We always think we’re immune from scams – but as they get more sophisticated and convincing, anyone can fall foul of them.
Recent news articles reveal horror stories like the pensioner conned out of £4,000 – thinking she was helping the police. Fraudsters are now so convincing and easy to believe, it’s hard to spot if you’re dealing with a legitimate company or if you’re a scam victim.
Here are the most sophisticated scams to surface (already!) in 2020 – and how to make sure you’re not conned.
- The courier scam
- The Amazon Prime scam
- Keep yourself safe from scams
- If you’ve been the victim of a scam
This is a convincing scam that’s easy to fall for.
Fraudsters will call pretending to be from your bank. They’ll advise you of a suspicious transaction on your account.
The sophisticated bit comes next: we all know that we shouldn’t give out our details to cold callers on the phone. So, they’ll tell you to hang up and call 999 to report to the police.
However, the fraudsters use technology to keep their end of the phone line open. So, when you call 999, you think you’re talking to a police operator. In fact, you’re still talking to the fraudsters.
They’ll advise you that they believe someone at the local bank is scamming people. They want you to help solve the investigation: you’ll be asked to take out a large sum of money from your bank account.
When you return home, someone posing as a police officer or detective will come to visit your address and collect the money “as part of the investigation”. In fact, they’re just stealing it from you!
How to avoid the courier scam
There are a few simple ways you can stop scammers like this in their tracks.
- If someone calls and tells you to hang up and call the police, don’t. Instead, hang up, and use an alternative phone line to call the police and report the call you’ve received.
- Never give out your address or personal details to unknown callers on the phone.
- Your bank will never ask you to confirm account details if they’ve called you.
- The police would not request your assistance over the phone like this. If you’re called by someone claiming to be from the police, ask for their police number and their office location. Hang up, and use a different phone to call that office and request that police member by their official number.
The key thing to remember is that the police would never ask you to take money out of your bank account. Similarly, any other organisation that requests you to withdraw cash and have it collected is also operating fraudulently.
Amazon Prime scams have been floating around for a while, but a new and more sophisticated one has recently surfaced.
People receive phone calls supposedly from Amazon to tell them their Prime subscription has renewed. Some people have reported this as a ‘robotic’ voice, while others have had human callers.
The call instructs the recipient to ‘Press 1’ if they didn’t request their account to be renewed, so that they can receive a refund of the charge. They then ask for sensitive account information to ‘process the refund’ when, in reality, they’re stealing this information for future fraudulent activity.
Instead of being asked for account information to process a refund, some people have reported that they were asked to log into their Amazon account (or provide details for the scammers to do so).
Once the fraudsters have your information, they can use your bank details and/or Amazon account to spend your money!
How to avoid the Amazon Prime scam
Much like the courier scam, the main thing to remember is that Amazon won’t ever call you to confirm your account details.
If you’ve received a suspicious phone call from ‘Amazon’:
- Don’t give out any personal information to the caller.
- Hang up straight away.
- Report the phone call to Action Fraud.
You might also receive emails asking you to share your personal details or to click on a link to your account. If you’re not expecting communication from Amazon, treat any email from them as suspicious.
You can forward any suspicious email to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you don’t click anything inside the email – links, buttons, or images! If the email is, in fact, legitimate, Amazon will be sure to let you know.
These are just two examples of how easy it is for fraudsters to trick even the savviest people into sharing their personal information. Once your financial information is shared, it’s easy for scammers to use it to steal lots of money from you.
In general, to keep yourself safe from scams:
- Install an antivirus and firewall on your computer and smartphone. This will let you know if you’re about to visit a malicious website and also helps prevent hackers from getting into your device to steal information.
- Never give your personal details to a cold caller. If they’re pushy or you’re in any doubt, hang up.
- If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, ask for a number to call back on and then hang up. If you can, Google the number to find if it’s real. Always use another phone to call this number back – not the phone they called you on.
- Shred your paperwork before you throw it away.
- Never give out your passwords to anyone.
- Use different passwords and PINs for each card, online account, or banking app.
- Report suspicious activity immediately to your bank and Action Fraud.
- Don’t click links on emails you don’t recognise or aren’t expecting to receive.
- Google the company name or the phone number to find out if other people have reported it as spam or if it’s a legitimate company.
- Never let cold callers enter your home or pressure you into buying something. If you’re interested in what they’re offering, contact other companies to get comparison quotes before acting on your decision. Someone who insists the deal only exists while they’re stood, uninvited, at your door is not to be trusted.
If it’s too late and you think you’ve been conned out of your money, take action. Many people feel ashamed they’ve fallen victim to a scam – but it happens all the time and is easily done.
First, file a report with Action Fraud. Next, if you know money has been stolen from you, make a police report.
You should also contact your banks and credit card providers to make sure they’re aware. Check your credit record each month, too – this’ll show any identity theft activity (someone opening credit accounts in your name, for example). If this happens, report it immediately and send a notice of corrections to the credit agency to make sure providers can see you’ve been a victim of identity theft.