/ Home & Energy, Technology

Scam watch: could this refund scam fool you?

Credit card trap

A cold caller tells you there’s been a problem with your broadband and you’re due a refund, it sounds genuine. But then you’re asked for your card details, and alarm bells should ring – as they did for this Which? member.

A Which? member told us: ‘I was recently called by someone claiming to be from ‘TalkTalk’. The caller claimed there’d been a lot of activity on my broadband line, which had caused an extra £25 to be charged to my account.

‘They asked for permission to test the line for an ‘infection’, and I agreed. The caller told me their engineer had found nothing wrong and asked for my card details so they could refund the £25, but I was reluctant to hand them over.

‘I was told that £25 would be added to my account every month if I didn’t hand over the details straight away, and the opportunity for a refund would be lost. They even tried to convince me they were genuine by quoting my TalkTalk account number. Eventually I put the phone down, and TalkTalk has since confirmed it was a scam.’

Our advice on suspicious refund calls

We’ve seen a number of cases where scammers pretend to be from a familiar service provider and offer a refund for a supposed error on their part, in fact we covered a similar case last year. In some cases, victims are directed to sophisticated copycat websites to convince them that a refund is due and part with their personal details.

When speaking to a cold caller never hand over your bank details. Giving away these details could allow scammers to empty your account within minutes.

Most service providers should have all the details necessary to credit your account should they need to.

So if you receive a call like this, do as this Which? member did and hang up and report the call to your service provider, as well as the police and Action Fraud. And don’t forget that you can report these nuisance calls to us too.

Have you received one of these refund scam cold calls before?


A good lesson. Perhaps Which? should compile them in a handy digest here on the site.

Hi dieseltaylor, I’m pleased to say that the Consumer Rights website already has this http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/l/types-of-scams


Ah yes, and does the text in the above Conversation link to it?

I hate to say it but anecdote works very well for most people and yet the link you provide leads to a very dry piece indeed . Getting people to read various types of scam and what to do is to my mind not that engaging.

You have on a plate various people who have given you their stories and these should be offered as the lead into the “What to do now” section. Certainly knowing the people living around me the examples of people similar to themselves being gulled is far more potent and memorable than

I would carry out a survey but perhaps you could use the Connect panel – though I must admit I would like to see the questions before you despatch it.

Incidentally as it is the elderly who are the most gulled, particularly men, perhaps having compiled the stories and the results/defences into guide form these could be sent out either to all or to the vulnerable with their magazine.

Some good food for thought, diesel. The link Lauren has shared is very useful, and we’re looking into using more case studies going forward… watch this space.

This link features a list of all previous Scam Watch’s: https://conversation.which.co.uk/tag/scam-watch/

surely if you give someone your account No and your bank code they can put money in but not withdraw any ?

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Thames Valley police run an “alert” service by email to anyone on their patch who wishes to be kept informed. As well as local crimes, arrests and so on they publicise scams.
Today’s is:
“The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and Action Fraud have noticed a rise in the reporting of victims being recruited via Facebook to sell items for suspects on eBay – often stating that it is a quick way of making money.

The items are said to be bankrupt stock, purchased via auctions, and need to be sold on quickly. The majority of the items reported have been Apple Mac Book Pro/Electrical Items.

The victim places the items on eBay and once the items are sold, the victim will get paid and transfer the funds to the suspect/recruiter.

Once the suspect/recruiter gets the funds, the purchasers are claiming that they have received empty cereal boxes or often no goods at all, leaving the victim being reported as the actual suspect, and leaving them out of pocket as their account will be debited.”

An initiative to be applauded. I presume this service is not limited to our force?

Somebody supposedly from an computer repair company, one of those”Windows maintenance dept” types rang me trying to “give me a refund”. I continually refused on the basis that if I had already paid them money, then they already had my details for a refund. The chap gave me details of a website which purported to show a judgement against the company instructing them to make restitution to their clients. When I continued to refuse he got quite aggressive, saying what’s the matter with you people not wanting to accept their refund. Then he said I don’t have to speak to you anymore “crazy lady” Let me speak to Mr. Wood! He became almost apoplectic when I refused to put my husband on. The call lasted about 20 minutes and he tried every angle to try to get my bank details. Had I been less savvy and more gullible , it could easily have worked!

