Scam Watch - the fraudsters you should be aware of
Although we might pride ourselves on our ability to smell a rat a mile off, swindlers aren't stupid; they make their operations look as plausible as possible so we need to be on our guard.
If you think you've been scammed get in touch by leaving a comment below or emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know exactly what has happened.
In order for Moneywise to investigate each scam we require you include a name and contact email. Please be aware your email address will not be published.
MINISTRY OF PENSIONS SCAM
"One of our employees was called up last week from a man claiming to be from the Ministry of Pensions. The number was from a mobile phone and although it sounded suspicious, the caller knew her name and address and told her she was due a backdated pension payout of £5,000. To get the money released she would have to pay £200 and at this stage she wisely hung up the phone."
Gillian Morgan/October 2012
"A company pretending to be DHL emailed me to say it had attempted to deliver a parcel to my address but was unable to, and if I wanted to rearrange the delivery I needed to download a reference number.
"Attached to the email was a PDF, which I stupidly thought would be safe to download. As soon as I did every file on my computer became blocked and I had to take the laptop into a local centre to get it fixed."
Dave Hope/October 2012
"An email arrived in my personal inbox this week supposedly from Santander. It said someone had tried to send me money but as the transaction looked suspicious it was declined and my account is now restricted.
"Therefore I was asked to confirm some personal details to be able to access my account again. Although it looked quite genuine there were also a lot of spelling mistakes in the text, which hinted it might be a scam."
Vanessa Preece/September 2012
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"I have been in contact with a man who is stuck in Ghana after finishing work on an oil rig there for the Ghanaian government. He says he hasn't been paid yet and needs money for a ticket back to the UK and claims he is a structural engineer living in Manchester. The money needs to be transferred online but I believe it's a scam so I have instead alerted the British Commission in Ghana."
Joanna Farrington/September 2012
CO-OPERATIVE BANK SCAM
"Someone posing as the Co-op emailed me last week to let me know about a potential fraud alert to my account. To avoid this, ‘the bank' has updated its security system I was told I need to hand over my sort code and account number by email to make sure my account is protected."
Frederick Burns/August 2012
DATING WEBSITE SCAM
"Ever since the end of last year, I've been in touch with a woman I met through an online dating website. Apparently she lives in Australia but is currently on a trip in London.
She emailed me yesterday to say that while over here she's been mugged and now no longer has her debit or credit cards or any cash. Therefore she's asked for me to transfer money to her for a flight back home. Instead, I'm alerting ScamWatch as I believe this is a con."
Phillip Hall/August 2012
STUDENT LOAN SCAM
"My inbox is regularly filed with scam emails and the latest claims to be from the student loans company. It says it’s being sent out to all students who have received grants and loans and asks for the student to verify their personal details. Within the email was an attachment which needed to be downloaded to complete the process."
Frederick Burns, July 2012
"Although my phone account is with BT I was a little suspicious when I received an email from the company recently. It was titled "action required" and said my last payment wasn’t processed properly. This was either because my personal details had been changed or there was an error when I had paid the bill. To resolve the situation it asked for further details, and included a link, so instead of carrying on I marked it as spam and deleted it."
A Brooks, July 2012
"I have been trying to get a loan so I can take my wife on holiday and we had a phone call recently from a firm offering this. It seemed completely genuine and we weren’t asked for personal or financial details. We were told we should buy a voucher for £50 and then we would have the loan deposited into our account. However, we were never called back and there seems to be no way to get our £50 back. If they can do this to one person I wonder how many more times have they done it."
Stephen Gibson, June 2012
"A lady with a Scottish accent called me this week suggesting I ring fence my assets, so that they could not be used in the event of entering a care home. The alarming thing is she mentioned a password I do actually use for some of my accounts but I’ve never had any dealings with this company before. I’ve now changed all my other passwords."
