Common phone scams and how to protect yourself

Updated on 12 April 2017

We take a closer look at the most common phone scams and how to keep safe.

Investment scams

Many of us will at some time receive a phone call out of the blue from someone promising a great way to make money.

The investment opportunities could be to do with wine, carbon credits or land in Brazil and the caller will try and convince you there’s minimal risk of losing money.

Often the returns will be unbelievable, far more impressive than anything you can get from your bank or even by sticking your money into a few FTSE 100 shares.

But of course, it will all be rubbish. The callers are scammers, trying to get you to sign over your cash into an investment where the only winner will be the scammers.

You’ll either be investing in something that doesn’t exist, or which has a value of a fraction of what you’re paying for it.

Check your credit score for free

Pension scams

One of the most common cold call topics are pensions.

Thanks to the new pension freedoms, over-55s have far more control over what to do with their pension pots. And that presents an opportunity for scammers.

The Information Commissioner’s Office reported receiving more than 1,000 complaints about pension-related cold calls and texts in the month following the new rules.

While the City of London Police estimate that at least £13.3 million was stolen from pension savings in 2015.

If someone calls you out of the blue offering to help you access your pension, particularly if you're not yet 55, it's going to be a scam.

Other scammers will target people over 55 with investment scams like the ones mentioned above in a bid to convince them to invest their pension money in a scam.

Read: Pension scams – how to stay safe.

Computer help scams

However, not all telephone scams will be about investing or making money. Some will simply try to gain access to your computer to steal your details.

For example, some scammers will call and tell you that you have got a virus on your computer, and that only they can help you remove it.

They’ll pretend to be from Microsoft or some other big name, and talk you into downloading some form of software that allows the caller to access your computer, so that they can ‘remove the virus’.

In other cases, they may request remote access to your computer to help fix an issue and steal personal information stored on there.

For more read: This computer ‘virus’ scam will cost you big and Printer helpline scam – how to stay safe.

Bank account security breach scams

Scammers may also impersonate your bank and try to convince you there’s been a security breach on your account and that needs to be fixed.

Of course, to do that they'll need your account details, including your PIN. But give the details out and your account will be drained.

Or there’s the courier scam. You’ll receive a call, supposedly from the police or your bank, stating that it has seen a fraudulent payment on your card and it needs to be replaced.

A courier will be sent to collect your card and arrange for a new one. By now they have your card, your name and your home address.

Neither a bank nor the police will ever send a courier to your home or ask for your PIN or login details.

Increasingly scammers are using sophisticated techniques like hold music to convince you a call is genuine. Take a look at: Scam tricks: email, phone and text message traps to watch out for.

How to protect yourself from phone scams

There’s plenty you can do to avoid being caught put by a phone scam.

Be suspicious – always be weary of phone calls that come out of the blue.

Hang up on silent calls – if there is silence on the other end of the line, hang up. Scammers could be using automatic diallers to make lots of calls and there could be a delay before they realise you’ve picked up.

Verify information – if the caller says they are from your bank, don’t be afraid to hang up then call the bank directly to establish if the caller’s claims are genuine. Make sure you find the number to use yourself rather than one given to you.

Call back on a different phone – some scammers will wait on the phone after you hang up so make sure you use a different phone to call your bank or wait at least 10 minutes.

Be realistic – if an investment sounds too good to be true, then chances are it is.

Never reveal your personal details – your bank and other firms would never ask you for your four-digit PIN and sensitive banking information.

Always take your time – the caller will be trying to hassle you into agreeing to whatever they want, whether that’s investing in a diamond mine in South Africa or handing over remote access to your computer. Don’t ever be rushed into decisions over your personal details or your money.

Block cold callers – invest in a 'nuisance call blocker' phone and make sure you're signed up to the Telephone Preference Service.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam report it to Action Fraud and your bank. Take a look at: Who to call if you've been scammed for more.

Check your credit record for free



Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.