You did well to ignore this con my partner had a very aggressive man saying he was from windows maintenance possibly it is a tactic that confuses or pressures some people

l had the problem, on a saturday morning, the man said he was from talk-talk, so l listened to him he said l was owed £200, and said l was transfered to their financial dept, the woman had my bank account already up on screen, she knew more about it than l did, l know l have been stupid, but she was putting the money in my account she over paid by a lot, by accident, so l had to send it back, but instead she took that and everything l had, the bank wont pay me because l had given her the money,, the banks fraud people said these people are getting to clever for us,

Returning to DT’s suggestion that Which? compile an indexed list of actual scams and experiences I have to say I agree entirely with him on that point. Telling stories has been the way successive generations of humans have learnt since the dawn of humanity; it’s the most effective way of teaching (one reason why Shakespeare was such a hit 🙂 ) and I have to say it does seem a shame that there’s no simple and straightforward way for subscribers to access those stories. This is arguably one of the most cost-effective ways of alerting people to scammers, it’s at the core of what Which? stands for and it could even be argued it’s their raison d’etre.

Interestingly, it would be simple to compile, given Which?’s unique position as a consumer champion, but if it were to be considered too laborious and time consuming a task I, for one, would happily lend my time to such a project, as I imagine would others. So how about it, folks?

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I agree Ian. Which? could compile many other useful databases as well. We need easily accessible information, or appropriate links.

I assumed relating stories about scams would be telling the truth. Unless you’re suggesting we make them up?

The last post of mine was not aimed at you, Malcolm. It appeared immediately below Duncan’s post initially, but has now sunk below yours. Sooner we get rid of this silly and confusing threading system the better.

I appreciate that Ian!

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Duncan: this has nothing to do with MI5, MI6, MI9, the FBI, CIA, Homeland security, Mossad, DGSE, SVR RF, BND or any other of the multitude of Intelligence agencies that you’re obviously convinced spend their entire time hatching cunning plots, devilish plans, conspiracies, machinations, intrigues, or colluding, conniving, manoeuvring, brewing and distilling ways to deceive, swindle, defraud, cheat, trick, hoodwink, hoax, dupe, take in, mislead, delude, fool, outwit, misguide, inveigle, seduce, ensnare, entrap or beguile the unwary.

My suggestion is merely to correlate and then publish the accounts people have submitted to Which? about scams they’ve encountered in the hope that reading about the experiences of others’ might help some avoid being duped. It is not patronising to suggest that people learn from stories: how d’you think Historians learn their subject? And telling stories to first year Medical and science students is routinely done in Universities. There are few better teaching tools than stories.

And as an aside it’s highly unlikely the ‘propaganda’ you mention is any worse now than it has been for the past several hundred years. The mode of communicating it might have become more sophisticated but the need for those who crave power to distil information that supports their world view I seriously doubt has changed one jot from when Cain said ‘It wasn’t me – ‘onest.”.

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Ian, I have posted elsewhere that my regional police have an email alert service that, among various notifications, send round information on the latest scams – both business and personal. One yesterday concerned people demanding bit coins or they would “launch a Denial of Service attack against the businesses’ websites and networks, taking them offline until payment is made”. Ways were suggested of dealing with this threat. I find this a useful or interesting service depending on the relevance.

Incidentally you missed the police in your list of agencies.

duncan, you regularly say you have information you cannot post on a UK website. Why is this? Why don’t you pass that information to someone else to post on your behalf. Patrick, perhaps?

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@patrick, in response to Duncan, would Which? like to introduce a Convo, with a knowledgeable contributor, on the current position of TTIP – what it seeks to achieve, and whether it is likely to progress. My understanding is that it is in some difficulty and will not move before the US presidential elections are over at the earliest.

We should know what the consequences are to consumers, the allegations that US business interests will have unfettered legal access to our public bodies, and secret tribunals will decide on issues that should be in the public domain. At any rate these are my understandings of some of the issues.

Duncan – There were a couple of requests for a debate on TTIP on the ‘Ideas’ page, one from Dieseltaylor. They have now fallen off the bottom of the list. In my view, we prioritise business and trade when we should be focusing more on the people of this country. That is not in any way a political statement.

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wavechange – as a scientist you will probably upset to learn of the huge number of chemicals that have been “grandfathered” in the US and thus never subject to tests for side effects. The EU operates on a different system as you are well aware.

Now given MEP’s are only given restricted access to the terms and not to openly discuss what they see do you not think that consumers have every reason to be concerned? If the UK’s largest Consumer association does not wish to cover the issue the least it could do is repeat BUEC’s views each month or on a special section on the Website.

