Millions of people fall victim to scams every year with people from all walks of life targeted. Some scams are well known but new fraudulent schemes are devised regularly so it is important to be alert to the potential risks.
How can I spot a scam?
- The call, letter, e-mail or text has come out of the blue.
- You have won a prize but never entered a draw
- You are asked for money up front to release your ‘win’
- You are asked for your bank account, credit card details or other confidential information
- You are told you must reply straight away or you will lose the winnings or refund
- And above all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- Watch out for tell tale signs of scams: promise of huge rewards such as lottery winnings, urgent action required and requests for upfront payment or private information. Be skeptical of all unsolicited contact and remember if it sounds too good to be true, it generally is.
- Never, ever, reply to unsolicited emails (spam) and be careful when clicking links in emails to avoid potential threats such as phishing.
- If you have already sent money, do not send any more. If you have sent bank details, notify your bank and close your account.
- If you think you have been the victim of fraudulent activity, you should report the matter to your local Garda station immediately.
- Remember, most genuine companies will not cold-call you and request payment or sensitive information. If you are unsure you should hang up and verify the approach with the company directly using their published contact details.
- Never send any money or financial information in order to receive a prize or to accept an offer of employment
- When shopping online do not disclose personal information which is not necessary to complete a transaction. Certain personal details, combined with your credit card number could potentially lead to identity theft.
Expensive ‘free’ Trials
Advertisements for free trials of skincare and weight-loss products appear frequently online, with consumers invited to pay a nominal postage fee to obtain a free sample of the ‘wonder’ product. However, hidden in the small print is the catch – unless you contact the company to cancel within a set timeframe (usually 14 days), you will be billed every month for the full cost of the product which can be up to €200.
Unofficial websites offering public services
Watch out for third party websites online offering services such as European Health Insurance Cards, driving test bookings or passports, which will charge you additional ‘administration fees’. Theses websites often mimic official websites and in most cases you will have paid more for exactly the same service had you booked it on the official website.
Always use the official website of the organisation that you are applying to and be aware that prominent rankings in search engines are often paid for.
You can be contacted by telephone, email, letter or win a prize on a scratch card. You are told that you have won a ‘big prize’ and must call a premium rate number or pay an administration fee to collect your prize.
You will be asked to pay an administration fee or to send your personal account details in order to receive your big cash prize. You will be told to pay within a very short period of time in order to ensure you receive your prize. Once contact is established further payments will be sought. When all the amounts have been transferred you will never hear from the lottery organiser again. Your money will be lost.
‘Nigerian Letters ‘
The so-called “Nigerian letters” (also known as Code 419 scams, after the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud) can also originate in other countries. These are email scams from someone purporting to be the accountant of deposed royalty or a politician, or alternatively a bank employee who knows of a terminally ill wealthy person with no relatives or some such similar senarios. They offer you a share in a huge fortune in return for using your bank account to transfer the money out of the country. The scammer will use any bank details given to attempt to extract money from your bank account.
Free Holiday Promotions
Beware of ‘free’ holiday promotions that may be offered to you via scratch cards, cold calling or direct mailings. You will be told you have won a free holiday, be it a cruise or a holiday in the sun. You will have to pay some money upfront to secure your ‘free’ holiday, maybe for a second person to join you and maybe an administration fee. You will find that no holiday materialises. Some ‘free’ holidays will require you to go to another destination for departure and may require you to pay for accommodation etc.
Emails purporting to come from your bank or other institution, asking you to update, validate, or confirm personal financial details or passwords. The scammers will attempt to use these details to extract money from your bank accounts or take out credit agreements in your name.
Mobile phone text messages that direct you onto fraudulent websites or invite you to call a premium rate mobile number or download malicious content are also increasingly common.
Bear in mind that not all schemes aimed at parting you from your money are fraudulent and it is important to be alert to other ways you can be caught out unintentionally, particularly online.