People can fall victim to a scam by email, text, letter, phone, online, social media sites and even at their front door. A good way to protect yourself and those you care about from being scammed in 2016 is to know what scams are out there and to remember that there are always new variations of existing scams appearing. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has given The Southern Star a list of some common scams:
The greatest number of calls in relation to scams, received by the CCPC’s consumer helpline in 2015 related to PC scams. This involves the scammer calling claiming to be from a well-known IT company such as Microsoft. They ring to say that the PC being used has a virus or has been hacked. They give instructions to download a file from a website so that they can gain access to the computer remotely to resolve the issue. This allows them to access personal details stored on the computer including financial information. In some cases the scammer may even ask for credit card details to pay for their ‘service’. This type of scam is known as a phishing scam. Phishing normally happens through email, websites, instant messaging apps, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter or over the phone.
Holiday home rental scam
If you know someone who is planning a holiday and is researching accommodation, advise them to watch out for potential rental accommodation scams. This is when scammers go to an online marketplace for property owners offering places for rent; copy the photos, addresses and other information from various listings and then use this to put up fake listings of their own. This scam is designed to get people to pay the full rental price or at least a sizeable security deposit upfront. Encourage those you know to make sure a listing is genuine before booking anything. They can do this by taking the time to do some research on the person/company offering the rental property or even asking someone they trust to make inquiries. If there is an estate agent in the area they may be able to verify if the property is a genuine rental one. They should use a reputable website and make sure to check user ratings and reviews before agreeing to rent the property. When paying encourage them to use a secure method of payment, such as a credit card or Paypal and check with the site that the booking is confirmed. They should never send cash or use a money-wiring service because there is no recourse if something goes wrong.
Someone calls to a home with the intention to steal, secure a deposit for a product or service that will never be provided, or overcharge for goods or services provided. They mask their real intention by offering garden maintenance, building or roof repairs, insurance/homecare products or pretend to be from a trusted organisation. It is important to point out to others that if they have any doubt about the person who calls to the door, for example they believe they are not who they say they are, they should ask for identification or ring and check with the organisation the person claims to be from. If they provide a number to call advise them not to use it, instead look up the number themselves. If the person who calls to their home is genuine, they will have no problem arranging a more suitable time to call while their details are being checked. If they feel threatened or think the caller is not legitimate, do not engage with them, instead immediately call the Gardaí.
Warn them about ‘Work-from-home’ adverts, which may be displayed at their local supermarket or in a newspaper. These adverts sound great in theory, especially for those unemployed, restricted to their home, or simply in need of more income. In most cases these are a scam and involve hidden costs that they will have to pay, such as money up front for materials, stamps, envelopes, photocopies or placing adverts – then they wait for weeks and hear nothing. Another twist is where the company makes you pay for an expensive ‘instruction manual’ or ‘tutorial’ software. Work-from-home schemes may also be a type of pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes promise quick and easy money in return for a cash sum. It normally involves the sale of a product, for instance, a beauty product. This is a scam and is designed to con people into investing significant amounts of money which can never be recovered. The scammers make money by recruiting people who all put money into the scheme. So for everyone to profit there would have to be an endless supply of people joining up, and this never happens. When the pyramid scheme collapses people lose the money they invested. Pyramid schemes are illegal, and individuals could face prosecution for participating in one.
Warn them about websites where they can buy and sell goods and social media platforms as these are now popular places for scammers to trick people. For example, they may be selling a painting online. Someone contacts them to say that they are interested in buying it. They agree to sell the painting and later receive an online confirmation email from a well-known money transfer payment facility advising that payment has been received. Everything appears legitimate so they post the painting to the buyer only to discover later that the payment authorisation email was fake. When selling something valuable online it’s important to make sure they use a secure method of payment, such as a credit card or Paypal. Whether buying or selling online, people should never send cash or use a money-wiring service because they have no recourse if something goes wrong. They should always research the site; its policies, look for reviews by other customers and be aware of the risk of doing business with a stranger. Encourage them to keep up-to-date on current scams by visiting the CCPC’s consumer site, www.consumerhelp.ie.
What to do?
If they think they have been scammed they should contact their bank or credit card company and inform them of their concerns. The quicker they act the better as the bank can tell them what action needs to be taken. This might include putting a stop to their account, cancelling their credit or debit card or stopping a transaction from going through their account. Then they need to inform the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation on 01-6663777 or contact their local Garda station immediately. Also, they should call the CCPC’s consumer helpline on Lo-call 1890-432432 or 01-4025500.