The Which? Ltd Board is made up of business people plus four members of staff. The Trustees
, who seem over the past decade to wield less and less direction I would suggest, are also very representative of business, or quangos.

Of the 15 members only eight are currently elected and bear in mind that for at least a couple of years the existing elected members were selected candidates. The addition of a millionaire businessman as a co-opted to Council Dec 1st 2015 [ plus another] was not advised to the 7000 shareholders in the half-yearly update published in February 2016. It did manage to mention three had been elected though decided not to mention who. Remarkable.

SO when thinking of transparency and openness this organisation and the EU on TTIP have something in common.

O quite a simple challenge for Which? promote what BUEC [ the body for the consumer associations of Europe] is saying on the TTIP or just direct members to other sites where they van read on something major which Which? itself is not prepared to do.

Which? has promoted the fact that products tested are purchased rather than donated by manufacturers. This means that there is no possibility that products are specially prepared to perform better than what you or I would buy. It’s a professional approach to maintain independence from companies. I am very disappointed that Which? has not campaigned to make it illegal for any company to make unsolicited calls other than essential (non-marketing) calls to existing customers. Depending on the issue, it may or may not be best to work with BEUC. Perhaps we could approach BEUC directly and push for companies to have their phone services suspended if they engage in nuisance calls.

Rather than us making off-topic comments, perhaps you could post another ‘Idea’ that TTIP should be discussed and I expect you will get some support.

DT – On your first point, I have long been concerned about the way that we are using chemicals. and this was a problem long before TTIP appeared on the scene. There’s little point in me avoiding pointless antibacterial products, for example, when the rest of the western world is using them and damaging the environment.

“Ideas” seem to attract little support. Which? still mixes trivial issues with those that are of more concern to consumers. Has it become a magazine publisher rather than a serious consumer voice? There are plenty of mortgage providers, will writers, conveyancers, and is it a good use of Which?’s limited resources to advise on births, universities, and so on; all very laudable but. when it neglects real support for consumers on, for example, product durability, consumer rights, and is happy to talk about many problems but does not investigate workable solutions (faulty electrical goods, LED interference) perhaps it has lost its focus.

It might just as well abandon a member-based charity structure and go totally commercial, selling its magazines on bookstalls. 🙁

I would be sad to see us lose a consumers champion, and hope it will grow some real teeth. OK, my criticism is a bit over the top but I don’t feel we get what many (?) think they need as consumers.

Paul Lewis says:
30 April 2016

I have more recently started getting e mails from the likes of Aldi, Asda, Sainsburys etc offering me £500 shopping vouchers, i just delete these as scam e mails. Has anyone else had such e mails.


Which?’s latest news (4 May) says:

“The government needs to put more pressure on companies to protect customers from fraudsters’ increasingly sophisticated tactics, and not leave the onus solely on consumers to protect themselves.”……………………….

…….”The research has also helped to identify three of the most common online scams: Phishing emails – emails purporting to be from a bank or payment service (49%) Phishing messages that seek money for services or help, for example a friend stuck abroad (26%) Bogus computer support (25%) Richard Lloyd added: ‘The Government’s Taskforce must not let businesses off the hook, more must be done to prevent fraud and protect consumers.’”

I totally agree that where a company is negligent – in divulging confidential information say – it should be held to account. But equally we must take responsibility for our own actions as well where no company has contributed to our downfall. I am not sure how the three “most common” scams given above should be laid at the doors of reputable “companies”. There may be more here than Which? has said so perhaps they could explain how they propose the above scams should be prevented.

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/05/companies-must-do-more-to-protect-us-from-scams-441026/ – Which?

Would it help to ask business to ensure that emails contain no valid reply email addresses or phone numbers. This would ensure that recipients have to find a website, use Yellow Pages or visit a shop. If this did not work on a voluntary basis, legislation could be introduced.

I never respond to emails, or buy from phone or doorstep salesmen and so far I have not been victim of a scam.

It concerns me that we always seem to be playing catch-up with the criminals.

We always have played catch up with law breakers- whether criminals, terrorists, fraudsters, because we are not always able to predict who will do what and when. So we are often only able to be reactive – act when it has happened. We value personal freedoms – not having our email traffic and web access centrally monitored for example – and quite right. but that does limit the surveillance that might be preventative.

I have suggested a solution that would allow business to help us avoid having to play catch-up or victims of scams, and it does not require surveillance.

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