A staggering £4 million is stolen by fraudsters every day on average in the UK.
But how can you stop this happening to you? How can you protect yourself from being scammed?
In this article we take a look at:
Common types of scam and how to recognise them.
What to do if you think you have been scammed.
What is happening in the UK to protect us from scamming.
Two of the most common types of scam for consumers are through emails and phone calls.
These days we are so bombarded with emails that it can be difficult to keep up. Which creates the ideal environment for scammers. Scam emails can even be created to look as if they come from either an official email address or from someone you know.
So how can you recognise a scam email? There are a few things to look out for:
There are unexpected differences between the sender’s name and the actual email address.
The style of writing contained in the email is not consistent with the person or company.
The text in the email contains lots of typos and/or other errors.
The email conveys either some kind of threat, or information designed to make you panic.
The sender urges you to click on a link in the email to take further action. Never do this.
The email is asking for personal or financial information from you.
According to the National Crime Agency, there has been an explosion in the number of phone scams over the last 12 months. The current level of fraud in the UK is even being described as a national security threat.
As with emails, spam phone calls can be “spoofed” i.e. set up to make it look as if the call is from either a local or familiar number. This can catch you off guard and cause you to answer a call that you soon wish you hadn’t.
Some of the most common scam calls currently doing the rounds are calls claiming to be:
Your internet provider saying there is a problem with your internet connection;
A parcel delivery service asking you to pay an extra delivery charge;
Amazon Prime telling you to pay to renew your service;
HMRC saying that you owe them money, and if you don’t pay immediately you will be taken to court;
Your bank explaining that they have to move your money into a new account for security reasons;
A financial service that you have supposedly requested, offering you an investment opportunity.
What to do if you think you have been scammed
If you receive any of the above communications there are three golden rules:
Don’t open any emails or answer any calls that you think are suspicious. If an email is genuine the sender will either resend or find another way of getting in touch with you. Never click on any links in suspect emails. They will usually lead to spoof sites designed to steal login details, personal information or money from you.
If a phone call is genuine they will leave a voicemail and you can get back to them. If still in any doubt about the original call it’s advisable to leave calling back for at least a few minutes in case the fraudsters are still on the line.
It can be tempting to bait spam callers to string them along, but this could backfire because your number could be shared with other spammers as belonging to someone willing to engage.
Block email senders and fake phone numbers if you have the technical facilities to do this. Unfortunately the scammers will continually find new email addresses and phone numbers to use, but it could help for a while.
Depending on your email provider, you may also be able to create filters to send all unknown email addresses to your spam folder. This could help to avoid opening one by mistake.
It’s always a good idea to report a spam call or email, either to your service provider and/or to Action Fraud online or by calling them on 0300 123 2040.
If the phone call or email contains a serious threat, contact the police on 999.
If you think a scammer has your personal information, you may be in danger of identity theft. Check out the Action Fraud advice on what to do if this has happened to you.
If you think you may inadvertently have given your financial details to a scammer, it is essential to contact your bank or financial provider straightaway. If you do this, they may be able either to stop any transactions going through or to get your money back from the scammer’s account.
If you have made a payment directly to a scammer using either credit card, debit card or Paypal these payment methods each have some level of protection that may be able to help you. You need to contact them as soon as possible to find out what can be done.
The Treasury Committee wants to step up the UK strategy to tackle fraud. One suggestion is creating a new government department and law enforcement agency to deal specifically with the issue of fraud. Another is to make big technology companies liable for compensating people who are scammed using their platforms, whether that is through impersonation, misleading adverts or fraudulent investments.
Whilst the details are as yet undecided, it seems to be common sense that much more needs to be done – and in a coordinated way – to tackle this growing area of crime in the UK.
We hope that this article provides some useful tips about how to be on your guard and protect yourself from being scammed.