Scams: how to spot and beat them

Telephone scams

Examples of the more commonly reported telephone scams include:

  • “computer virus” scam – the caller claims they have detected a virus on your computer and can help remove it
  • “tax rebate” scam – the caller claims you may be entitled to a refund due to paying too much Council Tax or that your home is registered in a higher Council Tax banding than it should be
  • “investment scams” – the caller is offering a ‘too good to miss’ investment opportunity, which may involve purchasing anything from vintage wine to development land or artwork to shares
  • “HMRC (or similar) threat of action” – the caller may claim that you are due to be prosecuted or arrested for an unpaid bill
  • “telephone / broadband disconnection” – the caller claims your service is due to be disconnected because of an unpaid bill
  • “high-pressure selling scam” – the caller may be trying to sell you a subscription package for unnecessary health-related goods

How to avoid falling victim to telephone scams

Here are a few tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a telephone scam:

  • called out of the blue – act with caution, be suspicious and trust your gut feeling
  • never make a payment or provide bank card details to a stranger over the phone
  • never provide or ‘confirm’ your personal details over the phone
  • never trust what you are being told – stay calm, always question the caller and if you unsure, don’t be afraid to simply hang up and carry out your own checks to make sure the claims being made were genuine
  • never be intimidated into making a quick decision
  • if you are interested in what was being offered by the caller? Then take some time to shop around and purchase from a well-known reputable and genuine business
  • if in doubt, just hang up

How to help protect yourself from telephone scams

You can opt out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

Consider screening your calls, by activating the caller ID service on your phone and not answering calls from numbers you don’t recognise or are either ‘withheld’ or ‘international’ and even use an answerphone or voicemail to see if the caller leaves a message.

Number / call blocking services - most telephone service providers will offer services to block any unwanted callers who have withheld their own telephone number when attempting to call you.

Call-blocking devices – some telephones now come with built in call-blocking technology, but separate plug-in devices are also readily available on the marketplace which allow you block calls from unknown, withheld or international numbers.

Call barring services - some telephone service providers will offer this service, which automatically bars out-going calls made from your phone to premium rate numbers.