Have you ever fallen for any money scams? While we’ve all seen people pretending to be homeless and begging for money, and everyone is on the lookout for pickpockets in busy places, it seems that’s no longer enough. Scams are becoming bigger and more devious, and there’s a whole new range of scams crossing the Atlantic to dupe you out of your hard-earned cash. Here’s some of the most effective money scams, with victims losing an average of $10,000.
One of the oldest but most successful money scams is an elaborate telephone trick. You’ll get a call from your bank, advising that your bank account was flagged for fraudulent activity. The fraudsters may even ask about your recent transactions, giving the impression that they can see them on a screen. They’ll tell you that you need to replace your debit or credit card to keep your money safe – and here’s the really scheming bit. They’ll even encourage you to verify the call by phoning your bank on the normal number yourself. The trick? They’ll stay on the line while you dial up another call, making it look like you’ve connected to your bank. They’ll ask you for your PIN and make arrangements to collect your card, all before emptying your account. This scam is mainly targeted at older people, but anyone can be a victim, so keep these tips in mind. Your bank will never ask for your PIN, and will advise that you destroy any old cards before sending you new ones. They will not collect old cards – and don't forget to tell your loved ones that this is a common money scam, too!
Insurance can be expensive, whether it’s for your home or your car. If you’ve spent hours looking for an affordable rate, it can be really tempting to check out the ‘cheap insurance’ offers you see on leaflets or websites such as Gumtree – but keep your wits about you. These scams usually take your money, offering you a very cheap policy before sending you invalid insurance documents. On occasion, you’ll be given a genuine policy and even the information to call up and verify that you are insured, but the insurance will be cancelled and the broker will run off with the refund.
Pickpocketing has gotten more elaborate – and it’s happening more than ever. Picture the scene – you are using a cash machine. It seems totally normal, and is working fine. You enter your PIN, and a few minutes later, someone bumps into you accidentally. They may apologise profusely, or ask you for directions, or state that they know you from somewhere. Either way, you’ll be distracted enough that they can deftly take your card without you noticing. Just minutes later, your balance will be much lower – the fraudster will have watched you input your PIN. Some fraudsters have even fitted discrete cameras to ATMs, to record PINs. Cover the PIN pad whenever you use it – you never know who is looking!
Ever seen one of those virus pop-up boxes? You’ll be harmlessly using your computer when an update or help box appears, freezing your computer. It may tell you that your system is very vulnerable, or that you have hundreds of viruses. Whatever the message, there is just one way to unlock it – entering your card details. Don’t do it! Instead, call a computer technician or a friend who is good with computers, and they should be able to fix the problem by removing the virus. It’ll cost you much less, and keep your computer secure.
Do you use the ticket machines at places such as train stations or car parks? They are designed to make paying much easier – but they could be risky. Criminals have started fitting tiny gadgets to the machines, which skim and copy your card information when you use it. This virtual information can be used to make a ‘fake’ card, and empty your bank account. It's not just ticket machines that are problems, either. There have been plenty of cases in restaurants and shops, especially if the staff member disappears with your card. Always look out for signs of tampering on a machine, including sticky residue, missing lights or some parts looking newer than the rest of the device. Don’t let anyone take your card out of your sight, either.
The most common investment scams at the moment involve either purchasing carbon credits – a green scheme – or precious metals that are required for producing the latest mobile phones. These aren’t the only ones, though! Usually, you’ll be contacted by a salesman who’ll convince you that demand is high, and the price is good. You’ll be told that the value is soaring, so your investment will definitely be worthwhile, and promised riches. It’s far more convincing than you could imagine! Once you’ve handed over up to $20,000, you’ll find out that no such investment exists, or that it was utterly worthless, and you have no way of getting your money back. To avoid this type of money scam, hang up on cold callers and ignore spam emails or letters.
This is one of the oldest types of money scams, but it can be easy to forget about. It’s estimated that millions are lost each year to criminals who cleverly doctor cheques to receive more money. To thwart this, always write out the name of the person you are paying in full – initials can be very easy to change. Use black ink, which is harder to wash out than blue. Always draw a line through unused space on the cheque, so no extra names or money can be added, and monitor the cheque – if it hasn’t been received after a week, call your bank to cancel it.
Nobody wants to fall victim to a money scam, so keep your wits about you! It can be tough remembering to cover the PIN pad in every shop or make sure that any insurance salesmen are genuine, but it’s well worth the extra time. Have you ever fallen victim to a money scam? Did you sort it out? I’d love to hear your stories!
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