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Discover how to spot, avoid and report scams this Scams Awareness Month.

Spot, avoid, report – discover how to stay safe during Scams Awareness Month

You work hard for your money and the last thing you want is to lose it to a scammer.

But many of us think we’re too clever to fall for a scam, too tech savvy to be fooled by a fake email, or think only older people get conned.

The reality is we’re all vulnerable and in fact it’s younger people who are most likely to become a victim of fraud.

Spotting, avoiding and reporting scams can seem difficult, but if you know the tell-tale signs keeping yourself and your money safe is really easy.

Spotting scams

Lots of people believe scams are getting harder and harder to spot and there is some truth to this. But if you know what to look out for, then spotting the signs is still pretty easy. So, what should you look out for?

  1. Who’s contacting you? Check the email address the message was sent from by expanding the panel at the top of the email. If it’s a scam, the email address will be misspelt or contain random numbers and letter. You need to be more careful with phone calls, as scammers are getting better at duplicating legitimate phone numbers.
  2. What are they calling you? An email from a legitimate company should always address you by your full name. But scammers will usually say something like ‘Dear Customer’.
  3. Were you expecting to be contacted? If it’s an unexpected or unsolicited call, then this should ring alarm bells. This is particularly true when it comes to pensions. In January 2019, the pension cold calling ban came into place. This means if you’re contacted about your pension by anyone who you don’t have an account with, or have not asked to be contacted by, it’s a scam.
  4. Are you being pressured into making a decision? Scammers don’t want you to have the time to think about what you’re doing, so they will pressure you into making a decision then and there. No legitimate company would ask you to make a decision like this.
  5. Does it sound too good to be true? A common trick with investment and pension scams is to tell you an opportunity offers big rewards with no risk. Such a thing doesn’t exist.

Avoiding scams

Now you know how to spot a scam, what can you do to avoid being targeted in the first place?

  1. Keep operating systems and anti-virus software up to date. Don’t put off installing those updates. They often close loopholes being exploited by scammers. And make sure all of your devices are protected with anti-virus software.
  2. Never give out personal details. This might seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s something people often fall for. No legitimate company is going to ask you for full passwords, PINs, CVC codes or usernames.
  3. Don’t trust links in texts and emails. If you get a suspicious looking email or text, don’t think it’s safe to check it by clicking on the links. If you’re not sure if a message is dodgy, go directly to the website your message is supposedly from rather than clicking the links.
  4. Avoid public WiFi. Yes, it’s tempting to log onto the free WiFi in the shopping centre or coffee shop, but these are not secure connections and leave you vulnerable. Your standard 3G or 4G data connection is far more secure.
  5. If you get what you think is a scam phone call, hang up, wait five minutes and call back the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card, or the number listed on the company’s official website. Scammers are able to make it seem like they’re calling from a legitimate number and are also able to hold the line. If you call back straight away you’ll still be connected to the scammers, but if you wait they will have to disconnect.

Reporting scams

If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, or even if you’ve just been targeted, it’s really important you report it.

  1. Tell your bank. If you know or suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam, your first call should be to your bank or building society. This way they can add extra checks to your account, so any suspicious transactions can be stopped.
  2. Report it to the FCA Scam Smart website and Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
  3. Check your credit report, to make sure the scammers aren’t applying for credit in your name. If needed, you can also put a Cifas flag on your file, so banks and lenders know you’ve been targeted.
  4. If you’ve been the victim of fraud, then you also need to be wary about follow up scams, where you get targeted again by people claiming they can help you recover the money.

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