Types of scam
Be scam savvy and read the advice below about different types of scams and how to avoid them.
Sign up for scam alerts
If you have received a scam email:
- do not click on any links in the email
- do not reply to the email or contact the senders in any way
- if you have clicked on a link in the email, do not supply any information on the website that may open
- do not open any attachments that arrive with the email
- if you think you may have compromised the safety of your bank details and/or have lost money due to fraudulent misuse of your cards, you should immediately contact your bank.
Spot a fake email:
- the sender's email address doesn't tally with the trusted organisation's website address
- the email is sent from a completely different address or a free web mail address
- the email does not use your proper name, but uses a non-specific greeting like "dear customer"
- a sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed
- a prominent website link - these can be forged or seem very similar to the proper address, but even a single character's difference means a different website
- a request for personal information such as user name, password or bank details
- the email contains spelling and grammatical errors
- you weren't expecting to get an email from the company that appears to have sent it
- the entire text of the email is contained within an image rather than the usual text format
- the image contains an embedded hyperlink to a bogus site.
Unsubscribing from mailing lists
It is unlawful to send unsolicited direct marketing e-mails or text messages to you, unless you have previously told them it's ok to do so.
If there is an existing customer relationship between you and the company, they can send you unsolicited messages about similar products and services, as long as you are given the option to refuse it.
Usually, emails will have an option at the bottom of the email to enable you to unsubscribe from their mailing list.
Online scams can include phishing websites and other forms of online information theft.
How to avoid online scams
- install antivirus software and keep it updated
- turn on your firewalls
- look for the green padlock in your browser's URL bar. Genuine websites use SSL to encrypt data transmission and their web URL begins with https://
- change your passwords frequently and use a new password for each account
- when using public Wi-Fi, do not select from the list available, ask a member of staff the exact name of the connection
- government services including car tax, provisional driving license, passport renewal, European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and Blue Badge renewal can all be found on the official government website - ensure when searching for these services online that you go via this site (beginning with www.gov.uk).
- if you think your email or password has been compromised, clean your PC with antivirus and change your password immediately
- don't make your email address public on different websites.
Phishing websites look like legitimate sites that are designed to trick you into giving personal and financial information, pay for a service you could get cheaper or for free or buy counterfeit goods you thought were genuine.
Spot a phishing website:
- check the website's URL. Phishing websites usually have the URL slightly different from the genuine website
- look for spelling and punctuation errors. Often English is not the first language of the scammers and they might miss some errors when they proof read
- examine images and logos. Look carefully, as they might be distorted and have poor image quality.
- be wary of pop-ups. If you navigate to a website and a pop-up shows up asking you for username and password, shut the pop-up and leave the website.
Sign up for scam alerts
Over a third of scams are over the phone. These fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime, as it provides a mask of legitimacy.
Telephone scams are the second most common type of scam in the UK, but many more go unreported.
Our intelligence shows that people in Kent are being targeted by so-called computer companies who tell you that there is a fault or a virus on your computer. They offer to fix the problem over the phone for a small fee. Of course, there isn't a fault or virus and you have given away your bank details to a stranger. One consumer agreed to pay £19 for the 'trader' to fix the problem, but they took £319.
Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.
Common types of telephone scams
- Computer virus alert or computer fault
- Telephone services (landline)
- Microsoft support
- Prize draws
- Banking Services
- Local Government
How to avoid telephone scams
- Don't give out your telephone number unnecessarily.
- Tick that you don't want to be contacted with promotional material when signing contracts.
- Register with the Telephone Preference Service (which is free) on 08450 700707 to reduce calls. Marketing calls are legal, but not if you tell the business you don't want to receive them or you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service.
- Go ex-directory.
- Check the call blocking facilities available from your telephone provider.
- Consider buying a call blocker device, such as a trueCall blocker, which can block 98% of nuisance phone calls.
If you receive silent or abandoned calls, contact OFCOM on 0300 123 3333.
Sign up for scam alerts
Common types of mail scams
- Prize draw
- Investment and financial
- Debt collection
- Catalogues and brochures
People in Kent are receiving a wide range of prize draw scam letters stating they have won a large sum of money or an item, such as a laptop.
To enable them to claim the prize, they are told to act immediately and asked to buy an item or pay a 'fee' to release the prize.
These letters are often followed up by a telephone call urging the person to claim without delay.
All of these scams have the same objective – to get people to part with their money.
Twenty-two thousand people replied with cash to one scam mail shot in one day, sending the scammers a total of £500,000.
If you have received a scam letter
Do not respond to these letters.
Never send cash, disclose personal details or buy goods to claim a prize.
Watch out for secret 'get rich quick' schemes and inheritance notifications.
Always seek professional advice before signing up to any type of investment scheme including precious gems, carbon credits, solar panels, land, wine and property.
Think Jessica is a charity that raises awareness of this growing problem and supports victims and their families.
Get support for a scam victim
Friends Against Scams
Friends Against Scams is a National initiative that aims to protect people from becoming victims of scams and empowers communities to take a stand against scams.
Criminals can befriend people and create fake stories to convince them to send money to help them out. Sometimes these scams can go on for a very long time as the criminal draws the person into a relationship.
Kent Police have a lot of advice for what to do if you or someone you know may be affected by a relationship scammer, and how to report it.