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Scams aimed at consumers

If you are a consumer in Cheshire East and want to report a scam, go to Citizens Advice Consumer Service.

Telephone Bank scams

You receive a call from somebody who claims to be from an organisation you trust, such as your bank or the police. They inform you that there is a safety or security problem associated with your bank account or payment cards, and you need to take some kind of immediate preventative action, which normally involves confirming your confidential login details.

However, the person on the other end of the call is not your bank or card issuer, but a fraudster.

You may also be asked to give your cards to a courier sent by the ‘bank’ or ‘police’ to ensure that they have been stopped, or for evidence. This is known as ‘Courier Fraud’.

The Risks

  • You provide your account details and answers to security questions to fraudsters
  • Your bank account is emptied and/or cards used to their limit
  • You could become a victim of identity theft because you have revealed confidential financial and personal information

How to Avoid Telephone Banking Fraud

  • A bank or payment card company will never ask you to transfer money out of your account to another that you do not recognise, so hang up immediately. 
  • If you do think that the call may be authentic and you choose to call your bank or card issuer, call the number on your bank statement or other document from your bank – or on the back of your card, and NOT a number given to you by the caller or the one you were called from. Use a mobile phone to make the call or what five minutes for your landline to clear before making the call.
  • Never provide financial or personal details to a caller, but call back on a number you know to be authentic. Many scammers have the ability to spoof authentic numbers to fool you into thinking that they are genuine. 

Direct mail scams

Have you ever been told that you have won a prize draw or holiday or lottery but you do not remember entering a competition? Many people receive mail or telephone calls advising them they have won a prize when it is in fact a scam. We would advise you to throw the offer away but here are some more tips to avoid becoming victim of a scam:

  • If it is too good to be true it usually is
  • Have you been contacted out of the blue?
  • Never send any money in order to receive a prize
  • Check to see if you need to pay an administration fee, it might suggest that the holiday is “free” but you may have to pay taxes, transfers, administration costs which can all add up. There is usually availability restrictions and you might have to give very short notice.
  • Do not give your personal or bank details to anyone.
  • Do not ring the premium rate number. Often the cost of the call is more than the prize is worth.

Limit the volume of unsolicited mail you receive by registering with The Mail Preference Service.

MPS can help consumers in decreasing the amount of junk mail they receive at home.

HM Revenue and Customs (Inland Revenue) scams

There are a number of different scams that are aimed at residents which use the HMRC as cover. There is guidance on the .GOV.UK website on when and how the HMRC will make legitimate contact with you. It also provides guidance on spotting the various HMRC scams and what you can do to protect yourself and others from them.

Subscription Traps

Subscription traps take place when you sign up online or on the phone for free or low-cost trials of products, only to find that you have been unwittingly locked into costly repeat payments. Typically, these products are slimming pills, health foods, pharmaceuticals and anti-aging products but, increasingly, attractive consumer durable products such as the latest mobile phone are being featured.

The perpetrators of subscription traps exploit a ‘continuous payment authority’, normally by requesting your payment card details as proof of identity and age, then retaining those details to draw monthly payments from your account. Details of this ongoing commitment are generally buried in the terms & conditions and are missed by many people, eager instead to take advantage of the ‘fantastic offer’ being advertised.

The risks

  • Taking advantage of a free or low-cost offer, only to find that it ends up costing you hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
  • Not being able to cancel an agreement or stop payments being taken from your account.

Avoiding subscription traps

  • Read the small print (terms & conditions) carefully before entering into any agreement or making a purchase, however long this may take.
  • Make sure the terms & conditions box has not been pre-ticked.
  • If you make a purchase of this kind that gives you a limited timescale to cancel the agreement, make sure you do so before the due date if you want to cancel it.
  • Never provide bank details to companies without doing some prior research beforehand.
  • Keep a copy of any advertisement (print it or take a screenshot) that you reply to, and to keep a note of the webpage.
  • Remember that you will have more chance of cancelling agreements or obtaining a refund if the company is UK-based. Even those with UK addresses are often just fulfilment companies who are contracted to send out the goods. The companies themselves often have no physical presence in the UK.
  • Check your bank/payment card statements regularly for unexpected payments.

If you are the victim of a subscription trap

  •  Make every effort to contact the company concerned to cancel the agreement.
  • Contact your bank to cancel future payments.
  • Ascertain with your bank whether a new card is needed.
  • Request reimbursement from the supplier if the advertisement did not explain the charges, but be aware that without a copy, your claim may fail. If the website has changed in the meantime, try accessing your internet browser's cache or the internet archive.
  • Refer a complaint about the bank to the Financial Ombudsman Service If the bank refuses to stop the charges or reimburse charges that have been made, consider referring the issue to the Financial Ombudsman

Phishing / spam emails

Phishing is when you receive a spam email sent by someone who is pretending to be from your bank, building society or credit card company. The emails will ask you to verify your personal details, account number, pin number and passwords.  It will often say this is to prevent fraud or to update bank records. The emails look genuine and have all the correct logos. It is easy to be fooled into thinking that the email has come from your bank. A number of UK major banks have been affected by “phishing”.

If you respond to the email you may lose money from your bank account or you may be victim of identity theft!

To find out more about phishing and how to avoid it visit the banking industry advice website for safer online banking.