5 nasty online scams to watch out for!

It’s an awful fact of life that there people out there who are looking to scam you out of your money. As technology continues to improve, scammers and fraudsters are getting more creative.

Sadly, this means that scams will continue to rise, and many people find themselves in debt after being taken advantage of by a scammer.

Let’s take a look at:

  • How to recognise a scam – so you can tell when you’re at risk
  • What can happen if you get scammed
  • What steps to take if you think you’ve been targeted.  
  • How to report a scam

How could a scammer take advantage of me?

Simply handing over personal information can be enough for a scammer. They can then use this to access your online accounts etc. However, other scammers will try to make a long-term connection and build trust over hours, days, even months.

Once a scammer earns your trust, it becomes a lot easier for them to take advantage of you. They’ll often try to pressure you into making a quick decision. This is a common tactic that can catch you off guard.

It’s also common for them to make grand promises of how great your life will be if you just go along with what they want you to do. Examples of this include pension or investment scams, where the scammer guarantees huge returns at a low risk.

Cold calling about pension schemes has been banned since January 2019, so be very cautious of anyone who tries to sell you a pension. Remember the MoneyAware motto: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

What are some common types of scams I should look out for?

Scams come in many forms, but examples of common scams include:

1. Cold calls that seem to be from your bank

What’s the risk?

Should a scammer get their mitts on your personal details, they can then gain access to your bank account, or any other online accounts you may have.

How do I stay safe?

Always remember, your bank will NEVER ask you to:

  • Give them your online banking password
  • Authorise a payment from your account
  • Move your money into a ‘safe’ account
  • Carry out a ‘test transaction’ on your account to ‘make sure that it’s working’

If you’re asked to do any of these things, there’s a very high chance you’re dealing with a ne’er-do-well who’s looking to swipe your money.

What should I do if a scammer phones me?

If someone calls you and behaves in a dodgy way, you can end the call immediately. You’re not being rude, you’re being cautious, and that’s a good thing!

Next, tell your bank what’s happened. Their fraud department can raise an enquiry for you and escalate to the Police if necessary.

Check your bank account as soon as possible for any signs of suspicious activity or withdrawals that you don’t recognise. If you see anything fishy, please make the fraud team aware.

Speaking of ‘fishy’…

2. Email “phishing” scams

Don’t let the pretty sea critters fool you. Email ‘phishing’ scams are bad news, and cost UK citizens millions of pounds a year.

‘Phishing’ is where a person receives an email message from what appears to be a trustworthy source, such as their bank. But really, it’s a wily a scammer who’s posing as their bank, and therefore getting the phishing victim ‘on the hook’.

As with the cold calls, giving away personal details puts you at risk of scammers gaining access to your bank account or other online accounts.

The email usually asks you to click on a link and log into your bank account. However, the link points to a fake – but highly convincing – website.

How do I stay safe?

Legitimate emails from your bank are often checked by different departments for errors, and then signed off. They wouldn’t send an email to customers if it contained mistakes. Rubbish spelling and grammar are usually a giveaway.

You can also check the sender’s email address to see if it’s the real deal. Click on the ‘from’ name at the top of the message to see who sent the email. If it’s a scammer, the ‘from’ email address will usually be filled in with random numbers, be misspelled, or not have the real company’s name.

Who do I report an email phishing scam to?

You can report phishing emails to Action Fraud. They’ll then pass your concerns to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to investigate. The NFIB are a sub-division of the Police, and specialise in tackling fraud in the UK.

You should only use this tool to report phishing campaigns if you haven’t exposed your personal details or had any money taken out of your account. If money has been taken from your account, get in touch with your bank to let the fraud team know as soon as possible.

3. ‘Push payment’ email scams

This is a relatively new scam where criminals hack into a personal or business email account. They then search all incoming and outgoing messages for any mentions of pending payments or money that’s owed to the person they’ve hacked.

Once the scammer finds a target who owes money to the person or business that’s been hacked, they email the target posing as that person or business. The email contains the hacker’s bank account details so that the unsuspecting target can make a payment.W

The person who receives the email usually doesn’t suspect anything, especially if they know they owe the money. The email is likely to look legitimate too, as it’s been sent from the correct email address.

