Don’t let scammers catch you off guard

Take care before entering your credit card details online. Photograph: Getty/iStockphoto
Take care before entering your credit card details online. Photograph: Getty/iStockphoto
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June marks Scams Awareness Month, which aims to highlight con artists’ common tactics and help prevent people losing cash to them.

Fraudsters will sometimes jump on recent events to make their scams appear more authentic – such as a bank’s IT issues or tax deadlines. But even if a text, email or phone call you receive appears genuine, stop and think before taking any action. Here are some warning signs to watch out for.

Know who you’re dealing with

Fraudsters use high-profile issues with banks as a way of making their approaches appear more plausible. Action Fraud says it’s recently seen a jump in fraudsters sending out fake text messages and phishing emails claiming to be from TSB, exploiting the computer chaos at that bank.

How to protect yourself: A text may look genuine, but if you are curious about following up, contact the company directly via a known email or phone number, such as the one on the back of your bank card. A genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your full Pin or password.

Be wary if you are offered a ‘tax refund’

Criminals take advantage after the end of the tax year in April, by sending fraudulent emails and texts pretending to offer tax refunds. These include links which take victims to fake websites, where their personal and financial information can be stolen. According to Action Fraud, fraudsters also use spoofed calls and leave victims voicemails claiming they owe unpaid tax to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

How to protect yourself: Don’t give out private information, or reply to texts, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting. Phishing emails can be forwarded to HMRC at phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

Watch out of you are offered a ‘discount’ out of the blue

People are receiving cold calls from scammers purporting to be from TV service providers, claiming their subscription needs to be renewed or offering an “upgrade” on their equipment or package. Victims are asked for bank details for the discount to be processed and scammers may also ask for scanned copies of identification documents, such as passports.

How to protect yourself: Don’t assume a caller is genuine just because they know your basic details. Criminals can exploit the names of well-known companies to make their scams appear realistic. Always be wary if you’re pressured to make a purchase quickly.

Watch out for the scammer in the suit

Citizens Advice has seen a jump in professional and financial scams where people pretend to be from financial and legal services being reported to its consumer service. It has seen evidence suggesting investment scams, such as cryptocurrency and holiday timeshares, are on the rise. Fraudsters may also intercept emails from a legitimate solicitor and pose as them.

How to protect yourself: Pause for thought and remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check the Financial Conduct Authority’s warning list at fca.org.uk/scamsmart.

For more information, see citizensadvice.org.uk