Scammers are criminals who are very convincing in their fraudulent tactics.
At the start of 2015, a ‘Which?’ survey found that 54% of respondents had been personally exposed to a scam in the past two years, or had a friend or family member who had.
The following 5 scams have been identified as growing threats in 2016.
1. Social media scams
Criminals selling dodgy products on social media has overtaken auction sites as the Criminal 'channel-of-choice' for counterfeit and piracy activity. The fraudulent sale of high-cost items, such as electrical goods and clocked cars, could potentially put lives at risk.
Remember - ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’.
2. Telephone Preference Service scams
Trading Standards has seen a rise in cold callers claiming to be from the Telephone Preference Service or offering to block nuisance calls but will charge you for registration or sell you a useless call-blocking devices.
The Telephone Preference Service is the only service that all organisations are legally required to screen calls against - and it's free.
3. Loan Sharks
The threat of loan sharks has been identified by the Trading Standards Illegal Money Lending Team, which it says stems from the combined effect of the introduction of the Universal Credit single benefit and the cap on payday loans.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with debt, follow the Which! Dealing with Debt guide.
4. Investment scams
The changes to Pensions that came into effect in April 2015 has seen an increase of scam reports as criminals have been quick to seize the opportunity to mislead people.
Phrases such as ‘one-off investment’ and ‘free pension review’, as well as promises to access your pension before 55, should ring alarm bells.
Don’t be tempted by any approach out of the blue – either by phone, text or in person.
For information on how to protect yourself against pension scams, visit the Pensions Regulator website.
5. Scam ticket sites
Unauthorised sellers selling counterfeit or duplicate tickets for concerts, festivals and sports events are a growing problem. When dealing with a ticket seller you’re not sure of, check websites that aggregate reviews such as Trustpilot or Feefo.
Also look out for repetition among the reviews - this is a red flag that reviews aren't authentic. As is any company that doesn’t have a regularly updated Facebook and Twitter presence.
For more information Which! have produced a number of guides and advice on the latest scams. http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/scams
WhatsApp – Strange email!
WhatsApp users may want to keep a watchful eye on their inbox after a member of the Trading Standards Team received a suspicious email claiming to be sent from the mobile messaging service.
The messages from unknown email addresses, claimed that a new voicemail message on WhatsApp had arrived – but the emails are linked to a malware scam.
When clicked, a “play” button shown in the email takes users to a malicious website that may trick them into downloading malware to their device.
A warning on WhatsApp’s website says: “We do not send you emails about chats, voice messages, payment, changes, photos, or videos. You will only receive an email from WhatsApp if you initiate a conversation with us via our dedicated email channels, such as one of our support channels.”
One trick you can use when trying to determine if an email is malicious is hovering your mouse over the link – without clicking on it. A small box will appear showing the actual web address the link will take you to. If the link doesn’t match the hyperlinked text, it’s likely to be malicious.
Trading Standards advice is you should never follow unsolicited web links or attachments in email messages.
Scam Alert – Fake winter holiday websites
We are highlighting a warning from Action Fraud regarding fake winter holiday websites ‘Rightski.com’ & ‘ChaletHunter.com’.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) say these sites were set up by fraudsters using fake details and false information. So far a dozen victims are known to have lost in excess of £60,000 with the majority paying by bank transfer which means little can be done to retrieve the money.
The NFIB have suspended the websites and virtual phone numbers used by these fraudsters but they may continue using alternative websites which fraudsters can easily set up with different names very quickly.
The NFIB is also urging anyone who has booked via the ‘Rightski.com’ & ‘ChaletHunter.com’ websites to report this to Action Fraud: 0300 123 2040 to assist the investigation.
Action Fraud offer the following advice on how to protect yourself from booking a holiday that doesn’t exist:
Stay safe online: Check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org.
Do your research: Don’t just rely on one review - do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post warnings and details of their experiences.
Look for the logo: Check if they are a member of a recognised trade body such as ABTA which you can verify online: www.abta.com.
Pay safe: Never pay directly into an owner's bank account as this is like paying by cash – the money cannot be traced and is not refundable. Where possible, pay by credit card, (or a debit card that offers protection).
Check paperwork: You should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all.
Use your instincts: Be wary of advertisements showing accommodation at substantially lower prices than the competition.
Inheritance scam emails
It may be a New Year but the old scams continue and we are again warning people to be wary of scam emails and letters offering a share of a large inheritance from an unknown relative whose only connection is that they share the same surname!
The latest one to be received by a Brownshill Green resident asked them to contact a ‘Barrister’, Joseph Ratnasamy Samuel based in Malaysia. Previous versions have come from someone claiming to be in Amsterdam.
This scam is well known and is a typical Advance Fee Fraud and anyone who responds will ultimately be asked to pay an upfront fee before any money can be released. If this fee is paid, the scammers will then come up with more ‘fees’ that are needed in order to release the funds.
Our advice – do not respond to such letters or emails and certainly do not click on any links or open any attachments in an email. If you have opened an attachment, run an anti-virus or anti malware program to check your computer.
By responding, your details will be passed to other scammers which increases the risk of further scam emails, letters and phone calls.
How to report scams
If you've received a potential scam message or computer virus but no money has been lost or you haven’t responded to it,
contact Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.
If you have been a victim of a scam, contact Action Fraud (UK’s National Fraud Office) on 0300 123 2040.