10 scams to avoid – how to avoid telephone scams and other scams

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You’ve probably heard of lottery scams, where people are told they’ve won a prize, and advance fee fraud scams that promise you a percentage of a large sum in exchange for giving your bank details. And you might wonder who falls for them. Well, almost half of us have been targeted by a scam, and many people who fall for them don’t report them. Here are some scams that it’s worth being aware of.

1. Phantom training schemes
Citizens Advice says more scammers are using this ploy in the current tough economic times. It involves being told to sign up for a training course with the promise of a job at the end of it. The problem is that the training course and job don’t exist.

SAVVY TIP: Citizens Advice also found that some scammers have offered young people call centre jobs and recommended that they take out expensive mobile phone contracts to improve their credit rating. The scammer then disappears and the victim is left with bills for other accounts that the fraudster has opened in their name.

2. Non-existent jobs
Scammers are also offering jobs that pay commission only. The problem is that the firm is a fake and there’s no money on offer.

3. Debt help
The tough economic conditions means that an increasing number of people are struggling to repay debts. Scammers are offering loans or help to clear debts. The loan carries an upfront fee but there’s no loan or help available to sort out their debts.

4. Council tax rebanding
Citizens Advice has found some rogues have offered to get people’s property rebanded for council tax (and it’s perfectly legitimate to try). The problem is that they ask for an upfront fee and then don’t do the work.

5. Car matching
Another scam that’s becoming popular is where you get a call to say a buyer’s been found soon after you advertise your car for sale. You’re asked to pay an upfront fee which you are told is refundable if the car isn’t sold, but there’s no buyer and you aren’t refunded.

6. Prepayment meter cards
You’re offered a £50 electricity prepayment card for £25. Sounds good? Well it’s not. Fraudsters use cloned keys to top up the electricity credit illegally and you end up paying the energy twice — first to the fraudsters and then to the company at the correct rate.

7. Property rental scam
If you want to rent a property, you normally have to pay a month’s rent as a deposit and a month’s rent in advance. The problem is that scammers are exploiting this routine practice. In this scam, the landlord asks for a month’s rent before checking your references. You sign a contract saying that if the references aren’t satisfactory, your deposit will be paid back, minus a fee for checking the references. Funnily enough, the references aren’t OK (even though you know there’s no problem) and you lose some of your deposit.

8. Fake websites
These days it’s pretty easy to get a website that looks professional at very little cost. And that’s exactly what fraudsters are doing. Some sites look like bank or internet auction websites but they’re not. They are fake sites set up to steal your money or personal identity. Scam ticket websites claim to be able to sell you tickets for popular events but, after you’ve paid, the tickets never arrive and your calls and emails aren’t answered.

SAVVY TIP: There are also copycat websites that look like the websites of well-known brands but which sell fake goods. These are often poor quality and can even be dangerous.

10. Warranty and insurance
You can — of course — legitimately buy an extended warranty or insurance for many electrical items. But fraudsters are also targeting consumers. Citizens Advice says that after you’ve bought a mobile phone or signed up for satellite TV, you may get a phone call from a company offering you insurance. If you’re an existing customer, you may be told that your insurance or warranty has run out and you need to renew it.

The company may claim it’s linked to your phone or TV provider or the shop where you bought your phone. But it could be a scam and the insurance they’re selling could leave you with little or no protection.

SAVVY TIP: This is quite a hard scam to spot because the scammers may have information about your purchase. Citizens Advice recommends getting details of the company name and check they are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (which has replaced the FSA). Ask them for information about your account (such as how long you’ve been a customer for and your account number). If they are genuinely linked to the equipment provider, they should know this.

What to do:
Contact Citizens Advice consumer service helpline 03454 04 05 06 and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.

SAVVY TIP: You may be savvy enough not to fall for these scams, but be aware that an elderly relative may not. Just because someone’s elderly doesn’t mean they’re going to be duped, but older people (especially if they have memory problems) can be an easy target.

Related articles:
Five steps to take if you’re the victim of ID fraud

Paying by online or phone payment – are you protected if there’s a problem?

What is vishing in banking and how can you protect yourself?

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