Over 3.8 million people in the UK fall victim to a scam each year, making it an extremely common crime. Scammers use a variety of online tactics such as email, social media and websites to trick people out of their hard-earned money, and many are so realistic that some people are unable to easily tell the difference between authentic and fake.
We have some tips to help you spot a scam.
What is a scam?
A scam is when you pay for goods and services that turn out to be not what you agreed to pay for. This could be a person selling you faulty or inauthentic products or services, or never having anything to sell in the first place.
What are the most common scams?
Scammers adopt a number of tactics to mislead people out of goods and services. Here are the main ones you should be aware of.
TV license scams
Most households in the UK pay a TV license through direct debit to ensure they don’t fall behind with payments as they are aware that watching live TV and not having a license is illegal and can carry a fine. Scammers use this information to play on people’s fears.
Scammers will usually get in touch by email or phone, notifying their target that they have missed a TV license payment and may face legal repercussions if they don’t make an immediate payment.
Paypal and Amazon scams
This scam is most commonly attempted via email. The email will contain a false receipt claiming you have made a payment, or ask that you change your password for security purposes. The email will also contain a link that looks like the login page of the website, but this is fake.
Once your details have been entered into the site, the scammer will go to your account and change your password so you cannot enter it and make purchases or transfer your money.
This is most commonly a phone scam. The caller will claim to be from your bank and tell you that there has been unusual activity on your account. They will then take you through some ‘security questions’, which is when they ask you to confirm your account details, card number, security code and PIN.
Your PIN code should never be shared with anyone, not even your bank. Your bank may ask you for your security answers or digits of your password to verify your identity, but please only confirm these if you are entirely certain you are speaking to your bank.
Spotting and avoiding a scam
We’ve got a few tips to help you spot a scam, and steps you can take to avoid falling victim to them.
How to spot a scam email
Some scam emails can be extremely convincing. Here’s what you can do to make sure it’s real.
Check the sender
The name at the top may say ‘Amazon’ or ‘PayPal’, but click on the sender name in the ‘from’ field for the full email address that the email was sent from. If it was not sent from a generic @amazon or @paypal company email address, chances are that it’s a fake.
Check the spelling and grammar
Many scam emails contain a number of spelling and grammar mistakes – make sure you read through it thoroughly as a series of typos almost certainly means that it didn’t come from an authentic source.
How to spot a scam website
Some websites are made to look exactly like the real thing and others are not. Either way, there are ways to tell them apart.
Check the site information
If you look into the left side of your URL bar, you’ll see a little padlock icon next to our website address. This means that a website has been confirmed to be secure by your browser. Scam websites do not have this as your information is not protected when put into the site.
Look at the website
If the website you’ve been asked to log into doesn’t look like the page you usually log in on, it’s likely that it isn’t the website of the company it claims to be. Don’t input your details unless you’re completely certain that you are visiting an authentic website.
Avoiding a scam
Here’s what you can do to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Call the company
If you receive an email claiming to be a company and you’re unsure that it’s real, simply call up to verify. Do not use the number provided in the email – use a past letter or a search engine to find the correct phone number. The customer service representatives will be more than happy to help you verify the issue.
The same goes for a scam call. If you do not recognise the number, ask if you can call back and take the name of the customer service representative down. A genuine caller will not mind that you call back at your own convenience – if the caller becomes aggressive or insistent that you share details immediately, there’s a good chance that they are not legitimate.
Don’t click on links
If a potential scam email contains any links to log in to confirm a password or transaction, don’t click them. Use a search engine or the URL bar to find the website for who it is claiming to be, and log in. Any transaction information can be found in your account and if you can’t see it, there’s a good chance the email is fake.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you believe you may have been scammed, we want to let you know that this is nothing to be embarrassed about – you are the victim of a crime. Report this to your bank and to the police – we have advice on what to do here.