According to Ofcom, around 9 in 10 adults have come across what they suspect to be a scam. A quarter of the people who took part in the survey personally lost money as a result. Newer and more sophisticated ways of scamming are becoming more common, preying on those without the knowledge to spot them. There are many types of scams, but we will try and simplify things to help you spot one quickly. There are over 14 types listed on Moneyhelper but we’re going to categorise them into Email, Telephone, Text and Post.
30% of all scams are email scams. There are many different types of email scams, but before we get into them, let us share the top three pieces of advice for browsing your emails to avoid falling victim to a scam:
- NEVER click on a link, or download an attachment from an email unless you’re 100% sure you know who sent it.
- NEVER call a number listed in an email unless you know the person who emailed you.
- ALWAYS check the email address on an email that you think looks legit (for example, British Gas, Royal Mail, HMRC) we’ll offer a clear example of why below.
What’s the difference between email spam and an email scam?
If you’re anything like us, your email inbox is probably full of spam. Spam are unwanted emails from companies and people selling a product or a service. Although there is a huge overlap between what spam emails contain scams, some spam emails are legit businesses who may be emailing you as you may have signed up for their newsletter by accident, been referred by a friend, etc. Although some spam emails mean no harm, they can be a nuisance, so it is best to mark them as “Spam” or “Junk” in your email app. Those emails will automatically head to your junk folder instead of clogging up your inbox.
I received an email that I think is legit. How do I check whether it’s a scam?
If you take one thing away from this blog post, we hope it’s this tip below. Some scam emails can look extremely genuine and are getting harder to spot. Take a look at the example below:
Above is an example of a postage scam. At the top where it says “Parcel Post”, some scam emails will even say “Royal Mail” or “DPD” or another legit courier name to make the scam seem more genuine. Some email apps such as Gmail and the Mail app for Apple phones do not show the full email at first glance, making the scam harder to spot.
Do you see in our example how next to the name “Parcel Post” the full email is shown (info-A13D8RW6VL@parcelforce.co.uk)? You need to check this when viewing an email you think maybe legit. In this particular example, even the suffix of the email looks correct as it ends in parcelforce.co.uk. However, if you take a moment to search Google for Parcelforce’s real suffix, you’ll see their website and emails show parcelforce.com rather than parcelforce.co.uk.
Tip for mobile: If your app does not show the full email address from the sender, you can tap or click the sender’s name to show the full contact information, including the email address. This is the biggest and easiest way to tell if an email is fraudulent.
The nature of the above email is to try and scam those who may be waiting for a parcel (which nowadays is going to be a lot of us). The way they work is that the email will tell you that your parcel cannot be delivered until you pay the remaining postage cost/import fees. The tracking link in blue at the top of the example is a clickable link that will usually take you to a fake clone of the courier’s website. The “Reschedule Delivery” button will also send you to a fake website. This is all designed to trick you into inputting your card details which can then be stolen. Never put your card details into an email or onto a website that you’re not sure is real.
What if I think the email is real?
Most banks, councils and governments will never email you. However, if you receive an email where you think you may legitimately owe money for example, never follow the email links/call numbers from the email. Instead, do your research and contact a safe number for your bank or company that you’re trying to reach, or even better, visit an in-person branch.
I’ve received an email with a receipt for something I didn’t buy, what do I do?
Another common email scam is to email a false receipt for a service (such as an internet/broadband package, TV, antivirus etc.) or a large purchase such as an iPad, mobile phone etc. Fake emails from companies such as Geek Squad, Amazon etc. are prevalent and designed to panic the individual into calling to cancel. At first glance, you might think “Oh no, I didn’t buy that £900 computer! I need to cancel it!” but the phone number will take you to a scam call centre where they’ll start to run their script on you. These sorts of scams can range anywhere from stealing card details to asking you to buy gift cards. It’s usually best to ignore these types of emails.
Telephone scams aren’t necessarily easier to spot than email scams, however, they’re usually easier to deal with. As a general rule, if someone calls you and you don’t know them, you shouldn’t continue the conversation. If you are expecting a call from an unknown number such as a GP, then you have to be a little more cautious about who you hang up on.
