On Petrie Hosken’s LBC programme on Thursday we spent the entire hour talking about scams – and that wasn’t nearly enough to take all the calls that flooded in. There are so many scams around and they’re getting cleverer all the time. We all need to be a lot more on our guard.
In fact, if you’d like a run-down of just a few of the scams out there right now, Petrie recommended a site called Safefromscams which lists all kinds of frauds attacking us right now.
From the calls we got, sadly there were several about fraud against older people. One man mentioned someone who came to his Gran’s house posing as a policeman and telling her to get her valuables out and put them in a safe place – i.e. his hands. Not surprisingly she didn’t see them again.
That ties in with another scam that’s happening around London right now. Con artists have been calling up pensioners pretending to be police officers investigating a fraud on their bank accounts and then ask them to hand over their cards and PIN codes. They then turn up at the pensioners’ homes to collect the bank card, explaining they need to run the card through a machine at Scotland Yard. They also tell them not to speak to anyone else about it as it would jeopardise the investigation.
They’ve grabbed £200,000 from unsuspecting old people this way so far! Twelve people have been arrested in connection with this scam but there are still others they need to get hold of.
Then there’s the Sky satellite insurance scam. We heard about that a couple of weeks ago too. If you have a Sky satellite dish you should watch out for this one. People get a letter on official-looking headed notepaper saying that this company will insure your satellite dish and take money out of your account every month for it unless you tell them not to.
Even if you do tell them not to they still take the money out – and more! Somehow they have hacked into Sky’s computer system and picked up people’s home and bank details. A quick look on Google shows that there seems to be more than one Sky satellite scam out there (check this out from a council in Scotland and this discussion thread) so if you have a dish, really watch out if you are called or written to by a company purporting to be from Sky itself.
Then, finally, the scam that left me amazed at its creativity was one that someone rang in with about a speed camera fraud. He said he had had a letter in the post, apparently from a local council, saying that he had been caught speeding on a particular road. It had two photographs of his car and looked official. The letter said that he could either contest the charge or pay a £60 fine by phoning a freephone number.
He decided it was a fair cop – there were the photos so there wasn’t much he could do – and he phoned the number giving them his credit card details and assuming that was that. That is, until he got his bank statement and found they had taken out £1,500! He spoke to the bank and to the police and found that the whole thing was bogus.
The police said that people hide in bushes behind certain speed cameras, take photos of nice cars where the owners probably have money and then get their details from the car registration. I didn’t realise it but apparently there are websites around where you can find someone’s name and address just from their car number plate!
The problem with so many of these scams, and new ones that will undoubtedly come up, is that they are often really clever. I’m not saying that we should stop trusting anyone – not at all. However, with the internet making fraud and crime generally a lot easier and with the economy struggling right now there are going to be more and more clever ways that people find for parting us with our hard-earned cash. We need to be more vigilant!
Also, always report things to the police. Even if you feel stupid, still do it because the more we let them know about fraud and scams the more likely it is that they will catch the perpetrators. And, by the way, don’t for a moment feel silly that you’ve been taken in. This is what these people do for a living. They’re clever at what they do. They’re plausible and often creative. Any of us could be duped.