Unless the payment is made by credit card or Direct Debit, the person’s money isn’t protected. This can make it very difficult to get the money back.

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What should I do if this happens to me?

If an individual or company emails you their bank details, it’s worth exercising caution and calling them for the details instead.

If you don’t have their phone number, visit their website and search for the phone number rather than calling one that’s been included in the email.

If it turns out that the person didn’t send this email, urge them to update all of their passwords. If it’s a business, they should check their security measures to make sure there aren’t any weaknesses that hackers can abuse. It’s also worth making Action Fraud aware of what’s happened so they can investigate.

4. Pretending to be a loved one on social media

Scammers can target a person on social media, learn who their family and friends are, and set up a fake account pretending to be the target’s loved one.

The scammer then uses the fake account to contact the target as their loved one. They’ll often talk about how they’re dealing with an emergency and desperately need the target to give them some money.

Getting a message like this from a loved one can be hugely distressing. The target can be so caught up in wanting to help their loved one that they might not take a second to check that the message is genuine. It’s this concern that the scammer is counting on when they send the target their bank details.

How do I stay safe?

Don’t make any kind of payment without checking this is really the person you think it is. One way to do this is to offer to call your loved one and make sure they’re okay. This’ll often make a would-be scammer panic. Impersonating your loved one through text is one thing, but it’s highly unlikely that they could imitate your loved one’s voice flawlessly.

If you have your loved one’s number, give them a call and check if they’re okay. If it’s obvious that you’ve been targeted by a scammer, let your loved one know. They can then take the necessary steps to get the fake account shut down.

You could also check your loved one’s social media profiles for any recent updates. This can help you work out if the supposed loved one’s story lines up with what you see on social media.

If you do check your loved one’s social media and it fits with the messages you’re getting, bear in mind that some scammers will tailor their scam based on what your loved one’s been talking about on social media (e.g. your loved one is currently on holiday abroad, so the scammer pretends to be stuck in the same place with no money).

What should I do if this happens to me?

It can be really difficult to get your money back in situations like this. By making a payment via bank transfer, you’ve essentially ‘agreed’ that this payment is authorised. Also, scammers usually abandon any fake account they use pretty quickly one they get what they want, and often use tactics such as ISP blocking to prevent being traced.

If you find yourself a victim of this kind of scam, please contact your bank’s fraud department for advice on what to do next.

5. Romance and dating scams

This is where scammers target people on social media and dating websites and pretend to pursue a relationship with them.

What’s the risk?

When scammers target someone on a dating site, they’ll often be very nosy and ask all kinds of seemingly random questions about them. It’s all in the guise of wanting to get to know the target better, which can be flattering at first glance. However, this can often be part of a larger effort to get personal information that can help the scammer get access to the target’s accounts.

Here’s an example: 

  1. The scammer asks the target seemingly innocent questions about their family
  2. The target reveals their mother’s name
  3. The scammer looks the target up on social media and searches for their mother in the friend’s list
  4. The scammer makes a note of the target’s mother’s name in case it comes up as a security question on the target’s online banking account.

Now, you may be thinking ‘why would you just hand over information like that to some stranger on the internet?‘. But here’s the rub. By the time the scammer is asking these questions, they’ve often won the target’s trust through charm and early declarations of romantic feelings. The target is likely too distracted by all of this positive attention that they don’t see the warning signs of this particularly cruel scam.


How do I keep myself safe? 

It’s natural to be a bit flirty in your language with someone you meet on a dating website, and many people find genuine love online. However, you should exercise caution if the person you’re talking to:

  • Tries to pressure you into giving or lending them money
  • Tries to guilt you into giving them money due to their situation
  • Promises that once their situation improves, they’ll pay you back straight away
  • Becomes rude, upset or aggressive with you when they don’t get what they want

Be very cautious if anyone online asks you to give them money. If they say they’re dealing with an emergency, let them know that emergency support to cover food costs or financial needs is available. If the person persists with requests for money or makes you feel uncomfortable, contact the support team of the website or social media platform for advice. They’ll have processes in place to protect members from scammers. You can also file a report to Action Fraud in confidence.

Posted by in Living with debt