Phone scams, also known as vishing can catch you off guard and always come out of the blue. These scammers are highly convincing, authoritative and are masters at making their targets lose their guard. With the global pandemic there has been a rise in vishing with opportunists using lockdown to deceive vulnerable people. It’s easy to be fooled by cold calls, text messages or voicemail messages that masquerade as a legitimate organisation, with our help we’ll keep you one step ahead of bogus phone calls.
Common phone scams
- Bank scams are when someone posing as your bank calls about an issue with your card, account or an unauthorised attempt to access your bank details. These types of scams also can be sent as text messages with links leading to fake websites. These types of scams are also known as Safe Account Scams. Be warned your bank will never ask you to transfer money and phone numbers can be made to look genuine.
- Coronavirus scams, these can be phone calls and texts posing as GP surgeries, HMRC, the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO). These scams offer everything from Coronavirus cures, fake government Coronavirus fines to fake testing kits. View warning list.
- Computer repair scams, where you receive unsolicited calls supposedly from Microsoft’s technical support team, with offers to help fix your computer or other tech gadgets. This scam aims to install malicious software on your machine which will steal your personal details.
- Compensation scams, these include those pesky PPI calls and road traffic accident claims. If an official sounding person calls with details of your PPI refund or to ask about your road accident then be wary. These calls aim to access your personal details and are a scam. These can also appear as text messages with links leading you to fake websites.
- Debt collector scams, when you are contacted out of the blue over a ‘bogus’ debt you supposedly owe. These debts do not exist, and the scammer might issue threats of seizing your assets, poor credit ratings or court action, so convincingly you may start to doubt yourself. Do not give your personal or bank details to anyone demanding money over the phone.
- HMRC scams, these are reports of claiming you owe tax or another duty and that HMRC will be filing a lawsuit against you. These calls are automated and direct you to press a number in order to speak to a caseworker, leading you into making a payment. There are also scams offering a tax refund by phone call and SMS message.
- Telecommunication provider scams, well-known companies like British Telecom (BT) have been targeted, with scammers wanting to gain remote access to your device. This could involve claims of ‘running security checks’ to stating your IP address or router been compromised, requesting urgent payments to ensure your service isn’t disconnected.
- Police scams, reports of scammers posing at the police and saying they have caught someone using your credit card. They will ask for your details, including a PIN number to confirm your details in order to stop any further use of the card. Police never will ask for any personal financial details such as your pin or account number.
- NHS scams, where cold callers target the elderly to conduct a ‘survey on their care needs’. There have been reports of these calls also leading on to a face-to-face meeting and attempts to be sold NHS equipment at extortionate prices.
- Pension scams will try and con you out of your pension money. The scammer may promise you an amazing business opportunity such as a stake in a fancy overseas hotel project or ways to access your pension fund early. If it seems too good to be true, it is. Due to legislation passed in 2019 it’s now illegal to call anyone about a pension.
How can I protect myself?
- Don’t answer a call from an ‘unknown’ phone number. Many of us are proactive at this, however, scammers can be clever and disguise their number so it appears local to you. This practice is known as spoofing and is where the caller deliberately changes the caller ID information to hide their identity or to copy the phone number of a genuine organisation. These ‘spoof’ calls can also come from overseas so are highly sophisticated.
- Question, question and re-question. Do not be afraid to query a caller. A scammer may pretend to know a lot about you like your name and number, but this doesn’t mean you should share your personal details with them.
- Legitimate organisations like the HMRC, DVLA, Police or NHS will never ask for your bank details, or demand that you make a decision quickly over the phone. This is a red flag.
- Be wary of anyone call asking you to pay a debt or fee in shop gift card vouchers such as iTunes. Genuine organisations will not do this.
- Tell the caller you will phone them back. Conduct your own research to find the correct number. Be wary of calling back the same number or an automated messages, these types of scams can take you to a high cost number leaving you out of pocket. Take a note of any numbers to keep as evidence.
- Report the scam. If you’ve been caught out by a scam it’s crucial to make others aware and try and recoup your money. See below for details on how else you can report vishing scams to the appropriate body.
- Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). By registering with this service you can ‘opt-out of receiving marketing calls. Visit TPS here to find out more. You can also report nuisance calls to the regulator of communication services OFCOM or if you believe there has been a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
- Block the number on your mobile phone or if it’s a landline get in touch with your phone company to report the number. There is also blocking technology available for free or at a monthly fee that can display phone numbers and caller identification.
- Your bank will never ask you to transfer money by phone or email. If you are asked to do this, despite the sense of urgency conveyed, advise the caller you will take up the matter with your bank and hang up. Do not call back on a number they give you, regardless of what helpful reason they may give, such as ‘saving you time’ or ‘avoid waiting’. Scammers are sophisticated and will be overly helpful. Call your bank on the number given on a bank statement or publicly listed number. To ensure you are 100% disconnected from the scammer, try calling another number first or call your bank from a different phone.
- Remember, you are always in charge. Stay calm and do not be pressured into making a decision on the spot. If in doubt, tell the person you need to consider the call and get a second opinion from a friend or family member.