Dacorum District Citizens Advice Bureau is calling on residents in the borough to expose scams and help stop more people from falling prey to clever cons that fleece them of thousands of pounds.
Scams Awareness Month launches on 1 July and will be highlighting how scams continue to flourish when people stay silent. Figures show that less than 5% of victims report scams to the authorities, and Dacorum CAB is encouraging residents to report suspicious activities, get advice if they think they’ve been conned, and to warn others to help stop scams from spreading.
Scams come in every form, from doorstep double glazing sales to online investment offers. People may be targeted with “vishing” calls where a fraudster impersonates their bank to collect their bank details, or by bogus companies offering computer services. Online scams include dodgy job adverts and offers for goods and services, while mail scams may ask victims to pay a fee in order to claim their winnings from a prize draw they haven’t entered.
The Scams Awareness Month campaign is asking people to keep two things in mind when they receive an unsolicited approach or when they are looking for goods or services: don’t be rushed and don’t be hushed. People should take their time to make a decision and get their facts together before parting with their money or personal information, and speak out when they think they’ve spotted a scam.
Dacorum District CAB boss Victoria MacGregor said:
“Scams thrive on silence. Fraudsters know that victims are often too ashamed to share what happened to them, meaning that scams can continue to spread unchecked. We’re urging people to lift the lid on scams and start talking about suspicious email, junk mail, online ads or door-to-door sellers operating in their area.
“Scams are run by professional con artists and it can be very hard to know what to look out for. Our advice is that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re contacted out of the blue be on your guard, and never give your bank details out unless you are certain you know who the person is, and that you can trust them. If you think you have been scammed, contact Citizens Advice for help and report it to Trading Standards.”
Top tips for avoiding scams
● If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
● It 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.
What to do if you have been scammed
● Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
● Often you can’t always get your money back if you’ve been scammed, especially if you’ve handed over cash.
● If you’ve paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
● Get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 (for advice in Welsh phone 03454 04 05 05) or online advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk
Scams to watch out for
● Pensions scams – Phrases such as “one-off investment opportunities”, “free pension reviews”, “legal loopholes”, “cash bonus”, “up-front cash sum”, “government endorsement”, “pension liberation,” are commonly used in pension scams. The initial approach is often an out-of-the-blue phone call, text or email or even sometimes a doorstep caller. Or it could be via an imitation website. Scammers may offer early access to pension pots for people aged under 55 even though this is only possible in exceptional circumstances.
● Online shopping and auction scams – internet shoppers get lured into buying phantom cars, mobile phones, pets or anything else you can buy online. Scammers use a range of tricks including bogus websites, spoofed payment services and “second chance offers” tempting losing bidders with bogus opportunities. Online property market places are also infiltrated by scammers harvesting legitimate property details and posing as landlords.
● Investment fraud – also called “boiler room” scams because of the high pressure sales technique employed. Shares remain the most common product offered, but they also ask for investment in carbon credits, land, and rare earth metals.
● Dating scams – using online dating websites scammers groom victims into long-distance relationships using emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. Once they are confident of the victim’s trust, scammers will tell them about a problem they are experiencing and ask for financial help.
● Software scams – fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it gives a mask of legitimacy to their cruel schemes. Methods include asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of operating systems, stealing personal information, and installing malware before charging to remove it.
● Courier scams (a form of vishing) – where people receive unsolicited telephone calls from scammers posing as police or their bank warning 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 and sometimes provide them with a “replacement” fake card.