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.
Then there was “spear phishing” – more sophisticated, targeted attempts to defraud specific organisations or their customers.