A common way for criminals to get hold of your cash is through product testing scams, which claim to let you keep amazing items like iPhones and Xbox One's in return for minimal work.
For most of us, rarely a day goes past without getting emails soliciting our views on this or that.
Many are quite harmless. For example, they might send you an email asking you to rate a cleaning or personal grooming products and, in exchange, you might get a free trial size detergent or deodorant.
That's fine – as you know that you’ll likely be on their mailing lists because you once applied for one of their products for free.
But other emails offering expensive gadgets such as Playstations or iPhones to test are the ones to watch out for.
Here, the incentive is more than a pack of washing powder or a bar of soap.
This can be a real attraction – we are talking about goodies costing hundreds of pounds, but often these emails are just a scam.
Often, the gadget you are supposed to test is something which is not yet available.
For example, fraudsters know there is a large demographic of young males (sorry to stereotype but that group is the largest fan base for games) who would do anything to get a pre-launch or “beta” copy of a new game.
Or they could be promising access to a hotly anticipated new phone. For example, we saw reports of a number of product testing scams while the iPhone X was being developed.
What could happen
So what happens if you respond to an email offering a gadget or a game to keep if you test it?
It could be one of several – sometimes inter-related – scams.
- You might be told that before you can test the product, you have to purchase something like “Testing for Dummies” or “Teach yourself Product Trials”. This will cost you £25 – for which you receive a few pages of tortuously written rubbish. You never get the product – hardly surprising as no one else outside the company has it either.
- You are asked to join a product testing panel. This will cost you £10 by direct debit. The debit will be taken each month – the scam artists hope that you’ll forget about it. Of course, the panel does not exist, they have your bank details and you never get the promised item.
- In a cut down version of the Nigerian advance fee scam fraud, you'll be asked for a payment of perhaps £20 to go via Moneygram or Western Union to show “mutual trust” in such a “confidential matter”. Once this “trust” has been established, you'll be asked for more for “legal clearance documents” and so forth. Again, the item will never appear.
Flattering as it may seem, there is no way that firms developing phones or games want your opinion. If you are promised any significant cash or expensive gadget for what you are told is a few minutes’ work, steer well clear. If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it is so bad that it is criminal.
This article is regularly updated