Margaret Herd, June 2012
AMAZON SCAM 2
"The public need to be aware of yet another Amazon scam in circulation. It is a voucher that advertises a £10 voucher for Amazon. However, once you sign up to the voucher and give your personal details to the company £29 will be debited from your account each month and will be described as an administration fee."
Shan Lamptey, May 2012
CHINESE INVESTMENT SCAM
"Today I received a letter from a so-called private investigator in China to say someone with my surname had died and he was the lawyer representing the case. The deceased man apparently had millions of pounds in his investment portfolio and as there are no other interested parties, the funds could be split equally between the author of the letter and myself. Funnily enough I have taken this no further."
David Storrar, May 2012
PARCEL DELIVERY SCAM
"I arrived home from work today to find a card behind my door telling me a parcel had been left under my patio table. I had not ordered anything from this catalogue company and rang it up asking why these items of jewellery had been sent. I was put through to the fraud department and the member of staff asked if I was a company director to which I replied that I was. Apparently the latest scam is for con artists to use your name and address (which they can find on a company website) and then change the address for delivery once the account has been accepted. Thankfully I acted straight away and a fraud marker was put on my file and I was advised to check my credit record."
Angela Oakley, April 2012
DISASTER NEWS SCAM
"Last week an email arrived in my inbox from a friend and immediately alarm bells began ringing. For a start the language was strange and it went on to say she was on holiday in London and had been mugged and had everything stolen apart from passports. It then went on to ask for help settling the hotel bill and getting a flight. There were lots of things in it that didn’t match up so I contacted my friend and she confirmed it was a scam."
Ann Street, April 2012
THE HALIFAX SCAM
"Halifax, or at least I thought it was the bank, contacted me to say it had detected irregular activity in my Halifax online banking login. As I was the primary contact the email asked me to verify my account as a hold had been placed on my debit card so I couldn’t access my cash. There was an attachment with the email, which I had to download to verify the account. Alarm bells rang and so instead I checked my online banking in a new window and found no problems."
Aysha Begum, February 2012
THE AMAZON SCAM
"I received an official looking email from a company pretending to be Amazon to say the order I had placed had been cancelled. The email included a new order number and a link to what I thought was Amazon. I clicked on this and it directed me to the website of a Canadian pharmaceutical company selling drugs."
Barry Arrowsmith, February 2012
THE COMPETITION SCAM
"I’ve been emailed as apparently my email address was the star pick from an automated ballot system which means I’m entitled to receive the grand reward of 2.5 million dollars. The suspect email said the prize was from a reward program for the ‘patronage of internet services’ and the promotional draw is conducted in the Netherlands. In order to claim this prize the email says I must send personal details out immediately."
Bob Hope, February 2012
THE DEATH CERTIFICATE SCAM
"Apparently my death certificate has been handed into a branch of HSBC in Canada by a man who claimed to be my representative and also to have power of attorney of my finances. There is also a fund of 12.5 million dollars in my name, which I need to claim in the next 48 hours while at the same time confirming I am still alive. This is very clearly a scam."
Eirik Vestgard, February 2012
THE YAHOO SCAM
"A scam email arrived in my account supposedly from Yahoo. It said I needed to update my personal details after a series of illegal attempts on my email account from different IP addresses. It went on to say it was for my own safety and if I wanted to keep my account open I would need to fill in details such as, email address, password, date of birth and country of residence."
Richard Search, February 2012
THE NPOWER SCAM
"Quite unexpectedly we received a phone call one evening at 8 o'clock and my wife answered. She said npower, our electricity provider, was on the phone and wanted a meter reading there and then. We had just started to watch a favourite TV programme so I said I would send one online the next day. The caller was persistent but settled eventually and said they would call again – which didn't happen. I phoned npower the next day and was told everything was fully up to date and no reading was required. It's difficult to imagine what would have followed had we complied and gone to the meter and provided a reading. Doubtless the company would have tried to obtain some sensitive personal information on some pretext or other."
