Spot scams! Stop scams
May is national Scams Awareness Month 2014 and Warwickshire's Consumer Empowerment Partnership is using the month to highlight current scam activity across the County and help consumers and businesses tackle them.
Consumers will be invited to freepost or email in the scams they receive, sign up to regular local scam alerts, visit one of a number of scam events being held at shopping centres and receive information and advice to both spot scams and stop them!
David Gooding, Chair of the Warwickshire Consumer Empowerment Partnership said:
“Whether it comes through the post, down the phone line, over the Internet or appears on the doorstep, there is a scam, hoax, fraud, swindle or cheat for every day of the year.”
“We will be using this month to highlight the many and varied ways criminal gangs target both consumers and businesses, offering them practical advice on how they can spot scams and stop them!”
Janet Faulkner, Head of Warwickshire Trading Standards added:
“Each week the partnership will concentrate on a different type of scam, beginning with online scams, mail scams, telephone scams and finally doorstep scams.”
“Our goal is to raise awareness of these many scams, how to spot them and how to protect vulnerable people from falling victim to them.”
Online scams are the first weekly theme in national Scams Awareness Month 2014. Fraudsters use the Internet in many ways to gain access to consumers and businesses. They attempt to defraud them by stealing bank or credit card details or personal information that can be used for identity theft.
The most common online scam is called Phishing. This involves criminal gangs sending out emails that appear to come from your bank, online trader or email provider. The email may include the genuine company’s logos and address information and will usually claim there is a problem with your account. The recipient is then directed, via a link in the email, to a bogus website from which any information that is inputted, including passwords and card numbers can be stolen. Some bogus websites may also contain computer viruses.
Bogus emails can also feature hoax charity appeals and fake messages from Government organisations, claiming you are entitled to a tax refund or rebate.
Many consumers are now accessing online businesses via social media website such as Facebook. However, some businesses may not be all they seem. Many consumers have reported paying postage and packing for ‘free trials’ of goods such as face creams, only to find they have unwittingly signed up to expensive subscriptions!
Fraudsters also use other means to scam consumers online, such as dating websites, job sites or loan websites.
- Consumers register and with an internet-based dating agency or join an online dating chat room and are then targeted by fraudsters who attempt to build up relationships with them before asking them for money to pay for bogus visa or fake medical costs.
- Job seekers placing their CVs on online employment websites are offered ‘jobs’ transferring money in and out of their own bank accounts. In reality, they are being used to launder dirty money, a criminal offence!
- People desperate for loans, particularly those that have been refused, are approached online and offered a loan. They make the first loan repayment or administration fee, but the loan never materialises.
Consumers needing to obtain or renew Government documents such as passports, driving licences or EU health cards are not immune either. There are many websites that have set themselves up to look like genuine Government sites. They take money but only offer a ‘checking’ service, often leaving the consumer to pay double for the document they require. Some checking websites even charge to handle applications for documents that are free to obtain!
And businesses are not unaffected either. Many receive bogus emails from official looking organisations to tell them they are required to register their business for tax, VAT or other purposes. When they register, they unwittingly sign up to expensive and useless online advertising.
What you can do
Follow these simple tips to avoid online scams
1. Never open or follow links in an unusual email.
2. When shopping, banking or visiting a Government department online, always put the genuine website address in to your web browser.
3. Don’t input any information in to unsecure websites. Look for https in the web browser and the padlock sign.
4. Use online security and anti-virus software and keep it up to date on computers, tablets and mobiles.
5. If something sounds too good to be true it probably is!
Send or email your scams to us: Scams 2014 FREEPOST CV1898 Warwickshire County Council, Trading Standards Service, Old Budbrooke Road Warwick CV35 7BR or email email@example.com We will use this intelligence to help warn residents.