There are people out there who want to take your money. As parents we're hassled most of the time by little tyrants, our thought processes constantly interrupted, and our sleep as well. Our judgement probably isn't at its most acute.
And even if it was, you may still fall prey to a scam. Forget the myth that only the stupid fall for these things. Last year the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) released figures that showed one in 20 of us are falling for them. And I'm pretty sure that the number of truly stupid people in the UK isn't that high. Mind you when I go down the high street on a Saturday night ... but that's a whole other conversation.
Some scams and types of financial fraud can be quite convincing. And others are more common but it's always good to give ourselves a reminder. You never know you might get caught out at a low moment.
Read on to find out more.
Support Call Scams
Amy fell for this one. "It was really convincing actually because we'd just had problems with our laptop and I had called the manufacturer's helpline for support. So when a few days later this guy called back and said he was calling from the manufacturer (a very well known name) about the problems I was having with my machine, I thought it was legitimate."
These support call scams started out mostly as cold calls where the caller tried to make out they were from Microsoft. They'd say they were calling because you'd sent a Windows status update back to Microsoft and they could help with the problem.
Except that Microsoft didn't do this, and the status reports sent back were simply for keeping statistics on bugs and issues.
Now these callers are still in existance, but will use a wide range of company names, all well known, like Microsoft. They will tell you that your machine needs repair, and offer to run programs on it to detect malware. Using remote control features built into Windows, they can get you to give them control of your computer, and will diagnose all sorts of bad things.
In return for a fee (in Amy's case this was £75 up front, and a £120 per year subscription charge) they'll fix your computer for you. There has been cases where the caller has held the computer to ransom, refusing to return it to a workable state (having made it unworkable themselves) if they're not paid.
Ask them for a reference number, tell them you'll call back, then go online and find the offical support number yourself.
Money Transfer Scams
You've won an overseas lottery! Some long lost and very distant relative has died in another country leaving you money! Help, a tyrannical regime won't let me take my money out of the country, if you help me transfer $10 million I'll pay you 10%!
Actually there's lots more examples, but despite all the variations on the theme they all have one thing in common. There's just one little hitch, this small fee needs to be paid first. Can you do this? And you think sure why not, it's a small risk with such big returns. Then there's another charge that needs to be covered, still quite a small amount. Ah but you're almost there except for this charge. And it carries on.
Watch out for fake websites. These can run for anything from fake ticket sales, to fake Wi Fi portals. If you're buying something make sure you are at the official site. One way that fraudsters trick you is to clone/copy exactly the home page of the legitimate site. The URL may even appear legitimate. Until you spot the tiny spelling mistake. Or a well placed hyphen.
Fake emails can also con people. One of the most common at the moment is the fake HMRC email, often purporting to tell you all about the amazing tax refund they've realised you're entitled to. The email will look legitimate because it is copied exactly from the HMRC website. But the links on there will take you to the scammer's website.
Note that the HMRC do not send out emails like this.
Boiler Rooms and Pyramid Schemes
Pyramid schems have had a resurgence of late, finding a new home amongst mainly stay at home mums by presenting themselves as a legitimate business. For the first few in the scheme there is indeed a lot of money to be made, but those further down stand to lose their life savings or worse.
Boiler Rooms nearly died out entirely a little while ago, but have made a comeback fuelled in part by the increase in home working. These are what the name implies, simply high pressure, aggressive sales techniques used to sell dud, or fake, shares to people.
It is such a bad problem now that the Financial Services Association publishes lists of Boiler Rooms on its website. To find out more about this type of swindle, visit the FSA website HERE.
Have you heard of any more ingenious scams? Avoiding falling for something that could have been nasty? Please tell us you story!