Clifton Pyrke, November 2011
THE ILLNESS SCAM
"This message arrive in my inbox from a friend in my address book. The subject of the email was 'Dearest Beloved'. The message said: 'As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me because I believe everyone will die someday. I have been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, view attached mail for full details.' My friend is not ill and the email had an attachment which I did not open."
Kunio Uematsu, November 2011
THE SKY SCAM
"I was checking through our bank statement online and discovered a transaction marked 'Sky Subscription' which is strange as we have not been with Sky for over six years.
We rang Sky to ask why and it told us all of its payments are labelled 'Sky Digital'. We rang the bank and stopped the debit card this transaction had been used on. The scam appears to work by taking random amounts from your bank account. We have spoken to others and found this is a growing problem with one friend being debited as much as £200. The message here is – always check your bank statements."
Peter Balshaw, November 2011
"I sold a mobile phone on eBay and a bidder offered me double the price I had hoped for. I accepted this and he sent the authorisation code for the payment but no money arrived in my account.
I contacted PayPal who told me this was a scam as the authorisation code was an old one. The bidder looked genuine and had good feedback and I contacted him again. He sent another code but still no money arrived so in the end I sold it to someone else."
Joel Brown, October 2011
"I tried to buy a Chihuahua puppy on the free advert side Oodle for £150 plus delivery from Dundee to Edinburgh. I emailed the seller and asked a lot of questions about the puppy and delivery and he assured me that everything would be straightforward.
I was sent the details of the delivery agency and I paid the seller through MoneyGram. Next my husband spoke on the phone with the agency and suddenly it wanted another £600 to cover insurance and to deliver my puppy by plane. We didn’t want to do this so but the seller would not listen and he even said if we pulled out of the deal the dog would be put in quarantine and we would be in trouble with the police.
This was not the first advert I applied to and it seemed genuine. Looking back I shouldn’t have wired the £150 but I was so desperate for this puppy I went ahead with it."
Mrs Elizabeth Heppell, October 2011
SAD NEWS SCAM
"An old friend who now lives in America emailed me last month asking to borrow £2,000 as he was on holiday in Wales and had been mugged. The email was very convincing and said his cash, cards and mobile phones had been stolen but he still had his passport and flight tickets.
It said he had gone to the American embassy and police but had not had much luck and needed to settle hotel bills before getting a flight back to America the next day. I would have sent the money to him but the use of the headline ‘Sad News’ suggested a death in the family, which this was not, and made me feel uneasy.
I hadn't contacted him for years, but I found the number and rang his home in North Carolina. It turns out his emails had been hacked and similar messages had been sent out to everyone in his address book."
Victor Courtice, October 2011
COMPUTER HEALTH CHECK SCAM
"I was contacted by a man who told me my computer was not running at the right speed and offered me a free security health check. The caller asked me to switch on my pc and log onto a website. At this point the computer would be accessed remotely and cleared of any bugs.
When I asked the name of the company I was told it was part of Microsoft and the caller said this would be totally free. As a PC engineer I didn’t go any further as alarm bells began ringing and I believed the company’s intention was to get passwords and data off my PC."
Stuart Strong, October 2011
"My poor elderly mother was sent a letter from a company called Vitamail telling her she was in debit of her account by £5. She did not have an account with this company and the letter looked very convincing.
"However, I noticed the letter had her name but no initials, the company asked her to send cash, it was not signed and also threatened to send someone round to her house if she didn’t send her bank details.
"I searched for the company on the internet and found there were many people who had received the same letter who had never heard of this company let alone had an account with them. This company trades under many names and many addresses but is based in France."
Mrs S A Walsh, October 2011
BBC CHEQUE SCAM
"I received an email telling me I had won a £1,000,000 lottery prize from the BBC. I contacted a few names on their email messages and questioned the matter to see if it was for real. No one got back to me and after reading the email again I noticed they used a delivery services which asked for a £250 fee to release the cheque."
