How to avoid becoming the victim of a scam

4 min | 21 September 2021

The Chase team

The number of scam attempts soared in the first half of 2020 as fraudsters took advantage of lockdown loneliness and uncertainty about the future. From selling overpriced face masks to faking government emails, criminals found new ways to steal money. Find out how to spot and avoid a scam.

Criminals constantly find new ways to scam even the most financially savvy. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to try and protect ourselves.

Official messages and super deals?

  • If you receive an email, phone call or text from what appears to be an official source (such as the Government) that claims you owe money or are due to receive a refund, it could well be a scam.  Simply hang up (if it's a call) or if it's in an email or text, don't hit reply or click on any links, contact the government department in question to check if it is genuine. Find out how to verify a police (Opens in new window) or HMRC message (Opens in new window) – and if you’re concerned an account has been hacked, find out how to recover it here (Opens in new window).
  • Beware if you see a branded product for sale online for a low price – it could be a purchase scam (Opens in new window). The company may be selling inferior quality or fake products, or it could be a fraudulent website, mimicking a reputable business. Check that a website is not fake by typing in the address yourself. If you download images from the site, you can run a reverse image search on them to see if they actually came from another website.

Glowing reviews and free samples?

  • Do your research – company reviews are a good indication of products and service. If your searches don’t bring up any reviews, treat it as a red flag. It could be a fraudulent business that will close once it has enough orders, only to start again under a new name and domain in a few weeks’ time.
  • Some companies plant glowing reviews on their own products, while writing negative ones about their competitors. Some even pay people to write five-star reviews for them – making it difficult to know who to trust. Pay attention to reviews where customers have posted a photo of the product or made fair observations: these are more likely to be real.
  • Take care with any adverts offering free samples of branded products for a small postage fee paid by debit card. This could be a freebie scam where fraudsters use your bank details to withdraw more money from your account. You may find you’ve unknowingly signed up to a subscription service.

Fake pressure and fake companies...

  • If, when having put an item in an online shopping basket you are suddenly told ‘Last few left’ or ‘Hannah from Essex just purchased this,’ watch out. Scammers love to exploit the value people put on exclusive access and scarce products.
  • Always check company websites and social media. Try phoning any numbers listed to see if they are real. Remember that all UK companies must be registered at Companies House (Opens in new window).
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged lots of goodwill, with many of us choosing to support local businesses to help them stay afloat. Sadly, scammers can take advantage of this, claiming their (illegitimate) businesses must close, to trick us into spending with them. Always dig a little deeper to decide if the story is true.

Things you can do

  • Track your spending and keep a close eye on your statements to make sure transactions are correct. If anything suspicious appears, tell your bank immediately. You may be a victim of ‘card-not-present’ fraud (where a scammer steals your card details to use online). 
  • Protect against identity theft (where scammers use your personal information to apply for credit or commit fraud in your name). Store financial documents with care and destroy any unwanted paperwork. Don’t give out your date of birth, place of birth or mother’s maiden name unless it's absolutely required. Be wary about the information you reveal on social media.
  • You can help protect yourself online by using strong passwords (containing numbers and special characters) on different websites and two-factor authentication (Opens in new window) (2FA) wherever possible – this adds an extra layer of protection. If you are worried you might have been scammed, Citizen’s Advice (Opens in new window) can help.

If you receive a call or text from someone saying they are from your bank and they ask you to transfer money to another account, hang up and report it - banks do not do this!

And finally, if it looks too good to be true – it probably is.

Source:

  • BBC.co.uk Article dated 19 August 2020 "Coronavirus: Lockdown budgeting exploited by fraudsters"

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