If you’ve just arrived in the UK, take 10 minutes to familiarise yourself with the scams doing the rounds at the moment. These are often targeted at second-language English speakers, many of whom are unaware of the tips and tricks to avoid being scammed.
Phishing is the use of an email scam to secure your bank account details. The fraudster will send an unsolicited email to you claiming to be from a bank, HMRC or any other official organisation, encouraging you to click on a link. The email might even suggest that you are due a tax refund, that your online banking login details have been compromised, or that your email account has been hacked. Clicking on the link often takes you to a fake website, which looks very much like the real deal. You are then encouraged to enter your personal information, giving the fraudster access to your contact details and, in a worst case scenario, your bank account.
2. Courier scam (“vishing”)
Vishing, also known as the “courier scam”, is a fairly new type of scam doing the rounds. You may receive a telephone call from someone pretending to be from the police or from your bank. They tell you that your credit card has been cloned and that you need to cancel it immediately and order a new one. They might even ask you to call your bank to confirm, but they will be linked in to the telephone number – so you are actually still speaking to the fraudsters. Some even go so far as to send a courier “from the bank” to collect your old card and issue you with a new one. They then ask for your PIN as a means of identification, giving them direct access to your money. The replacement card you receive is of course a fake.
3. Tech support scam
Scammers are also attempting to con unsuspecting victims into paying support fees for bogus antivirus downloads that are set up to fail on installation. You might receive a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, offering to talk you through an issue they picked up on their side. They make you open a program and show you the “error message”, scaring many people into paying money for the supposed antivirus that will fix the problem. The scammer then uses LogMeIn or another remote support company to gain remote access to your system, claiming to have sorted out the problem when in reality there was nothing wrong with your computer in the first place.
4. Royal Mail emails
Con artists are also sending out emails that appear to be from Royal Mail Group. The email will try to trick you into believing that a package sent to you from overseas was lost but has been finally traced. It instructs you to click on a link to proceed with tracking down your delivery – but when you click the link it immediately downloads malware to your computer. Royal Mail has received thousands of complaints from victims of this scam and has stated explicitly that they will never include an attachment in an email, unless such an attachment (for instance a price list) was specifically requested. If you receive a suspicious email from Royal Mail, report it to Action Fraud and delete it immediately.
5. Pension liberation fraud
This scam involves phone calls, text messages and bogus websites by companies claiming to be able to release pension funds for clients before they reach the age of 55. The scam is designed to lure in those with financial difficulties and tries to entice the victim into withdrawing their pension early. Being caught by this scam could leave you facing substantial tax charges and ultimately – without a pension. These schemes can result in tax charges and penalties of more than half a member’s pension savings. If you find yourself in this position, contact the Pensions Regulator immediately.
6. Fake jobs
Many people – particularly migrant workers, job-seekers and people on benefits – find themselves in hot water after being conned into thinking they have a job. Clever wording on websites, emails and in phone conversations convince the victims that they have been employed in an administrative position or as a “money transfer agent”. They are then tasked with receiving and transferring money, earning commissions on the transfers. Unbeknownst to them, they are actually involved in money laundering, a criminal activity which can lead to up to 10 years in prison.
7. Training courses
Job-seekers and new arrivals in the UK are sometimes tricked into believing that they are signing up for training courses which ultimately lead to a job. Victims fill out an application form, sign up for the course and pay the course fees, only to discover later that no such course exists and they have been duped. Take a look at the recent scam warning over online training for offshore jobs.
John Dunn, Manager of 1st Contact Tax Refunds, offers the following tips to avoid being scammed:
- Be careful of unsolicited emails, text messages and phone calls that encourage you to do something – even if they appear to be from your bank or another official organisation.
- Don’t trust people who ask you to immediately call them back.
- Never click on links in a suspicious-looking email.
- Don’t trust a website that has a weird-looking address – e.g. www.123.hmrc.gove.uk.
- Never give anyone your banking PIN, even if they claim to be from the police, the bank or HMRC. By the same token, never hand over your bank card, even if the person claims to be from the police or bank.
- Make sure you have security and anti-virus software installed on your computer.
- Only shop on secure websites. Before you enter your card details on an online shopping portal, make sure there’s a padlock or unbroken key symbol in the browser.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam, report it to Action Fraud or call the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on +44 (0) 8454 04 05 06.