By LESLEY GREGORY
If your name doesn’t show up on my phone’s screen when you call, I probably won’t answer. If I don’t recognise your email address, I certainly won’t click on any links or open any attachments you send me.
Paranoid? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact is that scams reported to consumer and finance authorities now run into billions of pounds a year worldwide.
These scams range from the faintly ridiculous Nigerian con (“Dearest friend, I am needing your help to distribute an inheritance”) to sophisticated investment scams, not to mention full-scale identity theft.
Think you’d never fall for a scam? Researchers say it’s dangerous to assume victims have specific traits and they’ve identified five psychological reasons why people — of any age, education or socio-economic background — can be caught out.
Let’s face it, scams are increasingly sophisticated in design and delivery. Scammers invest so much time and money in slick sales pitches, flashy websites, convincing emails and glossy brochures because the returns can be very high — for them.
So in the spirit of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, here are eight types of scam to look out for — if not for yourself, then for family and friends:
Banking scams – Scammers capture your personal account details in a myriad of ways — sometimes by pretending to be your bank. Guard your personal information and keep an eye on transactions via your bank’s app. Call the bank immediately if you spot anything unusual. A suspicious-looking transfer of even just a few pennies could be a scammer testing the link.
Unexpected money – This is the territory of those Nigerian scams, so-called because they started in that country many years ago. An email will offer access to an inheritance or some other money once you hand over your banking details, or a fee. The rule is never to send money or give banking details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know.
Surprise winnings – This is a ploy to get your personal information or to extract a fee to arrange a payment that will never arrive from a competition you never entered. A request for payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or an electronic currency like Bitcoin is a warning sign.
Online shopping scams – Scammers may pretend to sell a product just to get your credit card or bank account details. One scam gave people a second chance to buy an item because the winner had pulled out but asked them to pay outside the auction site’s secure payment facility — and outside the site’s ability to help.
Fake charities – These often spring up after a big natural disaster. Scammers impersonate genuine charities, siphoning public donations into their own accounts. The answer here is to donate independently, using a verified website or calling a number you’ve found yourself.
Job scams – These offer a ‘guaranteed’ way to make big money fast and with little effort. This may involve paying for a ‘starter’ kit, a business plan or materials like training and software. The only people who make money fast out of these schemes are the scammers themselves.
Romance scams – Scammers take advantage of people looking for friendship or romance, then play on people’s emotions to obtain money, gifts or personal details they can use for financial scams.
Investment scams – If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will offer all sorts of fake opportunities, often targeting current trends such as cryptocurrency. Do your due diligence. Run it past a professional. I’ll talk more about these sorts of scams in a separate column.
LESLEY GREGORY is a vastly experienced consumer and personal finance journalist. She writes regularly for TEBI on areas that aren’t directly related to investing. Here are two recent articles of hers that you may have missed: