Nine things you need to know about scams
Award-winning journalist Tony Levene reveals the nine things you need to know about scams - before it's too late!
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Welcome to my first ever Scam Magnet blog post! I'm Tony Levene and will be writing a scam fighting feature every week on lovemoney.com.
I won't hold back from naming the names and I promise never to pull punches.
But something about myself, and why scams interest me.
Back in the very early 1980s, I wrote about a Gibraltar company that advertised 25 per cent a year for 10 years “guaranteed tax-free gains” from shipping containers.
I could not believe this claim but many did, sending millions of pounds. These were not stupid people – there were professors, doctors, lawyers, even the odd vicar.
So I pointed out that this was mouldy pie in the sky. But far from seeing this as a warning, many readers only noticed the “25 per cent guaranteed” bit and ignored the rest. They called me to ask for the firm's address so they could invest!
That sent me on a mission. And since then, I've written on just about every dodgy deal and scam for a variety of newspapers including The Sunday Times, the Daily Express and for a long time The Guardian.
I've even written a book on the subject – it's called How to Avoid Scams (yes, I know that's not the catchiest title but it does what it says on the cover).
Now I'm the Scam Magnet attracting the scams so you can avoid them. I am bombarded daily with scams because I am on a “sucker list” (even though I'm no sucker!) of potential victims.
So what have I learned?
1) There is no such thing as a new scam – only the delivery changes. When I started, everything was by post, phone and crinkly fax (remember that?). Now the same stuff comes to your inbox.
2) Anyone can be a victim – scamsters have no respect for age (elderly people are generally more trusting) or social status. The only qualification to be a loser is to have money.
3) Scamsters are creepy. They come over as full of authority and concerned about your family and wealth. They will often “befriend” or “groom” you.
4) You can't be warned often enough. People complain I write about the obvious. Yes, but if no one ever fell for it, scamsters wouldn't bother, would they?
5) Don't expect the authorities to help. I've uncovered countless scams including many in the UK. But despite this, police, trading standards, and Financial Services Authority rarely act until it's too late, if at all. And even if the perpetrators are caught, the chances of a refund are remote.
Tips for holidaymakers
Finally, a few tips from aimed at holiday computer users. Scamsters hope that sun, sea, and a bottle of wine will lower your guard.
6) Stay in safe places - If you’re traveling to a foreign country, be careful about international domains, for example those for Russia (.ru) which are frequently used by cybercriminals.
7) Avoid file-share websites – Be careful uploading holiday pictures and videos on file sharing websites as they can leave you vulnerable to viruses and malware.
8) Don’t click and run - If you download a map or ticket, save it on your computer and scan it before opening. Never click on the “run” program option.
9) Never leave passwords – internet cafes and hotel computers are definitely not scam-proof. Stick to looking at the news or sports on these machines. Public wi-fi can also be dangerous but if you have to use it, change your password after each use.
Award-winning scams expert Tony Levene attracts the scams so they don't attract you!
Thanks to PC Tools for some of these tips.