/ Community, Scams

Live event: ask our experts about scams – 2pm 8/7/21

Our experts were live on Which? Conversation on 8 July 2021 answering your questions. Check the comments for their responses.

We kicked off the first in a series of live Which? Conversation events with a Q&A on scams – we were live from 2pm – 3pm on 8 July 2021 in the comments.

📄 Live scams Q&A

🗓 2pm Thursday 8 July 2021

     

We were joined by Which? experts Lauren Merryweather (scams investigations and research) and Michael Tomlinson (Which? Money Helpline). They’ve both answered as many questions as they could in the comments below..

‘Scams’ of course, is a broad area, so we were specifically calling for your questions around:

🗨 The huge rise in text message scams in the past year

🗨 How fraudsters are attempting to take advantage of the pandemic

🗨 Action you can take to spot and avoid scams

🗨 How brands can help: what should/shouldn’t they be doing?

Check the comments for the answers.

Your scams questions answered

Click or tap on each question to expand or collapse each question.

❓ I keep getting text messages from mobile numbers that say I owe return postage on a parcel. Are these scams?

From @lmerryweather

These are likely to be fake texts and you can ignore them. It’s a scam that’s been going round for quite a while now: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/06/three-in-five-people-have-received-a-scam-delivery-text-in-the-last-year/

The best way to stay safe from text message scams is to avoid clicking on links in texts. There’s some more advice on how to spot scam texts here: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-spot-a-messaging-scam-at2fR9B2E85g

❓ I got a call from a mobile number to say I’m being frauded by Amazon

From @gmartin:

…[this] sounds very similar to the Amazon Prime scam we’ve covered here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/amazon-prime-renewal-scam-phone-call/

Amazon’s popularity makes it an attractive target for scammers to impersonate. We’d advise that you check your Amazon account order history to make sure there aren’t any purchases you don’t recognise. You can also turn on two-factor authentication on the account for increased security:

https://computing.which.co.uk/hc/en-gb/articles/360000243980-What-is-two-factor-authentication-and-should-you-use-it-

Thanks to Jean for asking this question.

❓ How do ‘ghost brokers’ operate?

Thanks to @malcolm-r for this question:

”How do ‘ghost brokers’ operate?
Fraudsters lure victims in with the offer of cheaper insurance premiums, usually via social media or by word-of-mouth. These individuals or groups pose as middlemen for well-known insurance companies, claiming they can offer you legitimate car insurance at a significantly cheaper price.

This type of fraud is typically carried out either by forging insurance documents, falsifying your details to bring the price down, or by taking out a genuine policy for you but cancelling it soon after.

Often, the victim is not aware that they have been scammed until they are involved in an accident and try to claim on the policy. 

I wonder how many people have been tricked in this way. Many will not know, as they point out, until they need to make a claim.

@mtomlinson shared this response

Thank you very much for this and how encouraging to see such an informative and valuable service being delivered by your neighbourhood group. Interestingly, the Which? Money magazine published an article about ghost broking in March 2020 and I have copied a link here which takes you to the digital version, from Which? News:

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/03/car-insurance-fraud-are-scammers-taking-you-for-a-ride/

❓ Why is Facebook allowing scammers to carry on doing what they’re doing? Why can’t social media, phone companies and network providers block these at their source?

Thanks to June Parsons and Gary Greaves for these questions

From Lauren Merryweather:

We agree, there needs to be a more proactive approach towards stopping scammers operating on Facebook. We’re hoping social media sites could be made to take greater responsibility for what’s being posted on their platforms soon when the government’s Online Safety Bill has been finalised.

Read more and share your thoughts about why scams must be included in the Online Safety Bill

❓ I’ve been receiving emails from an unknown company I’ve never dealt with. I suspect they’re a scam, what can I do about it?

Thanks to Eric Strudwick for this question:

I have recently been receiving emails from no-reply-ncbcardalerts@jncb.com

They contain details about card payment transactions. I have never had any dealings with this company and assumed that its some kind of scam.

I guess that there is also a possibility that someone has cloned my identity.

How can I check?

The answer, from Michael Tomlinson:

Yes I would very much agree with you that certainly seems like a scam email. Many scams do seem to originate from ‘out of the blue’ contact – the telephone call, text or email we were not expecting. Certainly we should all avoid clicking on any links in these emails, as this is designed to harvest our personal data and account information.

