Common financial scams and how to spot them
Unfortunately scammers are becoming more sophisticated in the way they try to steal information from us, and people around the UK regularly fall victim to financial scams.
We take a look at some financial scams that catch people out with advice on what you can do to spot them and stay safe.
While most scam emails (like the classic ‘Nigerian Prince’ letter) go through to your Junk mail folder, the odd one will slip through to your inbox.
Watch out for emails that look like they come from a reputable organisation – like the bank, post office, internet supplier or telephone company – but ask for personal information, or have poor spelling or links to strange websites in them. These scams have become more and more sophisticated through the years, so be sure to check carefully to make sure it is legitimate, and remember no reputable website will ever ask you disclose personal details over email.
If you think it might be legitimate but aren’t sure, open your internet browser and visit the organisation’s official website, or phone them up.
A new type of scam is the ‘no hang up’ trick, known as vishing.
A fraud phones pretending to be from the bank or police, to say that your card has been stolen. They ask you for information to confirm who you are, or advise you to call the bank. You hang up and dial your bank, but the fraudsters stay on the line, silently listening as you dial the phone number. When you put the phone back to your ear, they pretend to be a representative in the bank and take your details. Sometimes these fraudsters even send a ‘courier’ around to homes to collect cards.
Your bank will never ask for your account details or PIN numbers over the phone. If you are called by a bank and advised that you are a fraud victim, hang up and then either call your bank from a different phone line, visit your branch, or leave a couple of hours before phoning on your normal phone.
The friend in need
A particularly cruel form of scamming is when a criminal hacks into the email or social network profile of someone you care for, then asks you for money in their name.
Common friend in need scams are the embarrassed grandchild on holiday who has ‘run out of money’, a friend who needs ‘help with bills’ or a family member who has ‘lost a credit card’.
If you get an email like this, phone the person who emailed you or contacted you on Facebook and ask them if this is legitimate. If it isn’t, let them know that their email address has been used in this way.
The fund transfer
A scam that comes via email, phone or letter sometimes is the fund transfer message, in which you are told that if you send cash abroad using a money transfer you’ll be paid back into your bank account with extra commission.
These sorts of scams are often used by criminals who launder money, and if you were to give them your account details or send them money you might not only have your own money stolen, but be taking part in criminal activity.
Sometimes you might be asked for ‘advanced fees’ for something you didn’t ask for, advised of a fake pension scheme, or even invited to buy shares of a company.
Ways to protect yourself
Thankfully there are things you can do to minimise the risk of financial scams.
- Always shield your PIN number at ATMs
- Learn how to spot card trapping devices at cash machines
- Use complex passwords for websites, and make sure you have a different password for each site
- Never write your PIN number or passwords down in your phone or a notebook. Use a password manager like Lastpass instead
- If you’re buying a product online, read reviews of the website first to make sure it’s legitimate
- Never give out your personal details to someone who should already have that information – from bank account details to credit card numbers, PINs, birthdates or addresses
- Don’t transfer money to someone you don’t know
- Don’t bin bank statements or letters with personal information on them – shred them
- Never click on a link in an email if you’re not certain of the source, and never reply with your personal information
Have you ever found yourself a victim of financial fraud?