Your Ultimate Guide to Scam-Dodging

Scams are simply a way of tricking people out of their money. They certainly not a new phenomenon, and they’ve come in all shapes and sizes throughout the past. Indeed, the first ever scam is apparently dated back to the year 300 BC in Greece. Hegestratos sought to insure his ship and cargo, so took out an insurance policy against them. Hegestratos planned to sink his empty ship, sell the corn and keep the loan. This scam did not pan out well for him, and he ended up being chased off the vessel by his own crew.

A person being alerted to a scam

Sadly, scams are no longer confined to ship insurance, second-hand cars with a rusty chassis or double-glazing guaranteed to save you thousands on your energy bills. Nowadays scams are often quite sophisticated. They often target people via email or online transactions.

So, take a look at ten ways that you can become an expert at avoiding scams:

1. Fake Tax Refunds

As a company that offers legitimate PPI Tax Refunds, we’ve been greeted with increased scepticism lately. Frankly, we’re glad that people’s awareness for this variety of scam has clearly increased and you should always do your research before allowing anyone to do a tax return for you.

The prototypical tax scam is someone masquerading as HMRC, telling you that you’re due a Tax Rebate. HMRC will never reach out to give you this information. Thankfully, they have produced a guide on genuine HMRC communication.

2. PIN or Password Scams

This is another fairly classic scamming technique. Whereby scammers will either call, text or email, pretending to be the person’s bank.

Funnily enough, I myself had one of these scams attempted on me just the other day. A text from ‘Halifax’ came through stating that a payment from a new device was made and I needed to change my security details. As I don’t bank with Halifax, this was an altogether flawed attempt. Yet, if I did bank with them (and many of their recipients will), it may have come across as more convincing.

Your bank will never email, call or text to ask you for your PIN or password nor will they send someone to your house to collect credit cards/bank statements etc. Have a read of this article, to see all the  ‘Things your bank will never ask you to do’

3. Watch out for Poor Grammar and Inaccurate Spelling

Any bank or reputable retailer will spend the time to make sure that their communication is well presented and free from spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Thus, if you receive any form of communication that looks like it has been written by a cat walking across a computer keyboard, then it probably isn’t from who it says it is.

4. Beware of Dodgy Deals on Facebook

There are so many bogus deals being displayed on Facebook now, that it really ought to be called ‘Fakebook’. These hoax ads are used to steal your personal information to either sell to third parties, or worse steal your identity.

Many of these deals will pretend to be from reputable companies that people trust such as supermarkets or clothing brands. If something sounds too good to be true, there are numerous ways you can check if the ad is legitimate.

  • Is there spelling or punctuation errors?
  • Is the page verified with a blue tick? (Big corporations such as Disney, Easy Jet etc. will be verified)
  • Is the URL link going to the right website?

5. Search-Engine ‘Sponsored’ Scammers

Just because Google and Bing/Microsoft are reputable, not everything it returns is. Through pay-per-click campaigns, scammers can pay to be at top of the page for a specific search term. When searching for a service, check to see if it says ‘Ad’ next to it.

Many ads will of course be legitimate businesses.  However, just because something is that the top of Google, it doesn’t mean that it is the most popular website.

6. Shred and Burn Old Financial Documents

Shred or burn all financial documents, including envelopes. A branded letter from a bank shows you have a relationship that could be taken advantage of. For instance, if my attempted ‘Halifax’ scammers knew who I actually banked with, through my paper waste, then their ploy would have been much more likely to succeed.

Furthermore, make sure that your pin isn’t something obvious or easily guessable such as ‘5678’ ‘0000’ or four digits of your date of birth/wedding anniversary.

I’ve Been Scammed, What Now?

If you feel you may have already been scammed, you should take the following steps to avoid/minimise the damage.

  1. End all communication immediately, don’t try to resolve the situation through communicating with the scammers
  2. Report the scam to the police through Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or report a scam anonymously on its website.
  3. If you have noticed any suspicious recurring payments coming out of your account, call your bank immediately to get these blocked.
  4. Alternatively, reach out to Citizens Advice Scams Action through the website, or call its online scams helpline on 0300 330 3003. Alternatively, you can contact the Financial Conduct Authority on 0800 111 6768.

Above all, just be careful. If something seems a bit odd, or too good to be true, then it probably is. Trust your gut, and if you aren’t sure, ask a friend or family member for advice.