5 Common Phone and Internet Scams

It’s no secret that there are a whole host of shady characters out there who would love to get their hands on your personal information, your money, or both. It’s not just muggers and thieves that you need to watch out for; these people and their scams come in many shapes and forms.

This article details five of the most common phone and internet scams and their tell-tale signs, so you know what to watch out for when navigating the online world, or when you pick up a call.

Online Scams to Be Wary Of

Here is our top pick of the most common internet scams to avoid. There are many out there, but these are some of the most frequently used by criminals.

“Congratulations, You’re Our Winner”

If you own an email account, then chances are you’ve received one of these emails before. The simple ones might simply say that you’ve won the lottery and need to call a premium rate number to claim your prize. Others might be more complex, often involving a tale that’s designed to pull on the heart strings, or explaining that a large sum of money needs to be transferred from one country to another via your bank account, for political purposes.

Of course, to do so, they’re going to need one minor piece of information from you; your bank account details. It goes without saying that the sender isn’t genuine and simply wants to give your bank account a spring cleaning. Never hand over your bank account information online, unless you’re paying for a product on a trusted, secured website.

What to Do

With this scam, simply ignore the email. Unless you’ve specifically entered the competition in question, remember doing so, and can recognise the company, just delete the email. If you’re still unsure and the company is a legitimate brand, search for their contact number through Google and call them directly.

“Your Account is at Risk”

Sometimes, you’ll get legitimate emails from websites with whom you have accounts, like PayPal, Amazon or eBay. These emails will never ask you for your personal details, and you should be very wary of any emails that talk about a need to change your password, or your general account security.

Criminals have become very adept at impersonating company emails, to the point they’re sometimes impossible to tell apart. As a general rule, never log into a website through a click that you have clicked from your email. Sure, some emails are legitimate, but if you’re not too tech savvy or want to err on the side of caution, this is a good rule to follow.

 What to Do

There are tell-tale signs that give away these scam emails, such as strange-looking email addresses from which they originate, though you do have to know what you’re looking for. Have a look at the email address; does it have a genuine affix that you’d expect to see from this company? Hover your cursor over the link in the email; does the address bar shown in the bottom-left of your browser window link to the real website, or a strange and unknown one?

If you’re still unsure, the best thing to do is to type the company’s website address into your web browser and log in directly. This way, you can check whether anything is amiss safely.

Telephone Scams to Avoid

As with online scams, there are also telephone-based scams out there that you should be wary of. Here is our pick of the top scams to avoid when it comes to picking up a phone call.

The Fake Bank Call

This is quite a clever trick, but an easy one to avoid. It starts with a stranger calling you, pretending to be from your bank. They’ll tell you that your account is at risk and ask you to disclose your banking information, so that they can ‘solve the problem for you’, or something along those lines.

Should you be smart enough to say no, they may well continue and tell you to call your bank back, if you don’t trust them. Only, when you put the receiver down, they won’t. This keeps the call connected, so that when you re-dial your real bank’s number, nothing happens; you’re still connected to the criminal’s call, not to your bank.

What to Do

If your bank calls you to discuss your account, it’s generally good practice to hang up and call them back; this will always ensure you get through to a legitimate person. When you do so, ensure that you hear a dial tone before dialling, or even better, call the bank on a different phone entirely, as some criminals even imitate the dial tone using a fake recording.

The Fake Charity Call

Rather than trying to steal your banking information, this scam relies on your good human nature, creating a fictional charity with an emotional, yet fake background. They’ll simply ask you to make a contribution, though the money will go directly to the criminals, not to any charitable causes.

What to Do

This one is fairly simple. If you’re a charitable sort of person, then you probably already have preferred charities and methods of donating. Stick to your tried and tested methods and don’t hand money over to an unknown caller.

The Fake Debt Collector Call

This scam involves another fictitious company, though criminals may also pretend to represent a well-known company to increase the believability of the story. You’ll be told that you owe a debt that doesn’t exist; the criminals will use this story to try and coerce you into making payments towards the ‘debt’, threatening you with credit file marks or bailiffs if you refuse.

What to Do

Get familiar with your finances and any outstanding debts that you have. This way, if you do receive a call regarding an account, you’ll know whether it’s a genuine account or not.

Playing it Safe

The above examples are just a snapshot of the many methods that criminals are now using to try and steal your money and your personal information, and scams like these are evolving every day. Check out our advice on how to avoid "The Microsoft Scam" 

If you’d like to discuss something on the list, or something else not listed that you think might be a scam, give WiseGuys a call on 0808 123 2820 and we’ll be happy to advise you.