How to Avoid Phone Scams
There are a lot of different phone scams out there at the moment and although some of them are quite obviously a scam, there are clever ones which are less obvious. There are also some people who are more likely to be caught out by a scam than others. In any case, it is always worth being more aware of the fact that there are scammers out there and the sorts of things they may do to try to get money out of you. It is worth knowing about the common types of phone scams so that you can recognise them and make sure that you do not get caught out.
You Have Won!
A phone call, usually an automated message informing you that you have won a prize or free holiday is unlikely to be genuine. If you have not entered any such competition then why would you win? Many will ask for a fee before sending the prize, so this should alert you to it being a scam. There are similar calls for things like medical alert systems stating that the person can get one for free or perhaps that they can get cheap prescriptions. Never trust these and do the research yourself to see whether there are genuine schemes available.
Some people phone and pretend to be collecting for a charity which does not exist and take money for themselves. If you get any charity call then ask them for the charity details and then look them up before giving anything. In fact it is probably safer to only give to charities that you know and do it through means that you already trust.
You may even get a call from someone saying they are from a charity supporting scam victims and they try to sell you some anti scam technology or they want money to put you on the telephone preference service, which is actually free. Never spend money like this over the telephone. You can check if a charity is genuine at the Charity Commission and then contact them yourself if you want to.
People often get calls stating that they are due compensation because they have been in an accident. Some of these may be genuine, but if you have been in an accident and want compensation it is better for you to contact a company directly than wait for one to contact you. You may receive similar calls about PPI which is a type of Insurance that was commonly mis-sold in the UK; but again, you should contact someone yourself rather than trusting someone that calls you.
Loan and Bank Scams
Sometimes callers will phone and discuss loans with you.; perhaps offering you a loan or discussing student loans, etc. They may also call and say there is a problem with your bank account or card and want details. They may even suggest you let them collect your card so they can keep it safe or transfer money to other accounts. Never trust anyone claiming to be a bank and asking for bank details let alone wanting you to transfer money or give them your card. Banks do not do this, so if you get a call like this, hang up and telephone your bank, using the contact numbers you have or visit a branch to confirm things with them. It would be odd for lenders to cold call like this and they would never ask for money upfront or ask for personal information so never give it to them. This is the same as calls from people pretending to be debt collectors or tax collectors. These can be scary as you may be afraid you will get into trouble if you do not pay them but ask for all of their details such as name, number, company address, website etc and then check them out to make sure they are genuine and call them back if you think they are. Never give them personal information and ask them to contact you in writing instead, if they refuse or say they do not have your details to be able to do this then they are scammers.
These will try to get your personal details so that they can be used to steal money from you or cause damage. They may start by saying there is a problem with your computer they need to fix or else it will stop working or you may have to pay for an expensive repair. They may say that they are from a big company such as Microsoft etc. One way to check them out is to say that you do not have time for their call and can they give you a number to call them back. They are unlikely to provide a number but if they do, then look online to see whether it has been reported as a scam. Never give out any personal information or download software onto your computer unless you have telephoned the company yourself and are completely sure that you are talking to the right company.
These are very common in the UK at the moment with the caller pretending to be Microsoft, Windows or BT and explaining that if you do not let them give you some help with your computer it will stop working. They can then trick you in different ways, by putting malicious software on your computer and charging you to remove it so your computer is no longer usable unless you pay or putting software on there so that they can access your banking date or other sensitive information. They can therefore either get hold of your credit card details or gain remote control of your computer by getting you to visit websites that will allow them to do this and then they will be able to see the details you enter on it such as your bank details. One successful way to confirm that they are scammers is to ask them personal questions. Ask them what their name is where they live, where their office is. Ask them to speak to their manager and ask if there are any costs. Most of the time, they will hang up as they will assume that you are on to them. However, you may prefer to just hang up yourself and stop the risk of anything bad happening.