There are dozens of types of scams circulating at any one time. They offer a chance to invest in an "exciting new money-making scheme", inform you of an "unexpected win on a prize draw or lottery", and frequently ask you for your bank account details in order to "process your winnings" to you. The scams we see are aimed at businesses as well as consumers.
Many of these victims are elderly, socially isolated and vulnerable, once they have replied they are then sent numerous offers and marketing mail, basically anything to try to make them part with their money. Sometimes names are added to “suckers” lists and then there is a series of repeated victimisation through the mail and in many instances follow up with menacing and frequent telephone calls.
With email and text messages, it is possible to send unsolicited offers to thousands of people quickly and relatively cheaply. If only a tiny fraction of people reply, huge profits can still be made by these scammers.
Professionally written letters, faxes and emails can be very convincing, but whichever method these promotions are distributed by, they are still a dishonest attempt to trap you into parting with your money.
Many people do not report this type of crime either out of embarrassment or they are still convinced that the big win is imminent. There are stories that this type of crime is not identified until the victim dies, and it is the relatives that then realise that thousands of pounds have been paid into these criminal accounts, normally outwith the UK.
We would urge carers, relatives and other people in contact with elderly, socially isolated or vulnerable to be on their guard and report this to Citizens Advice. Find further information at citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland.
Tips for avoiding scams
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
- If you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it.
- You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize.
- If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.
- Contacted out of the blue? – be suspicious.
- Don’t be rushed – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
- Never send money to someone you have never met.
- Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
- Your bank will never attend your home to collect cash, your pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud.
- Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password.
- Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.
- Suspect a phone scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank.
- Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
- Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams.
Practical tips for avoiding phone scams:
- Use caller display - it lets you see who is calling.
- Install an answer machine to filter calls.
- If you are receiving numerous calls, change your phone number.
- For eldery/vulnerable install a reputable call blocking device.
- Be wary about passing personal information on particularly when entering competitions.
- Be wary of some premium services attaching themselves onto to your mobile phone account - check billing regularly - if you are in dispute about a premium service contact phonepayplus - the ombudsman.
- Don't be afraid to hang up - its your phone, time & money.
- Never pass on bank details - even you are told it is your bank!
- If you are interested in a service - ask the company to put all the details in writing - never agree to any product or service on the phone - any legitimate company will not pressure you into making a decision.
- If you regularly receive spam messages on your mobile phone forward them to 7726 - and block marketing companies.
What to do if you have been scammed:
- Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
- If you've paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
- Get advice from Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or at citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland
Advice on scams is available online from many sources including citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland (takes you to an external website).
Free expert advice on spam and scam emails is available at Getsafeonline.org (takes you to an external website).
Read the story of a victim of chronic scam mail at thinkjessica.com.
The National Fraud Authority – the government agency that helps to co-ordinate the fight against fraud in the UK also provide advice and support through their website at actionfraud.org.uk. The website includes a section where you can report a fraud.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has produced an online booklet that explains how to identify a scam, what's being done to combat them and how you can help. Find out more at their Stand Against Scams campaign page www.tradingstandards.uk
Trusted Trader scheme
Trading Standards operates the Trusted Trader scheme. It’s a membership scheme which uses an online directory of local tradesmen who have made a commitment to treat their customers fairly. Find out more at Trusted Trader.
Tel: 03454 040506