Friends of mine have been hit by some mean yet popular frauds in the last few weeks so I’ve decided to remind everyone of some of the common ones STILL doing the rounds and stealing people’s hard-earned cash.
Take a look at these and make sure you’re not a victim of these or similar scams.
- The ATM card-reader
- The bogus rental property
- The dating fraud
- The tourist traps
- The bogus computer menders
This one has been going for a while and it’s alive and kicking all over the world. In fact, wherever there are ATMs, there could be this scam at any time. Beware.
A friend of mine from the States was caught out by this while visiting London recently. This is what she says:
“Someone hacked into my Santander account after I made a cash withdrawal at an ATM in central London last weekend. I made the withdrawal on the Santander ATM. And the day after there were postings from the Royal Bank of Scotland on my checking account: $340. Then $840. Then $1190. and $1190. and $1190. With related transaction fees totaling $200. All posted on July 30th. Probably done on the 29th. After talking to a number of different people, I have established a claim and money will be moved back into my account after I sign an affidavit.
“I will walk the affidavit to Santander when I get back and will have a very long talk with them. Back in 2010, when I first went to Paris for a month, I increased my cash withdrawals at ATMs from $300 to $400 or $500 to accommodate the euro and pound. Clearly, their system did not work. AND I AM FURIOUS.”
She will get her money back as this is clearly a fraudulent situation, but ultimately it’s all of us, the bank customers, who end up paying for these frauds.
If you want to know how it works, check out this video which shows how scammers put barely-visible contraptions into the slot where you put your card. These contraptions then read the details on your card and film you putting your pin number in so they have all the info they need to take money out of your account as soon as you have gone. You have no idea it has happened as you have your card back in your wallet.
What to do?
There are a few things you can do including:
- Only using ATMs within the banks themselves or getting cashback when in the supermarket, rather than using high street ATMs
- Checking the slot you put your card into whenever you use an ATM. Is there anything bulky there? Maybe check it with your fingers to see if anything around the slot could be removed.
- If you’re at all suspicious, don’t use it!
Another friend has been scammed by this mean fraud this week.
It’s a very popular one with experienced online fraudsters and involves ads for lovely-sounding rental properties in great areas that are very cheap.
The fraudsters tend to advertise on websites like Gumtree, Craigslist, RoomBuddies and other sites that are popular places for people to look for somewhere to live.
The usual drill is that you see this ad, think it looks great and then email the person (they don’t leave a phone number on the whole). They say that they’re abroad and that they just want someone really nice to look after the apartment. ‘They’re not in it for the money’, they often say. There might be a sob-story attached to it, too, which stops them coming over to the city to show you the apartment.
However, it sounds so good that you’re happy to put a deposit down.
This is where they drop the stinger – you will have to send it via Western Union or Moneygram or some other agency that deals in foreign cash transactions. The big problem with these agencies is that they deal in actual cash transactions – they help people to send money abroad without using banks. So the money is untraceable.
Once you have sent that cash over, that’s it. You won’t hear from these people again and you won’t even be able to trace them through their email addresses (usually a yahoo or hotmail address anyway). Just kiss goodbye to your money.
What to do?
- Use the old adage “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. Rental property in big cities, particularly London, is generally expensive so if you see an ad for somewhere in the centre of town with all mod-cons and it’s going for a song, be suspicious.
- Don’t hand over money for any rental property that you haven’t actually visited. Admittedly this isn’t always possible if you’re applying from abroad, but, if possible, get someone else to visit it before signing anything yourself.
- Any time you see Western Union or Moneygram demanded as a payment method, back away. These are perfectly legitimate means of transferring money and are used a lot by people who don’t have bank accounts or are sending money abroad to other people who don’t have bank accounts. However, as the money is untraceable it means that these companies are beloved of fraudsters. ALWAYS listen to the alarm bells that should be ringing very loud in your mind!
It’s a particularly mean one. Fraudsters trawl the online dating sites looking for a target. They often prey on women, generally older women who might be divorced or widowed and have some cash in the bank.
They develop a close, online relationship for a few months (they play the long game) and then suddenly come up with a terrible sob-story: “my son is dangerously ill and has to go to hospital but I don’t have the money to pay for his surgery” or “my mother has been evicted and we will have to sell our home to look after her” or similar.
The woman feels terrible and asks how she can help. There’s some to-ing and fro-ing while the fraudster pretends to be too proud to take money, but then accepts.
Some people have been defrauded of tens of thousands of pounds this way. So beware.
What to do?
- Beware what you tell strangers online. It’s far too easy to be anonymous and you never really know who you are ‘talking’ to until you meet them face-to-face.
- Even in real life, there are fraudsters who prey on singles looking for love. Don’t give too much of yourself or your money until you are really sure (ideally once you’ve got a ring on your finger!!)
- If they want you to transfer money via Western Union or Moneygram, be very suspicious. As above, these methods are not traceable so are beloved of fraudsters
- If you have been scammed like this, tell Actionfraud.police.uk. They are compiling a database of these criminals and it will help others if you give them the details – however embarrassing.
We have a whole article dedicated to the top ten holiday scams here so take a look if you’re about to go on holiday.
The prime scams to beware of (and really do beware of these, particularly if you are going to be in a busy city or theme park)
It could be flowers, leaflets, information, trinkets or more. Not only are the items they are offering usually of no value at all, but this is often a ruse to get close to you so that they can steal your purse, watch, phone and more. Keep your valuables in a body bag if possible and brush off these pests as soon as they get near!
Waiters taking your credit card away
Don’t let your credit card out of your sight. As soon as they have your card they can skim it and use the details to take money out later on. Even better is to use a prepaid credit card so that even if they get the details, they can’t take more than you have already loaded on the card.
Taxi drivers over-charging
This applies to rickshaws as well as cars. If possible, find out beforehand (from the hotel or locals) how much a journey should cost, roughly, and establish at the start of the drive how much they are going to charge. If they are evasive then get out and hail a more legitimate-looking vehicle.
I’ve had this one. Actually it was quite fun to argue with the person on the other end of the phone!
What happens here is that you are phoned up out of the blue by someone who says he is from Windows, or Microsoft, Apple or from Outlook – anything that sounds kosher – and that your computer has been compromised.
If you believe them then they tell you they will help you fix it.
Of course, they do nothing of the sort. What they will actually do is either ask you to give them remote access to your computer which they will use to grab your personal data off the machine. Or they get you to go to a website where you will download malware that will infect your computer and send your details to them. Or they might even ask for money in return for a lifetime of ‘protection’ from whatever they are pretending is in your PC or laptop.
What to do?
Essentially, the moment they call, you should just put the phone down. Or you could get into a fun argument with them as I did. It went something like this:
Them: Hello, I’m calling from Windows. Your computer has been compromised.
Me: Really? How do you know? Do you know my IP address?
Them: Yes of course.
Me: Really? So what is it?
Them: We don’t give that information over the phone.
Me: Nonsense, you’re just a criminal.
Them: (shouting) How dare you call me a criminal! I am not. I am from Windows and I’m telling you that your computer has been hacked.
Me: You’re a dirty criminal and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Them: How dare you (slams the phone down).
If you believed them and your computer has been infected, first change all your passwords, particularly your bank passwords, then take your machine to a reputable mender. It will probably need a new hard-drive so be prepared!
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- If they’re calling or emailing you out of the blue with an offer, you probably don’t want it
- If you think you’ve been scammed, go directly to the bank, the police or other authorities. Also report it at actionfraud.police.uk