How to spot a scam

How to spot a scam.

We all think we are savvy enough not to fall for a scam – but every single person who lost their money – or even their life savings or pension – to a scammer thought exactly the same thing.

The scammers are clever. They make their living by coming up with perfectly legitimate sounding reasons for you to allow them to get access to your cash. Some may choose a more indirect route and pump you for sensitive personal information that they can use to impersonate you and trick their way into your bank and other accounts, but at the end of the day, it is your money they are after.

Scammers work in lots of different ways. In many cases, they’ll seem friendly, polite, and professional and will use texts, emails and calls to try and get sensitive data from people.

Some pretend to be from your bank and ask you to ‘confirm’ details (your real bank knows these perfectly well). Some may claim to be from a business you have been a customer of in the past and say that you have been overcharged – or that you have an outstanding amount owing.

Alternatively, they might try scare tactics. They may for example claim to be from the tax authorities and try to panic you by telling you that you are being investigated for tax fraud, or even that a warrant for your arrest is waiting. Read HMRC’s phishing email guide which explains how to distinguish a scam attempt from genuine contact.

What to do if you think it might be a scam

Always be suspicious when someone you don’t know calls or emails you. It could be legitimate, but look out for the warning signs:

If you’re asked to give payment details. Any organisation you already do business with will know these. Phone scammers can sound friendly or be threatening to try and get you to reveal data. Put the phone down or delete the email.

If you are asked to share personal information. Things like full name and date of birth can be used by scammers to impersonate you. Never share your personal details with anyone if you can’t confirm they are who they say they are.

An offer sounds too good to be true. Scammers may say that a deal is too good to miss. Guaranteed returns on an investment, a holiday abroad for £25, a lottery win (when you didn’t enter the lottery) an inheritance from a relative you never knew you had. Use your common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it inevitably is.

You are asked to keep details of the call secret. Asking you to keep quiet is a way to keep you away from the advice and support you need in making a decision.

Being asked to act right now. Scammers often try to hurry your decision making. Genuine sales staff should always give you time and space to make an informed decision, anyone who tries to rush you should not be trusted.

Spelling and grammar mistakes. Legitimate organisations never make spelling or grammatical mistakes in their emails because they’ve been put together by professionals and checked before they’re sent. Emails or messages with mistakes are certainly a scam.

What should you do?

In most cases, the safest thing is to do nothing. Put the phone down, delete the email – and never click on any links within it.

If you are unsure whether the message is legitimate, call the organisation that seemed to be behind it. Don’t follow a click in the email they sent or call a number they provide.

if you feel like you might have been the victim of fraud – whether because you’ve given details over the phone or clicked a link and provided sensitive details – there are things you can do. Contact your bank if you think you may have given out financial information, change your account password and contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040

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