCA website. They have a handy tool to check investment opportunities and avoid getting ripped off.

Clicking links

Stealing access details means that scammers can try and access your accounts. Getting you to click on a link is one of the ways they try to do this. The link may have come via an email asking you to log in to your account to deal with some issue. It might even claim that your account has been locked because of fraudulent activity! Alternatively, you may have been asked to click on a link in a social media post or to upgrade an app.

Clicking on the link could either allow malware to be downloaded or take you to a fake website. The malware will give the scammer access to your device while the fake website will harvest your login detail if you enter them.

Think before you click. Particularly if the link is in an email or text message. Access the site independently, check there are no issues with your account, change your passwords and report it.

Steps you can take as an individual to stay safe

You can’t know every scam but you can apply some basic rules to keep yourself and your money safe.

  • Be suspicious is it seems too good an offer
  • Be wary of clicking on links even it if the source seems reliable
  • Treat poor spelling and grammar on website as a warning sign
  • Don’t send money to people you don’t know – even if you’ve been ‘online friends’ for ages
  • Step back and do some research before parting with your money

Being scammed can happen to anyone. Scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated so it’s easy to get caught out. If it happens to you make sure that you report it and help to protect others.

This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. Also, please note that although we may use the word solicitor, your case could be carried out by a legal advisor, legal executive or paralegal depending on the nature of the case.

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