Scams and Fraud in the UK – Top 3 Tips to Avoid Them

On our Advice pages, IPS provides detailed advice on the steps to take to reduce the number of nuisance calls, texts, emails and post you receive to your landline, mobile and home address.

To complement those basic steps, we started sharing advice on the widespread curse of scams and fraud in our newsletters from November 2020. (Join IPS to receive regular newsletters)

Here we dig deeper and summarise some of the common patterns we have seen and what to do about them.


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Scams & Frauds

What do we mean by scams and fraud

IPS stands up for the protection of individuals. (It’s in the name if you take a look at the logo at the top of the page).  Scams which target individuals, use deception and dishonesty to extract something from the engagement. In the old days this was called a confidence trick and that “something ” was always money. Money is still the main driver, but these days there is indirect financial value to a criminal who acquires your personal data; they can profit from selling that data on to other criminals – which makes it harder to trace the crime, the criminal and where the money went.

You can be scammed on your doorstep or through your phone or computer. If it involves a computer connected to the internet then it becomes a Cyber Crime.

A respected report on this subject put the cost to the UK of all this fraud at £130bn in 2019. It’s definitely gone up since then and The Office for National Statistics say UK citizens are more likely to fall victim to fraud or cyber offences above any other crime.  The National Trading Standards Scams team report that £10bn is the direct cost to individual citizens.

This is what IPS members want to fight against. We want to protect ourselves. We want fraud attempts to fail. We want fraudsters to go to prison – or at least find their schemes aren’t as easy as they used to be. No-one can do that alone.  We need to work together to stand up to the criminals, and help the authorities clamp down on them.

Enemy

Know your enemy

To provide the best advice on how to avoid scams it makes sense to first understand what the fraudsters are trying to achieve.  If we dissect the concept of a “phishing” email scam it should become a lot clearer.

The term phishing was first used by computer hackers in the 90s when the internet was becoming mainstream. They corrupted the word “fishing” to claim it as their own. The idea is that they “lure” in unsuspecting victims with tempting “bait” that they use to “fish” for passwords – and other useful data they can turn into money – from a “sea” of internet users. You shouldn’t feel “special” that you’ve been personally targeted. Fraudsters know that most users won’t take the bait, but some will. This is the law of large numbers. If they send their scam to as many potential targets as possible, the minority who do respond can make the whole scheme pay for itself.

Take a look at the other articles on this IPS website to see all the different scams and frauds that follow this same deceptive pattern. Action Fraud have compiled a useful list too – A-Z of Fraud.

Top 3 IPS Tips

TIP 1 – You can avoid the bait and therefore the scam by ignoring it completely

In any scam your reaction or interaction gives the criminal something to work with. If you do nothing, they get nothing. Start with that as your main defence. This can mean not clicking on an email or opening it. It can mean deleting an email immediately. It can also mean not opening the door to an unexpected caller, sending suspicious post straight to the shredder and sending phone calls straight to voicemail or let them ring out.
Scammers try to get through to you on their terms and the time they prefer. If you ignore their attempts to reach you, they are more likely to give up and try someone else.

 

TIP 2 – Take a moment to think before you do anything

Not everything is a scam and we don’t want you to ignore all the wonderful things the internet or your telephone or your local community has to offer. When scammers do get through to you they typically try to get you to do something in a hurry before you have time to consult with a trusted friend or do any research yourself. They try to confuse you, get your heart pumping and get you to a “hot state” where you are more likely to make a rash decision you will later regret.
Make a promise to yourself right now that you have no need to rush into any decision.
If someone tells you that your phone line is about to get cut, or you need to pay a fine immediately or that you must confirm some payment details…STOP. Say you are busy doing something else and that you would like to take a few details to call them back. Don’t be the one in a hurry. End the conversation. When you are back in your real life you can think more clearly.
  • You can decide to do nothing.
  • You can do some research yourself (it’s amazing how many results you will find if you type “HMRC scam” or “Amazon Prime scam”).
  • You can phone a trusted friend or family member and allow them to be the one to say out loud “don’t fall for that old trick”.
  • Or you can log into the account you hold with BT or Amazon or PayPal (or whoever they claimed to be) and take a look to see if there has been any unusual activity – mostly it will be just like you left it last time.
  • You can even call that company yourself and get through to their customer service agents using the number you see on their website. Don’t use any of the details from the call, text or email you suspect of being a scam. They will likely set up fake numbers to take your call and continue the scam.

 

TIP 3 – If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t true. If it’s too bad to be true, it usually isn’t true.

Fraudsters use extreme behavioural triggers to push their targets towards that hot state.
Good news scams cover a range of wildly exciting possibilities. They want you to make a bad decision caused by excitement, including:
  • You’ve won a lottery somewhere. Send a payment to unlock further details. DO NOT
  • You’ve been left some money by a long lost relative. Send a payment to unlock further details, or details to unlock the payment. DO NOT
  • You’re about to get some inside information on a horse, a team, a company, an investment……This sounds wrong already. Send a payment to unlock further details. DO NOT
  • Someone you don’t know loves you/desires you. Send a payment to unlock further details. DO NOT
  • HMRC are about to send you a tax rebate. They have sent you a text message. Provide further details to unlock the payment. DO NOT
Do you see the pattern there? It’s horrible to use the word, but don’t be a sucker. Don’t fall for news that is just too unexpectedly good to be true. It isn’t true.
Bad news scams try to get you to make a bad decision caused by fear and anxiety, including:
  • Your details to an online account have been compromised. Confirm who you are and we will fix everything. DO NOT CONFIRM
  • Someone is using your PIN number and we want to stop them. Tell us your PIN number. DO NOT
  • Send a payment and we will deliver an important package to you.  DO NOT PAY
  • HMRC are going to prosecute you and you will go to prison unless you pay a fine immediately. DO NOT PAY
The list goes on.

IPS Summary

The three main tips above apply to all the scenarios we have mentioned – and all the ones we haven’t.
Fraudsters always go where the money is.  Fraudsters will always be around as long as there a people willing to fall for the fraud. We don’t want any IPS members failing for a fraud. We want you to share this article with your friends to make sure they don’t fall either.

Have your say

As an IPS member, you can leave us your thoughts, comments and experiences in the commments section below

8 Responses

  1. Pat Kinsella says:

    I am being plagued on my mobile with automated calls re cutting off my internet,and Amazon Prime ,plus having had an accident,if I block these they just try on a different number.what can I do.

  2. James McCarron says:

    I got one of the scams yesterday saying that the message was from the HMRC and if I didn’t press 1 there would be a warrant issued for my arrest, I don’t think my reply would have gone through but I just said good but I didn’t press 1 and the other I received a call from a woman who just continually spoke in Chinese so I just said that I didn’t have a clue what you’re talking about and hung up. And I also get loads of emails but I never open them and nobody should because there’s no one going to leave you millions of dollars.

  3. Pamelashaw says:

    Still getting unknown calls from this no01245330618 have received three today so have blocked them as idont answer calls from unknown numbers.

  4. Barbie79 says:

    Glad your site as upgraded many thanks, l receive about 4 calls a week from supposedly Amazon..if l dont know the num lgnore it thanks

  5. Doreen Ing says:

    Every thing was very helpful thank you

  6. pinklady says:

    how do I stop these
    tel. no.07672620440
    telling me I have bought an apple I phone 12 through Amazon 3 x this has happened in the last 6 weeks how do I stop it

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