Needless to say, this year has been tragic for most of us. One group of people that has benefited this year however is online scammers. Online scams have been around for a while now, but with people spending more time online this year than ever before, online scams have shot up by up to a third!
There are numerous types of scams, both on and offline. Although the scammers often have a target audience in mind, this can happen to anyone. I will try to summarise the most common types and how you can try to avoid them.
Just because they claim to be from the company you are in contact with, doesn’t mean they are
Phishing – various types of scams through email. This is one of the most common types of online scamming. You may receive an email which claims to be from a well-known organisation, such as HMRC, Paypal or your bank. They will usually ask you to log in and verify your bank details. Most of these companies would never ask you to give your bank details without good reason, especially by email. If the email addresses you in a very generic way (for example: sir/madam/customer/your email address), it is probably phishing. Another giveaway is the email address that the email was sent from, as this usually this has some sort of spelling errors when compared to the legitimate one. This scam is often unavoidable, however if you do receive an email like this, you should not press on any of the links included. Even better would be to not open the email at all and report the sender. If in doubt, contact your bank (or whoever the sender claims to be) to double check whether they actually do need your details.
Authorised push payment fraud – another type of scam where you are persuaded to voluntarily send a payment. This is usually done by gaining access to your personal information, such as by hacking your email account. The scammers then pose as a company that you are currently in business with. They call or email you claiming you need to make the next payment. This is usually hard to spot because it comes from a company that you are expecting to hear from anyway. For example, if the scammers see you have recently booked a holiday, they might pose as your travel agent and ask for an advance of the payment. To many people, this would not be an immediate cause for alarm. To prevent this type of fraud, it is important to keep your personal data safe, such as by creating secure passwords and not having the same password for all your accounts. Another tip is to not accept everything you read or hear. Just because they claim to be from the company you are in contact with, doesn’t mean they are.
A bank will never ask you to move your money into another account
Safe account scams – scammers claim to be from your bank. Although this scam is usually delivered over the phone, it can happen via email as well. The scammer poses themself as a representative from your bank. They usually inform you that your account has been compromised and you need to move your money to a “safe account”. This obviously sets in panic for most people and so it is not surprising that a lot of people do not recognise this as a type of fraud. This is especially the case during the pandemic when money is tight for a lot of people. This scam is pretty easy to spot if you remain calm and vigilant. A bank will never ask you to move your money into another account. If you are unsure if your account has actually been compromised, contact your bank directly (not using the number or email they contacted you on) and ask to confirm this.
Buying goods – never receiving the items you ordered. With the rise in online shopping comes the rise in scams such as these. In this case, scammers tend to list items for sale when they do not even have them or intend on sending anything. They usually do not sell on legit sites such as eBay or Amazon, because these have a feedback system which is visible to other buyers. They also usually offer heavily discounted items, which makes them easy to fall for when you are struggling for money but still wanting to get your loved ones Christmas gifts. To avoid this type of scam, try to only shop on reputable sites that have buyer protection. If you see a deal that seems too good to be true, that is probably because it is.
If you do unfortunately fall for a scam, contact your bank and see if there is anything they can do to help
Although the consequences of scams can vary, it usually entails a sum of money being taken from you. This is not what any of us want, but unfortunately people like this do exist in the world. Therefore, it is very important to try and protect yourselves from this. It is always better to take a minute to check something is legit. If you do unfortunately fall for a scam, contact your bank and see if there is anything they can do to help. Their powers may be limited based on what the scam was or how your money was taken, however it is always worth checking.