Mr M Chai, October 2011
"I placed an advert through Autotrader on my partner's behalf and naively I put my personal email address on the advert. Within 24 hours I had emails from two different people expressing interest. Both said they would buy the car without viewing it, pay via PayPal and send an agent to collect vehicle.
My partner expressed immediate concern and a quick search on the internet confirmed a well-known scam whereby someone accepts an offer and their car is collected but the money is withdrawn from PayPal before the transaction is complete."
Debby Curry, October 2011
THE AVIS SCAM
"A company in Seattle rang me around six times trying to persuade me that I had 10 times as many shares in Avis Europe than I actually have. It also said it had a buyer for these shares at 10 times their value. In order to move forward I would have to sign a confidentiality agreement and send it some money. This is clearly proof that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is."
Guest - September 2011
"Recently I received a message from PayPal about a transaction but I have never had an account with the company. When I queried it I was informed it was a type of phishing scam. Paypal says it will always address you by name when emailing you so if you ever get an email from Paypal addressing you as 'Dear Member' it is a scam."
Guest - September 2011
MILLIONAIRE FUND SCAM
"Today I received an email from someone supposedly representing Arab millionaires who have had their funds frozen after the 9/11 attack. The email says these millionaires have been investigated by the FBI and found to be clean but now the funds, for some reason, can't be returned to their rightful owners. It then says these funds are available to be claimed by first sending over card details. This is clearly a scam."
Guest - September 2011
WEIGHT TRAINING SCAM
"Having decided to up my weight training I searched the internet for items to help me out. I found a suitable website and then sent off several emails regarding price and asking how long an order would take. A man contacted me and was very efficient so I had no reason to suspect anything. He requested I deposit the payment of £50 into his bank account and sent me the sort code and account number. I was informed my order would take around a week to arrive but after this period had passed I emailed him to ask about my order. I had no further replies from him after this and have lost out on this money."
John Boyd - September 2011
The HMRC SCAM
"A member of staff has just alerted me to the fact that they have recently received a scam email which purports to be from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and appears to be advising them that they are due a tax refund. It offers a link for them to follow where it is likely that they would be asked to confirm their bank details. This is a scam."
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE SCAM
"I received a phone call from a lady claming to be from the Ministry of Justice last week. She had a strange accent and although she gave me a number to call back on, this was different to the number she had called me on. I bank with Santander and the lady calling enquired about a payment to my bank account. I've now received another call from the same company and have tried reporting them to Consumer Watch and the Ombudsman but as no fraud as yet been committed neither will help me."
The EHIC SCAM
"With the holiday season upon us, people need to watch out for scam websites charging a £10 renewal fee for the EHIC card. Renewal through the NHS website is free, so beware of the top picks on a google search for 'EHIC renewal'."
"I was contacted by a company called 'Camphire Now' [supposedly a recruitment firm] and a lady by the name of Julia Marks sent me an e-mail asking me to enter a code and fill out an application pending an interview in London in a few days.
"When I got to the IQ Test section of the website I discovered in order to carry on I would be charged £4.50 per month thereafter. I have e-mailed Julia twice now asking for information on the company as I cannot find it anywhere on the website. The links on the website provide no information at all. It's a scam. I have reported it to the OFT and trust you will warn others."
If you think you've been scammed get in touch by leaving a comment below or emailing us on email@example.com and let us know exactly what has happened.
Phishing scams are typically fraudulent email messages from seemingly legitimate sources (your internet service provider, mobile phone provider, bank etc). These messages usually direct you to a counterfeit website or ask you to divulge private information (password, PIN, credit card numbers, or other account updates), which is then used to commit identity theft.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.
Issued by a bank as part of a current account and, in a nutshell, serves as electronic cash. Unlike a credit or charge card, where you get an interest-free period before you have to settle the bill, the funds spent on a debit card are withdrawn immediately from your current account. Unless you’ve arranged an overdraft, if you don’t have the cash in the account, you can’t spend it.