It is probably the understatement of the century to say we live in uncertain times. Unfortunately, hyperbole is the order of the day and we are bombarded with “the worst since this…” and “the biggest since that…”. It is no wonder people are fearful, nervous and desperately seeking some form of reassurance, no matter how small.
And these are the conditions in which scammers thrive. They have never gone away, but the times we live in make scams more prevalent (recent reports are of a 400% increase) so be aware of them and know what to do.
Here is a list of some of the most common, but they evolve all the time so always have your wits about you: –
- Moving pension money – the con here is the suggestion that other forms of investment than mainstream funds are somehow better. These may be property related (ground rents or hotels, for example) or investment in forestry or exotic assets. Your money is either stolen immediately or put into unprotected areas (those not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme). If you are approached with this type of idea, decline immediately.
- Suspended accounts – you receive a text or email saying your Amazon/Netflix/Paypal/other account has been suspended due to suspicious activity and inviting you to click on a link to reset or verify your account. Delete it immediately. Do not click on any links in any suspicious texts or emails. If you do, you open your phone or computer to the scammers with the expected result of stolen ID and possibly stolen money.
- Emails or texts that suggest you are due a refund – the ones I have seen most recently are alleged tax refunds and partial Vehicle Excise Duty refunds. Again, the invitation is to click on a link. Don’t!
- Calls allegedly from your bank about suspicious account activity – terminate the call immediately then call your bank from a different phone. Do not use the phone you were called on as the scammers keep the line open and make you believe you are talking to your bank when you are talking to an accomplice of the original scammer.
- Any unexpected email that contains a link allegedly to a document – here a scammer has broken into someone else’s computer and is accessing their address book. You get sent an email from the account saying “Here is a document I need you to review” or similar. Do not click on the link and do delete the email both from your Inbox and your Deleted Items/Trash folder.
Whatever the approach being tried to steal your ID or money, always use your common sense. Ask yourself the following questions: –
- Do I know where the text/email originated?
- Am I due a refund for something?
- Do I have an Amazon/PayPal/Netflix account that has gone wrong?
- Was I expecting the text/email?
If the answer to those is anything other than a very positive yes, then ignore and/or delete without clicking on anything else. And even if it is a yes, think again and, if necessary, check with whoever sent you the text or email by alternative means before clicking on any links.
You wouldn’t go out (even just to the shop on an infrequent basis for the absolute essentials) and leave your front door wide open so don’t do the equivalent with texts or emails.
This information is provided strictly for general consideration only. No action must be taken or refrained from based on its contents alone. Accordingly, no responsibility can be assumed for any loss occasioned about the content hereof and any such action or inaction. Professional advice is necessary for every case.
Peter Murphy DipPFS