Citizens Advice continues to help people with a wide range of scams through the pandemic. Here, it joins us to spread awareness and explain more about its work.
This is a guest post by Citizens Advice. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all of us and how we interact with friends, family and colleagues. We’re spending more time online which means scammers have new and increased opportunities to prey on our reliance on the internet.
We’re pleased to see the work Which? has been doing with its scam alert service and glad to be a part of this week of awareness on Which? Conversation.
At the Citizens Advice Scams Action service we help people with a wide range of scams – from online dating to online shopping, spoof vaccines to fake medical kits. Here are just two examples of coronavirus related scams we’ve dealt with recently:
Sam paid £127 for a coronavirus test which turned out to be fake. The trader offered Sam a refund which never appeared and Sam received notification that they’d tested negative for coronavirus despite not sending in a sample.
Alex booked a flight through a third-party company. When the flight was cancelled because of the pandemic, Alex didn’t receive a refund despite several contacts to the company. When Alex looked online there were lots of other people also awaiting a refund.
Four Citizens Advice tips to spot an online scam
Online scams can be very sophisticated – it’s often too late before you realise everything isn’t as it seems. Here are our #ScamsAction top tips to spot one:
⚠ 1) Do you know who you’re talking to?
Whether you’re talking to an individual or an organisation, it’s important to make sure that who you’re talking to is legit. If you’ve been approached out of the blue, don’t respond until you’ve checked if they are who they say they are. If you do recognise the company, check it’s contacted you in the way it normally would.
⚠ 2) Do some background research
Start with an internet search about the company. Seeing what others say about can help you find out if it’s legitimate or not. For registered companies you can search for their details on the gov.uk website. Or if you’re dealing with an online retailer you should check where in the world they’re based and whether they’re part of a consumer protection scheme.
⚠ 3) Are they asking for personal information or money?
This could include PIN codes, passwords or even financial information. Sometimes scammers might ask strange questions such as the name of your primary school or a pets name — these are often used as password prompts to gain access to accounts. You should never send money to someone you don’t know.
⚠ 4) If it’s a retailer, how do they want you to pay?
If a retailer is asking you to pay by an unusual means such as crypto currency, you should be suspicious! Crypto-currencies lack vital protections that you get when paying by debit or credit card. Before you pay using any means, you should check the terms and conditions.
How Citizens Advice can help
If you’ve been the victim of an online scam, you can contact the Citizens Advice #ScamsAction service online or over the phone. You can also use our online scams helper to identify whether something is a scam.
Our #ScamsAction service not only helps people who’ve been scammed but aims to educate people to identify online scams to help prevent more people falling victim. Check us out on Twitter, Medium or TikTok to find out more.
This was a guest post by Citizens Advice. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.