Scam calls and emails have picked up in popularity in recent years, with many of them targeting vulnerable people and the elderly. There have been horror stories of people losing their entire pension, wiping out their savings, and ending up destitute.
Scammers are getting more and more savvy, using technology to make them harder to spot. For instance, they may phone a potential victim with a “spoof” phone number, making it appear to be a legitimate number when it is in fact from a trickster.
That is why it is important that everyone takes steps to ensure that they and their loved ones know what to look out for.
Common Scams to look out for
- A caller may claim your computer is having some sort of problem – such as being infected with malware or a virus – and only they can help you fix it. They then remote into your computer, and steal sensitive details.
- Claiming you are owed money, and they need your bank details to “return” it.
- Claiming you owe money, and you must pay now, or there will be serious consequences.
- Claiming they are a loved one in distress, and they need money as soon as possible.
- Scams that say your account has been compromised – and they need your login details to “verify”. They then use these details to steal from the victim.
Here is what you can do to protect yourself against scams online or over the phone
- Never give sensitive details (such as bank information) to a cold-caller or any unverified party. If you are interested in engaging with a legitimate company, you can always phone them back on their publically posted phone number, or visit their legitimate website.
- Check the URL/web address before you click on a link. If you hover over a link (but do not click), a web address should appear either in a pop up, or at the bottom of your browser page.
- Make sure the URL/web address is legitimate. What matters is what is at the end of the address – that it the domain you are going to. For example www.news.google.com is a website owned by Google. But news.com is a completely different website (which redirects to https://www.cnet.com/news/).
- Browser pop ups that say you have “Won a prize”, “Have a computer virus”, or are “owed money/owe money”, should be treated with suspicion.
- Remember, if you are uncomfortable, it is OK to say “no thank you” and hang up, delete the email, and/or close the browser popup.
Watch out for high pressure sales tactics, which include:
- Not allowing you to take your time to decide if you wish to buy or not. If a salesperson says a deal expires in a very short period of time (less than a day), consider walking away. If you really want the deal, few companies will turn away customer who is willing to buy from them.
- Skewed data. If they say product is marked down at an extreme discount, it may not be true. There have been reports of some companies claiming non-existent markdowns. For instance, they will claim an item is marked down to £100 from £1000 – but the item was never actually offered at £1000. Another form of skewed data may be inflated reviews or testimonials.
- Trying to manipulate your emotions. Saying that you have to buy because otherwise you will let others down, or you will deeply regret it, etc.
There are new scams out all the time, so be sure to treat anyone who approaches you asking for any financial interaction with a healthy suspicion.