How to avoid falling victim to online, email and phone scams | Scams

stop and think

Fraudsters will try to get you to transfer money quickly by claiming that your money is in danger or that you are about to miss a once-in-a-lifetime transaction.

They create a sense of “urgency, authority and scarcity” to put pressure on victims, says Paul Maskall, head of fraud and cybercrime prevention at UK Finance. Their programs often work “because we are distracted, for example while running to school or work”.

The financial trade body has an anti-fraud campaign called Take Five, which advises consumers to stop and think before handing over money or personal details.

If you feel pressured to make quick decisions, take a moment to assess the situation – just a few minutes pause can help you identify a fraudster.

Taking the time to proofread a message can help you spot a potential scam: a fraudulent text might have spelling mistakes, while an email might come from an address slightly different from someone or someone else’s. a legitimate business.

Your bank will never call you to ask you to transfer money to a new account, so resist any pressure from a caller to do so.

If the sky-high returns advertised on social media sound too good to be true, they probably are. It’s always time to research a company before trusting them with your money. The Get Safe Online website has a verification tool to help you quickly determine if a page is likely to be legitimate. You can also search the Financial Conduct Authority’s online register of regulated investment firms.

A recent trend has been for scammers pretending to be family members on WhatsApp and asking to borrow money. If you receive a message like this, instead of transferring the money, you can verify if it is genuine by taking the time to contact the actual family member through another channel.

Ignore links

Don’t click on links in text messages or emails, even if the message appears to be from a company or someone you trust. Unfortunately, there are always new scams to be aware of as scammers regularly update their tactics to trick victims.

Fraudsters often cling to the news, which is why there has been a rise in parcel scams and bogus NHS test and trace texts during the pandemic. Maskall says there has been an increase in scams associated with the cost of living crisis, for example those claiming to be the local council are contacting to give you the £150 council tax refund.

You should ignore any text or email messages you receive asking you to click on a link, even if it is not a scam you recognize, until you are sure that is legit.

Call back on an official phone number if you are unsure of a caller’s identity. Photograph: Kittidej Chanprasert/Alamy


HM Revenue & Customs, your bank or another financial institution may occasionally call you out of the blue, but this is unusual and should set off alarm bells.

Scammers can bypass caller ID, so even if you get a call from a number you recognize, it’s not necessarily reliable. Spoofing also allows them to support text strings with your bank.

If you weren’t expecting a call and you’re not 100% sure who you’re talking to, hang up immediately and find the official phone number to call them back.

Likewise, if someone asks you for money by text or email, or tells you that their payment information has changed, even if it’s someone you know, you should call a trusted number before making a payment.

Check security settings

Most scams happen at least partially online, so it makes sense to beef up your security settings.

If hackers gain access to your emails or social media profiles, they may obtain personal information to help them convince you that the scam is legitimate. These tactics are used by invoice fraudsters, who hijack emails to intercept messages to a trusted party, such as a lawyer or builder. They can then pick up the email thread and mimic the writing style to convince someone to transfer a large sum of money to a new bank account.

Make sure you have strong passwords on your email and social media accounts, and don’t use the same one on more than one account, to prevent them from being compromised. Use a password manager if you have trouble remembering passwords.

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Use strong passwords on your email and social media accounts. Photography: NetPhotos/Alamy

Pay carefully

If you have decided that the person you are dealing with is legitimate, you should always be careful before handing over money or personal information. You can, for example, transfer £1 first before calling the intended recipient to check if they have reached their account.

Many banks alert you if the account details you’re sending money to don’t match the information they have on file, which can help you avoid losing money. This is called beneficiary confirmation and is designed to stop fraud and errors.

“Banks provide warnings, don’t just click on them,” says Patrick Hurley, senior ombudsman and director of casework at the Financial Ombudsman Service.

If you use a credit or debit card when shopping online, you can ask your card provider for a chargeback if you find you’ve been scammed. Credit card users may be able to make a claim under the Consumer Credit Act for purchases between £100 and £30,000.

When shopping on an online marketplace, such as eBay, use the official payment method provided by the platform to make sure you’re covered if something goes wrong. Do not be convinced to pay by bank transfer.

have a plan

Know what to do if you accidentally fall for a scam – the sooner you act, the more likely you are to get your money back.

Call your bank immediately as they may be able to block the money from leaving your account if payment has not yet been made. Banks can try to get your money back from the fraudulent account before the scammer moves it.

Most major UK banks, including HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and Nationwide, are signatories to the Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) code, which provides rules on when consumers should get their money back if they fall victim to an authorized push payment fraud. If your bank is not listed, it will have its own rules about refunding customers who have been defrauded of their money.

If your bank does not refund you, even after you have followed its complaints procedure, contact the Financial Ombudsman, who will investigate the problem and decide whether you should get a refund.

According to Hurley, four out of five cases referred to the watchdog are decided in favor of the consumer.

About Geraldine Higgins

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