Best practice is to simply delete these emails, but you can also forward them to the National Cyber Security Centre who have the authority to shut down and websites linked to them:

report@phishing.gov.uk

Many thanks.

Read our Consumer Rights Guide on how to spot a fake email

❓ It’s difficult to determine which emails from my bank are genuine and which are scams. What is Which? doing to address this issue?

Thanks to @beryl for this question, which prompted a good discussion with others, as well as to @alfa, who shared a similar question as well as her discovery of more information from her bank

Browsing recently through emails purporting to come from my bank, it was difficult to determine which were genuine and which were scams. For example, one email was a reminder that I had not paid the minimum amount on my credit card account and was threatened with hefty overdraft charges if I didn’t pay. As I don’t bank online and always pay my credit card balance in full and in time, I assumed this was a scam.

My question is, are we reaching a critical stage where technological advantages are being overshadowed and outstripped by the scammers to the point where people, including myself, are reluctant to open and reply to any email they receive from their bank? What would be the future outcome if this were the case for more and more people and what action can Which? take to prevent this predictable eventuality?

Which? scam expert @chiara-cavaglieri couldn’t join us on the day, but was able to provide an answer in advance:

It is a sad state of affairs that we can’t always trust that an email or a phone call is genuine – scammers are using cheap tech to spoof the phone numbers and email addresses of legitimate companies. But, banks can do more to protect you – and Which? will continue to put pressure on them to do so.

For example, they can stop scammers forging their email addresses using something called DMARC (more on this here https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/06/banks-missing-vital-protection-against-email-scams-warns-which/) and they can protect their customer facing phone numbers using the DNO database (https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/06/is-your-bank-protecting-you-from-number-spoofing-scams/).

Customers can do their bit too – vote with your feet if your provider isn’t doing everything it can.

❓ Is it worth reporting well-known scams? Can I just ignore scams that have been well publicised?

Thanks to @wavechange for this question:

I realise that it is worthwhile reporting suspected scams but is there any point in reporting well known ones? For example, it seems pointless to report that I have had an automated call to say that my subscription to Amazon Prime has been renewed at a cost of £79.99.

Can I just ignore a scam that has been reasonably well publicised?

From Michael Tomlinson:

There’s certainly no obligation to report this to, presumably you mean, Action Fraud. The scam you refer to seems to have gone out to most of us – I’ve certainly had this Amazon cold call on more than one occasion. So it’s really our decision if we wish to spend time filling out the reporting tool on the Action Fraud website. It is useful to submit information as it does at least provide Action Fraud with data, which potentially can be used for investigations or to be able to publicise warnings to the public. But yes, I do accept that there have been numerous warnings about this particular scam already. Many thanks.

Even if scams are well known, it’s very helpful to report them to us here at Which? using our Scam Sharer tool. This helps us keep track of what scams are currently affecting people, and to help spread the word on how to protect yourself further.

Comments
Amit says:
8 July 2021

Are Which? going to make big companies such as the Royal Mail aware of the consumer detriment felt by those falling victim to scams? Are they aware of how consumers have been affected and what are they doing to help prevention?

Yes, we’ve made Royal Mail aware of the scale of the issue. We’ve suggested it warns customers about the risk of these scams, and makes changes to the way it communicates with recipients of parcels to reduce risk of impersonation.

The essential point here would be for Royal Mail not to communicate with recipients by e-mail or text.

Leaving a card at the address is the safest and most authentic method of making contact and no other organisation has the means to do so every working day and all over the country.

In the unlikely event that there is a delivery charge this can then be paid securely to Royal Mail before delivery of the item.

The purported “delivery charge” is just the scammers’ bait to hook the victim. The value is kept low so as not to alarm the individual. The big prize for the scammers comes when they reel the victim in on their digital device and plunder their funds.

Duplicating genuine numbers–purchasing a service to charge people who naively press an option–are these scams available on equipment sold by reputable suppliers, or just on Dark Web-type businesses? If reputable companies too, perhaps Which? could campaign, shame them, warn the public and question their motives reasons for it.
We already know the motives of the scammers, of course.

We will take this into account and we will pass this on to our scams team to look into. Thanks.

Yesterday we received 3 phone calls on our landline, each from different numbers, all saying that our Amazon Prime subscription was being renewed and £79.99 had been taken from our bank account. We have BT Call Protect and can ring 1572 to block the number we last answered, and we have a BT phone that also blocks numbers. But this does not stop them ringing and it is very annoying to say the least. Can they not be stopped somehow?

