Insights from the UK and beyond
The Office of Fair Trading believes scams cost UK consumers at least 3.5 billion pounds in 2008 and three million UK consumers a year fall victim to scams sent via post, email, text message and over the phone. Chances are you have been targeted at some point, be it via bogus lotteries, ‘free’ holidays, premium-rate calls and fraudulent individuals posing as bona fide salespersons.
So what can you do to avoid being caught out by scammers? How can you tell the difference between a scam and a genuine prize? You first line of defense should always be, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Beyond that, there are a number of useful tools that will help you spot a scam before your pride, and your pocket, takes a knock.
If you are contacted by phone, then you can check the origin of the call on the website whocallsme.com. The site is a user supplied database of numbers of telemarketers, non-profit organisations, charities, scam artists and other companies. Searching for a number will reveal user feedback on the caller. If it is a fraudster, then you certainly won’t have been the only one they have tried to contact.
To help you protect your computer and to stop spam mail and other attempts at online fraud, Get Safe Online is full of information about anti-virus software, firewalls, dealing with suspicious emails and safeguarding your personal details from identity theft. Take these precautions and you are far less likely to be contacted by scammers in the first place.
Financial website Unbiased.co.uk announced this week that as a nation we spent the first 83 days of the year working just to pay the interest on our debts. Personal loan levels increased to 11.4 billion pounds in 2008, up by over 1.6 billion pounds on the previous year and mortgage debt from equity release loans also increased by 6.5 billion pounds. Credit card debt, on the other hand, decreased by just over 4.9 billion pounds.
If you are struggling to pay off your debts, here are some useful online resources to help you out.
from The Great Debate UK:
-- David Kuo is a director at the financial Web site The Motley Fool. The views expressed are his own. --
What are consumers supposed to make of the latest inflation numbers? Do we have inflation, deflation or a bit of stagflation?
The energy regulator has said that it is considering a ban on unjustified price differences in the energy market to address concerns that customers are being charged differing amounts according to their payment methods.
Ofgem also said that it was planning measures that will improve customer service, including simplified information about tariffs to help people decide whether they need to switch supplier.