|For the latest news click on the articles below.
TOP 10 SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2014
[Back to Articles]
TOP 10 SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2014
From graphene investment to 'vishing', fraudsters are finding ever more creative ways of parting you from your money
If you are on the hunt for Rugby World Cup tickets or receive a suspicious email from Royal Mail – beware. They involve two of many common financial scams that have the simple aim of separating you from your money, regardless of the distress it may cause.
Many scams are old tricks – but updated with new twists or technology. Other cons have emerged in response to better detection and policing. Financial Fraud Action UK says fraudsters are targeting consumers directly through ''deception'' crimes – where they try to dupe people into parting with information – because the security features on payment cards have improved. But criminals are ingenious and creative, so read on – and beware.
Rugby World Cup 2015
The Metropolitan Police are warning fans to be aware of people selling fake Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets online.
Fans are being advised to purchase tickets and packages only from the official Rugby World Cup 2015 site, rather than secondary agents. If you don't buy your ticket through the official channel you could become a victim of fraud, and not get your money back.
"When buying tickets online, remember that paying by credit card offers better protection in terms of fraud, guarantees and non-delivery," said a Met spokesman.
You can buy genuine tickets at rugbyworldcup.com.
Vishing, also known as the ''courier'' scam or the ''no hang up'' scam, is a new type of fraud. A swindler calls a consumer pretending to be either their bank or the police, and says that the consumer's card has been compromised or there is a problem with their account. They then advise the victim to call the bank, but stay on the line and pretend to be a bank representative, persuading the victim to transfer funds, withdraw money or reveal security information. With the ''courier'' version, a fraudster picks up the card from your home, sometimes providing a fake replacement, or a genuine courier is hired.
The Financial Ombudsman says this is a growing problem. "Our guidance would be, never hand over your card details to anyone – your bank will never ask for them," said a spokesman. "If you are contacted by your bank informing you that you have been the victim of fraud, hang up the phone and call the bank yourself, from another line if at all possible."
Graphene is a man-made material similar to carbon that is being developed for use in products such as electrical circuits, batteries and display screens – but it is unlikely to be used commercially until 2020. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned that consumers are being targeted by "dubious" companies offering investment opportunities in the material.
"We believe that the same firms that have sold other high risk, dubious products such as carbon credits, rare earth metals and overseas land and crops, are now trying to sell graphene," the FCA said.
"There is a strong possibility of fraud with graphene because it is unregulated and it is difficult to confirm that you have bought the genuine product."
PBX phone fraud
Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) are telephone systems used by businesses to communicate internally and externally. When businesses are closed or have limited staff cover, they are particularly susceptible to fraudsters, who target the systems to make international or premium rate calls. They can also listen to company phone calls and steal or delete company data.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received reports totalling more than £6million of financial loss. It advises companies to monitor call traffic and restrict destinations that would not normally be dialled, as well as making sure that default settings are changed to secure pin numbers.
Slimming services and gyms
New year, new you? Take care – the Citizens Advice consumer service helped with more than double the number of problems with slimming services and a 25pc hike in complaints about health clubs and gyms from January to March 2013, compared to the previous nine months.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: "Bad businesses and scammers are preying on people's good intentions for 2014. If you're signing up to a gym or other new service, it's really important you thoroughly check the terms and conditions. Equally, you need to make sure you are dealing with reputable traders."
Bogus Royal Mail emails
Royal Mail has received thousands of complaints from victims of fake emails. Spammers have been sending out emails from a spoof address called "Royal Mail Group" about a lost or missing package to trick victims into downloading malware on to their computers. If you receive one of these emails you should delete it immediately and don't download the zipped attachment. Royal Mail says it will never include attachments unless the email was requested by the customer.
Pension liberation fraud
Here, victims are told they can release their pension funds before they reach 55 years old – but this is only possible in rare cases such as terminal illness. These schemes can result in tax charges and penalties of more than half a member's pension savings.
Andrew Warwick-Thompson, of the Pensions Regulator, said: "We continue to see perpetrators targeting individuals, some of whom are in severe financial difficulties such as bankrupts, via cold calling, text messaging and website offers.
"These scams will entice you with access to your pension early, but in reality you are likely to face substantial tax charges, leaving you with little or nothing for retirement."
Auction sites, such as eBay or Gumtree, are usually a safe and reliable way to buy items online. But sometimes criminals use them to offer counterfeit goods or items that do not exist. The City of London Police advise that shoppers always use official forms of payment rather than making direct payments to the seller. It is also worth checking the seller's warranties and returns policy before ordering.
Jobs and training courses
One scam that has emerged during the recession involves people being targeted with offers of fake jobs and training. Victims sign up for a training course that promises a job on its conclusion, only to find that the company is a bogus one.
Criminals also offer work as ''money transfer agents'' or similar, which involves receiving money into your bank account then transferring it to another account, keeping some back as payment. This is money laundering and can lead to a long prison sentence. Research from ICM from February 2013 shows that these offers are received by around 15pc of adults in the UK – with fraudsters specifically targeting people on low incomes, such as students, those on benefits and new entrants to the UK.
A Citizens Advice spokesman said: "A mobile number or PO Box number are easy to close and difficult to trace – either could be a sign that the company doesn't exist or is not legitimate. Check out the company's details with Companies House or look on the internet for more details about them."
This is an unsolicited email claiming to be from a bank or other official organisation, encouraging consumers to click on a link that takes them to a fake website which looks identical to the one they expect to see. The victim is asked to verify their personal security information – which then passes straight into the hands of a fraudster.
Financial Fraud Action UK says users should make sure their computer has a security program and a firewall installed. Remember your bank, building society or the police will never ask you to disclose your Pin number.
How to protect yourself from fraudsters
- Never give out contact details or financial information to strangers or to businesses that should already know your details
- Never send money to someone you don't know
- Walk away from job adverts that ask for money in advance
- Shred anything containing your personal or bank details – don't just bin it
- Check bank and credit card statements regularly and let your bank know immediately if there are any entries you don't recognise
- Often, you can't get lost money back, particularly if you have handed over cash. If you have paid by credit card you have more protection, and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback
- You can report a fake company to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06, or find online advice at adviceguide.org.uk
- You can also report scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
[Back to Articles]