This Amazon cold call scam attempt has certainly ‘done the rounds’ over the last year or so and has gone out to many of us. I’m also tempted to say it’s more unusual for someone not to have received it. Engaging in conversation with cold callers is very much, in my opinion, a big mistake because it just encourages them to call again and again. Hanging up immediately, or not even bothering to answer unrecognised numbers is best practice.

Is the call blocking system you have the one where a caller has to announce themselves first before you have even answered the phone? I am continually told by people who have this in place that it has significantly reduced the amount of cold calls they receive. Sky Shield and BT Call Guardian are 2 examples I’m aware of. I agree that just blocking numbers is probably not going to be very effective.

You could also consider getting a call blocking phone or device, they’re the most effective way of stopping these calls. You can set them up so that the caller has to say who they are before the call is connected, and you can choose to answer it or reject it before you pick up.

There’s some more information here: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cordless-phones/article/top-tips-to-stop-cold-calls-aF83J4g4Hzpq#consider-using-a-call-blocker

”You could also consider getting a call blocking phone or device, they’re the most effective way of stopping these calls
” I agree that just blocking numbers is probably not going to be very effective
Both just posted by Which?
Confused?

Sorry if not clear, we both answered at the same time on this one!

Michael was saying that blocking individual numbers is unlikely to be successful because scammers are constantly calling from different numbers.

Call blocking phones/devices screen all calls before they’re connected. The caller is asked to say who they are, allowing you to choose whether you want to accept it before you pick up.

Indeed. I gathered that 🙂 Many calls will be accepted, I expect, because they are from clever scammers – those who convince their victims to part with money will, no doubt, be able to talk their way past a call blocker. Educating the potential victim must have more attention. I don’t want to see bank accounts made expensive and more complex when banks, inevitably, will protect themselves from being seen as a cash cow.

Not all call blocking phones screen all calls. My BT phone allows me to enter approved numbers in the phone directory and those call are allowed through without hindrance. If a call is received from a number that is not in my phone directory the caller is asked to announce themselves and it is only then that my phone rings. I can then decide to allow that call through just that one time or they can be added to the approved caller list. You can block any number at any time.

Not all call blocking phones work the same way. On some you enter the number you want to block but this is useless when you get nuisance calls from spoofed numbers or computer generated calls as the same number is rarely repeated.

Vivienne Veronica Morris says:
10 July 2021

Thank you for your reply. We’ve got BT Call Protect and I don’t know if the caller has to announce themselves. I’ll ask BT, and also look up their Call Guardian. Thanks again. It’s so nice to “talk” to someone about these frustrations.

Question:
When are we going to get a teaching convo to help people help themselves?

https://conversation.which.co.uk/scams/citizens-advice-pandemic-scams/#comment-1621694

I received an email purporting to come from Outlook/Microsoft today to say that I need to verify my account or it will be cancelled/closed within 24 hours. I did not open the ‘sign in’ link as I had a doubt about the sender. I spoke to scamwatch this afternoon and every time I try to forward this on Postmaster rejects it. I then tried to forward the Postmaster’s rejection on to scamwatch and this was rejected too. Very odd. Am I right in thinking that this is not just a possible scam, but an attempt to embed a virus?

Yes, it very well could be. Have you tried forwarding a screen shot of the email over to scamwatch? As it might be a virus or scam email its getting rejected. Might be worth a shot if you haven’t tried that yet?

I echo Wavechange’s compliments. The info I received was encouraging, especially the DMARC authentication to implement ways of blocking banking scams, fraud and phishing.

Andrew Melville-Jackson says:
10 July 2021

At the heart of all scams is Banks, some of which have a history of money laundering ! Why then when a scam is facilitated by a bank, either as the receiver of fraudulent funds or the giver , does that bank refuse to co-operate with the individual who has lost their money. The Bank knows the receiver of that cash, they have done due diligence on their identity, address, and credit score but have still facilitated the crime. They won’t allow you to follow the cash, they won’t allow you to know who their customer is; in short, they seem as guilty as the criminal. Oh yes, they claim to hide behind data laws.

Are our banks guilty of facilitating criminal scams?

Mary Whiston says:
12 July 2021

Automated call has just rang my home phone, telling me my account will be debited with £399 pounds and that my iphone will be with me in 5 days. I havent ordered an iphone.