How do you avoid being scammed?

You are at risk of being scammed. Recent figures on reported frauds and scams indicate that the trend for such activity is worryingly on the rise. Scams aren’t just something that happens to naive older people. They are an issue for individuals of all ages and businesses, both online and in person. In fact, younger people are more at risk from some types of fraud.

spotting a scammerNo one wants to hand over their hard-earned funds to someone else without receiving something in return. For scammed individuals, there is the blow of financial loss and the trauma of being deceived. Businesses also run the risk of reputational damage which can have long term consequences. Nearly half of businesses have experienced fraud in the last 24 months. So don’t become part of the stats; take action to protect yourself against being taken in by scams and frauds.

Phishing, Smishing and Vishing

Attempts to gather information via email (phishing), text message (smishing) and phone calls (vishing) are all too common. So as a basic rule be cautious about giving your personal details or authorising any financial activity, even if the request appears to come from a reputable source like the police or your boss!

There’s also the too-good-to-be-true test. If it sounds just a bit too amazing or coincidental then take a step back. Are you really going to get the high rate of return claimed that for investment? What are the chances of a stranger who contacted you out of the blue being legit?

Make sure that you have a familiarity with the different types of scam. Of course, scammers are always coming up with new ways to part you from your money and are increasingly are focusing on people with higher worth and businesses. This means that your awareness of scams and frauds needs to be ongoing. However, at a basic levels scams tend to use the same age-old techniques and rework them for modern times. This might mean trying to access your bank account online, sending a fake email or using a website to sell products that don’t exist.

How do you deal with counterfeit products?

Counterfeit and fakes goods aren’t an area that you immediately think of as a scam so there’s all the more reason to be alert to the dangers that await the unwary. Frauds in this area take two forms; non-existent products and counterfeit goods.

Products that just don’t exist

Selling fictitious products is one of the ways that scammers attempt to get their hands on your money and as you might expect there is no shortage of different approaches.


The goods are never delivered

You might be sold items that never arrive and the list of potential products is staggering. It could be a subscription from a door-to-door seller. But the items could just as easily have been ordered from a website.  The missing item could be anything from concert tickets to a holiday to an item ‘won’ on an online auction site. It could also be the chance to get in on a big investment with amazing returns if you get involved right now.

And it’s not just consumer products. Beware of making payments to guarantee a job offer, some kind of certification or for a loan.

Or businesses might be sold goods that don’t exist. This is particularly an issue around less tangible products such as advertising space or data protection registration.

How to avoid non-existent good scams

  • If you’re making a purchase do your research. Check reviews.
  • Be suspicious of ‘bargain’ prices.
  • Check how you can contact the company or individual. Have they only provided an email address or a mobile phone number?
  • Don’t just rely on the information you’ve been given. Search for the company. If it’s investment related check the FCA website
  • Even small businesses can put purchase procedures in place to ensure that purchases are authorised and legitimate.

How do you know if a product is legit?

At best fake goods are simply inferior in quality. At worst they are dangerous. They won’t have been subjected to the same tests and checks nor will they necessarily comply with health and safety regulations.

Clothing, shoes and perfume are common counterfeit items. They made up a good quantity of the 7.5 million in counterfeit items seized in a single raid in Manchester early 2020. But it could be any kind of product from cosmetics to computer equipment.

And for a company selling counterfeit products is likely to result in reputational damage. Customers will lose trust and you’ll be supporting organised crime.

How can you tell if a product is counterfeit?

  • Apply common sense. Why is it so cheap? Who is selling it? Do you really expect a high-end product to be sold at a car boot sale?
  • Speak to the seller first – they may not be aware that the item is fake
  • If you’re suspicious contact your local trading standards team
  • Businesses should ask for samples and follow up references prior to placing an order.

What can a scammer do with my bank account?

Bank account access is what scammers want. It gives them direct access to your money. Ideally, for them, you’ll hand over your access codes but if not they’ll try to find ways for you to make a transfer to them.

How do fraudsters get your bank details?

If you were asked for your password for online banking you probably wouldn’t share it. But you might if you thought the person asking was from your bank or the police. Scammers will adopt whatever persona will get them what they want.

How does malware work?

Malware is another way that details are scammed out of you. You click a link in an email or on social media which seems genuine. It could be a message from a friend, a software upgrade or an opportunity to view something innocent-sounding. Cloned websites often look absolutely genuine as do apps. Once you’ve taken the bait and clicked on the link then the malware is installed giving a scammer to your computer.

How were my card details stolen?

Card details can be stolen at cashpoints. Your card may be trapped or the details collected. This is combined with finding out your PIN by use of a camera or device attached to the keypad. Cards can also be skimmed. There’s little need for your payment card to leave your hand these days with the advent of chip and pin and wireless payment devices. So if your card is out of your sight be suspicious.

Change of payment details

When you’re about to send a large payment, say a deposit for a property purchase, you’ll receive an email explaining that the account number has changed. If you make the payment it’ll end up in the scammer’s bank account. Businesses may also receive an email saying that the account number for regular payments has changed.

Advance fee fraud

Also known as the 419 scam, this involves you making an upfront payment with the expectation of receiving a bigger payment from the scammer. The scenario is often about a need for assistance in moving money out of a country. However, variations do exist so you could be dealing with a prince, a widow, a clairvoyant or a potential love interest.

Overpayment scam

Someone paying you money isn’t usually a cause for concern. But it can be the opening to the overpayment fraud. Next, the customer will need an urgent refund. And you’ll comply only to discover that their original payment wasn’t legitimate.

How do I outsmart a scammer?

  • Be alert for anything that looks not quite right. This could be wording on a bank email that sounds slightly odd. Or a cash point with tape marks, scratches or a component in a different colour.
  • Only download apps from legitimate sources.
  • Always take a moment before sending payment and think about why you are sending it and where the bank accounts details came from.
  • Legitimate requests for access codes are highly unusual. If you are asked to provide such information, first independently find contact details for the organisation and contact them to confirm. Do not use contact numbers provided by the potential fraudster to do so.
  • Keep a careful eye on bank statements. This applies to both businesses and individuals.
  • Beware of payment methods that are out of the ordinary or change. This might include payment in gift cards or by cheque.

What do I do if I’ve been scammed?

Anyone can be taken in by a scam. Scammers are clever and focused on manipulating your behaviour. Yes, it is embarrassing but you can take action to prevent it from happening to others.

  • Work out how it happened and think about how to prevent it from happening again. If you’re a business review your procedures.
  • Check for malware.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Contact your bank.
  • Report it to the police.
  • If you’ve purchased counterfeit goods contact your local Trading Standards team.

Don’t let the scammers win. Fight fraud by spotting the scams rather than falling for them. Keep your personal details safe and if in doubt don’t click. And always follow the golden rule – if it sounds too good to be true then it almost certainly is.