Tips to stay safe on the telephone
If you need to pick up the call and you don’t recognise the number, there are a couple of tips you can use to check for unusual or scam calls. Don’t say “Hello” right away. If there’s a large silence at the beginning of the call, it can indicate that the caller could be using software to call rather than a real telephone line. In some cases, these calls are even automated, and if you don’t speak at the beginning of the call, they’ll automatically hang themselves up and you don’t need to do anything further.
Checking who called
Sometimes an anonymous number may call you, and this can be difficult to determine whether or not it’s legit, as many real companies and GPs/Hospitals use a withheld number. However, if an unusual number calls you and you would like to hang up and check before committing to the call, you can use free services such as Whocalledme to look up the number. This website has many users who detail their experience with a number and it can be marked as safe or unsafe, including the nature of the call (sales, scam, energy, bank etc.).
Text scams are quickly on the rise and they include your mobile’s text service, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, and almost any other direct messaging service you can think of. These sorts of scams can range from “Romance scams” to “Family scams”. Although by this point we’re repeating ourselves a little bit, NEVER answer a message or click a link from someone you don’t know. That’s the first rule of thumb. One of the most common types of scams around at the moment is a family scam. An unknown number will text you and say something along the lines of: “Hi Mum, I’ve lost my phone and got this new number. Could you save it?”
It seems harmless at first, but these types of slow-burn scams are designed to reel you in with their legitimacy. They will purposefully avoid calling family members by name (because they don’t know you!) and they won’t say their name. They will converse with you, put kisses at the end of sentences, and otherwise seem normal. These are on the rise because they are working. A harmless couple of messages will turn into “Hey Mum, could you send me £20?” or “I was going to book a surprise holiday for us but my card has just been blocked, could you pay the £300 deposit and I’ll give it to you back when I next see you? x”
If you don’t have children then you’ll spot this type of scam right away, but you may double-take a message like this if you have children. It’s always best to ignore these types of messages and call your children on their old number (or visit in person) at your earliest opportunity to verify this.
Be aware that these are on the rise!
We mentioned previously about “Romance scams”. These are also very slow scams designed to gain your trust. They’re usually prevalent on social media, whereby they’ll compliment a profile picture, or ask to message, and as the title suggests, the romance starts. Many lonely or trusting people are sucked in by these types of scams as the person on the other end will compliment you and even tell you they love you. Then they’ll ask you for money, gifts or even flight tickets depending on their location.
A postal scam isn’t as common as the ones mentioned above, but they still exist and are designed to target those perhaps not as well-versed in computers or mobile phones. They can range anywhere from fake bills, to a “neighbour” needing help, to psychics. If you receive a bill from a company you don’t use, throw it away and don’t reply. If you receive a bill from a company you do use, then verify the validity of the letter by giving the company a call. However, NEVER use the details listed in the letter. Go directly to the company’s website, or using a phone book.
If you receive letters that look hand-written but you don’t know the sender, be very cautious about replying to these. They could be trying to rope you into a pyramid scheme (multi-level marketing) or give you a fake story to receive some money. If you receive letters like these, you can report them to Royal Mail.
General rules to stay safe:
- NEVER check the validity of an email/letter by using the details listed within. Always look up company details on their official website or in a phonebook.
- NEVER click links/buttons or download attachments in an email that you don’t know the sender.
- NEVER give out personal information on an incoming phone call, email or text message. This includes your Name; Address; Card Details; Place of work; Name of Bank or what companies you bill with.
- ALWAYS check the validity of an email/letter/text/phone call.
- ALWAYS check the email address of an unusual email by expanding the name of the sender. (Lots of scam emails will have a bunch of letters and numbers as their email address or have spelling errors such as riyalmail.co.uk instead of royalmail.co.uk)
Superglide Stairlifts are committed to keeping our customers safe both on and off our stairlifts. If you have any questions about our services you can give us a call on 01925 414771 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org