Bear Grylls promoting Bitcoin, Davina McCall fronting get-rich-quick schemes: these aren’t late career changes, but some of the ways scammers are trying to trick you into giving away your money.
Fake investment ads, where fraudsters often use the faces of trusted celebrities to make them seem legitimate, are rife online and all too often strip people not only of their cash but also of their dignity, mental health and confidence.
Which? has heard from far too many people who have been taken in by these terrible crimes, which are only growing in sophistication.
Sometimes, victims will realise before they lose large sums of money. Tragically, others won’t be so fortunate. Life-changing amounts of cash can vanish in a few clicks.
The sheer volume of scams can make us feel powerless, especially when a lack of effective government regulation is failing to protect people. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
First, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is. It’s advice as old as the hills, but it feels more relevant than ever in a world awash with get-rich-quick schemes on social media. Adverts and websites promising high returns on low investments should raise eyebrows.
Second, never share personal details with people or companies that you don’t know. Fraudsters will often try to get you to click a link or fill out a form and use the information to get a better idea of who you are. From there, they feel emboldened to impersonate reputable companies or even your bank’s fraud department.
Third, only ever send money by bank transfer to trusted contacts.
Any sales or investment firm asking for this form of payment should raise a red flag. Using a debit or credit card will give you some rights, but a bank transfer could leave you at the mercy of your bank’s discretion, or a protracted dispute with the Financial Ombudsman Service, to get your money back if things go wrong.
Fourth, never allow a salesperson to rush you into making quick decisions.
Scammers hate you taking your time to think about things, while a legitimate company will understand. Fraudsters want to hurry and often panic you. Don’t allow them to.
You could also sign up to Which?’s scam alerts service. It provides regular email updates on the latest scams doing the rounds, as well as practical advice to keep you one step ahead of the scammers. But while we could all be more vigilant online, the onus shouldn’t be on us to forensically examine whether or not what we see online is a con.
The government, which has repeatedly said it wants to make the UK the safest place in the world to go online, must step up.
The online platforms that most of us use everyday have ignored the problem for too long, allowing their sites to become breeding grounds for fraudsters. This is despite the fact that they have some of the most sophisticated technology in the world.
These companies can deliver a parcel within hours, but can’t act as quickly to remove bogus scam ads. It doesn’t add up.
Ministers have a chance, through the Online Safety Bill, to protect consumers online by changing the law and requiring online platforms to take responsibility for removing fake and fraudulent content from their sites.
That includes paid-for scam ads that are so often the root of these terrible crimes.
Ele Clark is Senior Editor of Money at Which?
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