14 Top Tips for Avoiding Scams
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
- If you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it
- You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize
- If in doubt, don’t reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up
- Contacted out of the blue? – be suspicious.
- Don’t be rushed – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
- Never send money to someone you have never met.
- Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
- Your bank will never attend your home to collect cash, your pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud.
- Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password.
- Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.
- Suspect a phone scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank.
- Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
- Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams.
Common Scams to Watch Out For
There are a lot of scams circulating online so it’s important to know what to look out for. They could look like you’ve won a competition, an email from your bank or a text with COVID information.
- Coronavirus scams
- Social media scams
- Scam bank text messages
- HMRC scams texts
- Pension scams
- TV Licensing scam emails and texts
- PayPal scam emails
- Investment fraud
- Dating and romance scams
- Software scams
- Courier scams
There have been many coronavirus scams, including:
- Doorstep scams – asking for money or to take your temperature
- Online scams – websites pretending to sell hand sanitiser and masks
- Phone or text scams – pretending to be from HMRC or the World Health Organisation (WHO)
- Scam emails – hackers sending emails that look like they’re giving information about coronavirus
- Contact tracing text or call scams – the text has a link to a website that asks for your personal details. NHS Scotland’s contact tracers won’t ask you to provide details of bank accounts to set up a password or PIN over the phone. They will also not ask you to call a premium rate number, like one starting 09 or 087. A contact tracer from NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect will only call you from 0800 030 8012. They’ll give you the option to call back on that number if you want to make sure it’s not a scam. Check how contact tracing works in Scotland on NHS inform, including what information you will be asked to give.
If you’ve been contacted by a person you’ve never heard of, or a company you’ve never used, it’s likely to be a scam.
Social media scams
Scams on social media have become more common over the past few years. You might have already experienced it through someone tagging you in a comment to let you know you’ve won an iPhone or a message from a familiar account to say you’ve won a competition.
It’s important to think critically when it comes to social media scams. There can look really legit and appear to be from someone you know or an organisation you follow. Social media scams are made by a scammer to appear genuine and will use official brand logos, made up T&Cs and include a link to enter your details. If you’ve received a link from someone you know – can you message them elsewhere to check that it’s from them? Before you click a link to claim a prize, stop and think if you entered the competition, check the username for spelling mistakes and have a look at their profile.
Often clicking on these scam links sends your personal information to third parties and triggers the share feature to your connections. This means the link can also be shared with your contacts or followers. Friends and family are then more likely to fall for the scam as they are likely to see the message and link from someone they trust.
If you suspect someone is trying to scam you through social media, most platforms will have a function that allows you to report them as a scam. If the account is imitating someone you can also let the real person or organisation know so they can alert their followers to potential scams.
Scam bank text messages
Scam bank texts may ask you to call a number or visit a website to verify your details. Dodgy texts may also ask you for a pin or passcode, or tell you that you are due a refund. The message will try to alarm you and make you act quickly.
Find more information about how to spot a scam bank text on the Police Scotland website.
If you receive a scam bank text, avoid clicking on any links in the message and contact your bank as soon as possible. Most banks have a dedicated scam service that will be able to help.
HMRC scam texts and emails
HMRC scams can say something like ‘HMRC have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of 228.37 GDP’. The text may include a link that takes you to a fake website, which looks the same as the UK Government website.
You can report HMRC scam texts directly to HMRC using the details on the HMRC website.
Commonly used phrases in pension scams are;
- One-off investment opportunities
- Free pension reviews
- Legal loopholes
- Cash bonus
- Up-front cash sum
- Government endorsement
- Pension liberation
The first contact is often an unexpected phone call, text or email or even a doorstep caller. Or it could be via an imitation website. Scammers may offer early access to pension pots for people aged under 55. This is usually only possible in exceptional circumstances.
TV Licensing scam emails and texts
Scam TV Licensing emails use subject lines like ‘correct your licensing information’ or ‘your bank declined the latest direct debit’. They often try and convince you to hand over personal information such as bank details.
If you’re unsure about a TV licence email, check the list of common signs of a scam on the TV Licensing website.
Scam TV Licensing texts may ask for personal information such as bank details or your security code. Find out how to identify a scam text on the TV Licensing website.
PayPal scam emails
You may have received a scam email from PayPal about ‘suspicious activity on your account’. Other common scams tell you that your account has been suspended or that you are due a refund.
A quick way to identify a scam email is to check the sender’s email address. If it’s something like zxk1942R3@gmail.com, it’s a scam. You can find more ways to check for scams on the PayPal website.
If you have entered sensitive information or bank details, you should change your password and security question as soon as possible. You should also report it to PayPal and your bank.
Also called “boiler room” scams because of the high-pressure sales technique employed. Shares remain the most common product offered, but they might also ask for investment in other assets.
There has also been a rise in crypto-related investment scams in the UK. Some cryptocurrencies are not regulated in the UK. This means the buying, selling or transferring of them cannot be monitored.
Crypto scams often advertise on social media using images of celebrities. The ads then link to professional-looking websites where consumers are then persuaded to invest. This could be using cryptocurrencies or traditional currencies.
Scammers may trick people into buying non-existent crypto assets. They are also known to close consumers’ online accounts. They will then refuse to transfer the funds to them or ask for more money before the funds can be transferred.
You can report the firm or scam to the Financial Conduct Authority by contacting 0800 111 6768 or by using their reporting form.
Dating and romance scams
Dating scams often start with a sad or ‘hard luck’ story. Once they’ve gained your trust, or declared their love, they may ask for money or gifts.
It can be hard to spot a dating scam so it can be good to share your experience with someone you trust to get their opinion. There is more advice about avoiding dating scams on the Get Safe Online website.
Fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it looks more legitimate. Scams could include;
- Asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of operating systems
- Stealing personal information, and installing malware before charging to remove it.
This is where people receive unexpected phone calls from scammers posing as police or their bank. The calls warn of a fraudulent payment on their card or that their card is due to expire. The fraudster will then attend the person’s address or send an innocent courier company driver to collect the card. They will sometimes even provide them with a “replacement” fake card.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
Firstly, if you’ve been scammed remember it’s not your fault and you’re not alone, there is support available to help you. Being scammed doesn’t just have an affect on you financially, it can also affect your mental health and emotional wellbeing. If you’re worried about how you’re feeling and think you might need support head to Aye Feel for more information.
If you’ve been scammed, there are organisations you should report the scam to. Scammers are clever and scams can happen to anyone so don’t feel embarrassed about reporting a scam.
- Report it to Police Scotland on 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 to help stop it happening to others.
- Action Fraud can get the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to investigate scams. They’ll also give you a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you’ve been scammed.
- Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or check out Advice Guide online.
Visit our Aye Feel landing page to find information about how to look after your emotional wellbeing, support from organisations around Scotland and tips on how to promote a positive mindset.