Avoid this sneaky con
Don't be fooled by firms offering to `buy' your debt - it's the latest scam in town.
Today is clearly my lucky day.
Just this morning, I got an email from a lovely chap in Durban, South Africa. Turns out he is the general manager of a bank over there, which has a 'surplus fund' of more than £6m which he needs to take out of the bank, and will split it 50:50 with me if I help him! Result!
All I have to do is send him my bank details...
The growing problem of scams
If you are anything like me, you are probably on the receiving end of scam emails like this on a pretty regular basis. To be honest, I'm always amazed that people fall for them, but they do.
But there are other, far more serious and subtle scams that are preying on very vulnerable people that you need to look out for.
The latest problem is a 'debt sale' scam. A number of shady firms have been set up, promising to buy or sell on a customers' debts. Trouble is, it is illegal for debt to be sold without the lender's permission, so the customers are in actual fact still responsible for the repayment of the debt.
As a result, the customer is being doubly deceived. They are forking out money for this non-existent service, and will still owe the creditor.
As if that wasn't bad enough, a number of the firms offering these services do not even have suitable consumer credit licenses, so are all round bad eggs.
The situation has got sufficiently bad that the Office of Fair Trading has published a statement, openly warning consumers about this scam. Clearly these sharks are making some pretty persuasive arguments in favour of their phantom services, so be warned.
If you are in debt, then a far better option is to get some free advice. Try reading Get out of debt with free advice for some tips.
Unfortunately, it is not the only scheme currently robbing consumers blind. Make sure you don't fall for any of these cons either:
Do you ever get letters in the post, telling you that you have been 'pre-approved' for a low cost loan or credit card? Certain outfits (not the mainstream banks) offer this credit, but on the basis that you pay a 'processing fee' of several hundred pounds.
Surprise, surprise, it's nothing of the sort - proper lenders do not 'guarantee' credit in any form before you apply. Don't be fooled!
You have won a free holiday! All you have to do is attend a presentation to collect your prize!
And at that presentation, chances are you will be pressurised into signing up to the holiday, which is anything but free. In many cases, the presentation will go on so long that you will do anything just to get out of there, while you may have also been plied with free drink to get you in the mood.
This old favourite continues to catch people out.
Basically you get an email that appears to be from a firm you deal with, say your bank or credit card provider, asking you to confirm or update your account details by following a link.
Inevitably, it is just a means of getting hold of your details.
If you want to avoid having your identity stolen, I'd advise having a quick read of How to fight ID fraud.
Another classic, which promises quick and easy money.
These come in loads of different forms, but the basic premise is the same.
You pay to join, but only start to make money if you recruit others. As the pyramid gets bigger, more of you get to make money.
This scam is as old as the hills, but is still catching people out. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Avoid being caught out
The trouble with scam merchants is that they are always coming up with new ways to catch you out. However, there are some things you can do to protect yourself against them.
First up, always get the full contact details of the company you are dealing with, including a street address. If they can't (or won't) provide you with this then the warning siren in your head should be going off loud and clear.
You should always keep details of any conversations or correspondence you have with a firm, including names, dates and times.
This next tip is, in my opinion, the most important. Read ALL of the documents you are sent carefully, including the small print. If you have ANY doubts at all, get some independent, professional advice.
One thing you should never be shy about doing is asking questions. If you have queries, make sure they answer them to your satisfaction.
And finally, always, always take your time. You should never feel obligated to 'act now'. Make sure that you are content in your own mind to go through with something.
Scammers are everywhere, with new schemes designed to separate you and your case cropping up each week. The Office of Fair Trading and its consumer site Consumer Direct have a terrific Stamp Out Scams campaign, with a heap of relevant info on the websites which you should read.
And if you do come across anything that you think might be a scam, make sure you report it!