Scam-spotting – Top 5 Cons to Steer Clear of
Show of hands.
Who’s fallen for something they shouldn’t have? Got a Royal Mail text saying your parcel was waiting for you?
One guy was scammed out of £12,000 after he was duped by a fake Royal Mail text.
Clicked on a link you didn’t actually trust? HMRC offered you a too-good-to-be-true tax refund?
Tempting as that may be, HMRC will never ask for your bank account details via text or email.
According to Action Fraud, scams like these cost us up to £190bn a year.
Can you spot a scam?
It’s easier than you’d think to fall victim to fraudsters, and with the cost-of-living crisis crushing us Brits, scammers are preying on our desperation to make some cash.
Don’t be fooled into handing your money over.
Here are five top money-making scams.
- Cryptocurrency scams
Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency and transactions are made without banks verifying them. Your ‘money’ exists in the form of digital entries on an online database, with transactions recorded in a public ledger. The most common one is Bitcoin, and you keep your ‘cash’ in a digital wallet.
Crypto con artists will cold call you or make contact on social media. They’ll tempt you with investment opportunities promising huge profits. You’ll be persuaded to open a trading account on a professional-looking website with logos that look like famous brands and fake celebrity endorsements.
Once you’ve made a deposit they’ll urge you to make more and more payments to earn the most profit. Then both the fraudster and website will disappear along with your cash.
Think you couldn’t be conned?
A woman swindled a retired businessman out of £6k after approaching him on LinkedIn. Pretending to be a finance director from Washington DC, she lured him into a WhatsApp chat. She then used his interest in Bitcoin to convince him to start trading via an app.
The con woman, who called herself Alice, used her ‘glamorous’ looks and lifestyle to make him part with his cash – meaning he was also the target of a romance scam.
- Online Shopping Scams
We’re all shopping for bargains these days. That makes us easy pickings for scammers selling fake goods, heavily discounted items, freebies – or even products that don’t actually exist.
These can include anything from toys and clothes to slimming pills and perfumes, promoted on paid-for ads that pop up on your social media feed. These will take you to a website where you’ll be asked to give payment details.
This type of fraud happens so often in the UK, MPs have said some social media channels should compensate those ripped off via their sites.
A recent survey by Amazon marketing experts, Optimizon, said one in five shoppers interviewed didn’t get what they thought they’d paid for. Be a savvy shopper and check the seller out before your basket.
- Phishing and smishing scams
Scammers use email (phishing) and text (smishing) to send messages that look like official-looking requests, for example from your bank or the government.
They’ll ask you to enter account details and passwords, make a payment, reply to a message, download an attachment, or click a link. Don’t do it.
One woman lost her £50k house deposit after her email was hacked by a fraudster pretending to be her lawyer.
- Pension scams
Pension scammers will approach you by email, phone or post and can sound extremely credible, even saying they’re backed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Fake schemes to steal your savings include pension offers, reviews, early access to funds, and investments. You’ll be pushed to act fast with the promise of lots more cash.
Fraudsters will target any size of pension pot. People have lost anything from under £1k to £500k according to the FCA.
The FCA also reports that two thirds of pension holders were sure they’d spot a pension scam – yet they were five times more likely to say yes to a free pension review from a stranger online than someone in their local pub!
- Ponzi scam
A Ponzi scheme offers massive profits on an investment. It can be easy to get drawn in because it seems to pay off at first. But there is no investment.
This scam works a bit like a pyramid scheme in that the cash you get back at the start is paid for by previous victims. Scammers gain credibility by convincing you to sign up your family and friends and keep the scheme going until they run out of new investors to fund it.
These hard-sell scammers use slick techniques, clever jargon and posh promotional material. You’ll only realise you’ve been conned when everything collapses.
In one case, a fraudster managed to steal over £14.5 million from 55 victims, some of them his friends. He told them their cash was in a high interest bank account, when really he was using it to fund his gambling habit.
This kind of scam can end up a double whammy as your details will often be sold on to other sharks. They’ll target you when you’re extra vulnerable and offer to get your money back in return for a fee.
Always be wary of get-rich-quick schemes. Only use FCA-authorised financial services firms listed on this register.
If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, don’t be embarrassed. Fight back and report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
And remember…If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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