I’d just finished writing this column about the latest scams doing the rounds when I was contacted about a new one – which just goes to show how quickly scammers speed in to action when an opportunity presents itself.
This scam targets people on WhatsApp with a Father’s Day offer of a cooler full of beer that you claim by clicking on a link. Lots of people I speak to tell me that they assume because WhatsApp is encrypted, scammers can’t target them. But it is possible to ‘spoof’ or use malware to make a number look like it’s from a friend or family member. When you click on the link, the fraudsters try to pinch your data.
Scams are big business – and the sheer number of fraudsters out there means it’s increasingly hard for the police to investigate them. But there are ways you can fight back.
The fabulous Stop Scams UK launched a new number last year that you can call if you suspect that a fraudster is trying to trick you by pretending to be your bank. If you are called by someone claiming to be from the bank, or asked to transfer money, hang up, dial 159 and you’ll be connected to your bank. The scheme covers almost all the banks in the UK and is simple and free to use. Over 100,000 people have already used it to beat the fraudsters.
Schemes like this matter because £470 million was stolen last year by fraudsters pretending to be from banks or other official organisations. So what else to you need to watch out for?
PayPal friends and family
I’m hearing from increasing numbers of people who have been tricked in to paying for goods or services by using PayPal’s ‘Friends and Family’ option. By using this service you can avoid paying a fee. However, Friends and Family payments are basically a money transfer and therefore are not covered by PayPal’s buyer / seller protection schemes. I’ve spoken to PayPal and they are clear – you should never use this method of payment unless you are sending money to an actual friend or family member.
Post and delivery texts
Back with a vengeance in the last few weeks is the fake postal delivery company message. The scam works because many of us have items on order that might be due to be delivered soon. The text or email says your parcel could not be delivered and invites you to follow a link. You’ll them be asked to either pay a minor post charge (giving away your bank details) or enter a few personal details (after which the information is used to crack any online accounts you have.
Unable to make a payment scams
The days of badly spelt emails from foreign princes wanting to let money ‘rest’ in your account are long gone. The latest email scams are ultra-convincing. Many purport to be from retailers, banks or other official organisations, notifying you that a payment has failed and to log in to the account to sort out the problem. These emails are so convincing I nearly feel for one from (fake) PayPal. These emails work because we are all often busy and distracted – and click on a link without thinking. If you do this, change all your passwords asap and notify your bank and card providers.
What if you get scammed?
A brand new scheme has just been launched through Citizens Advice to provide advice for people who have been tricked out of their cash or are concerned that they’ve been exposed to a scam. Like 159, it’s a free service, so share the link with everyone you know. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsaction/
If you have transferred money or given access to your accounts, then contact your bank as soon as possible, either through 159 or by calling the number on the back of your card (hang up on anyone who calls you direct). The sooner you seek help, the better your chances are of getting your cash back. The Financial Ombudsman will look at fraud claims that get turned down too – so don’t give up!
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.