We’ve all seen social media adverts popping up on our social feeds, offering double glazing discounts and budget boilers in our local area.
The spooky part is when they pop up after we’ve just been searching online for home improvement-related things (or even when we’ve been talking about it with someone within earshot of our smartphone).
Regardless of the reasons we are seeing the messages, it’s important to be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. With the genuine home improvement companies out there, there are also scammers looking to make a quick buck through selling your personal information, or using it for other, more sinister purposes.
What do online scams look like?
Online scams can take various forms, with scammers utilising social media and websites to appear legitimate.
It used to be the case that scammers focussed their attention on older members of our communities, but advances in social media and the fast-paced nature of the society that we live in means that anyone can be a target, with the methods becoming more sophisticated.
Online scams can include, but are not limited to –
- Scam online retailers using fabricated reviews to seem legitimate.
- Fake ‘Discounted’ double glazing / windows / solar panels / home improvements.
- Fake betting tip websites / social media channels.
- Impersonation scams (emails or ‘cloned’ websites where the scammer claims to be Netflix / HMRC / Amazon / NHS).
There are things that we can do when it comes to online scams to protect ourselves, our money, and our personal information.
- Avoid clicking on any links – Make sure you report the message as a scam and then delete it.
- Never assume a website is safe – It is important to check to see if websites are trustworthy and legitimate before supplying any sensitive information (check for the padlock / secure symbol as a first step, and look for any giveaways of a scam, such as spelling errors or pixilated logos / images).
- Never send money or buy anything if unsure – you should always do your homework before agreeing to anything. Checking online reviews of the company you are looking at is a good start – but remember generic reviews with similar information can be a sign of a scam.
- Avoid sharing information if unsure – Never share any personal information; bank details; passwords; or PIN numbers – If you have given out this type of information, you should change all passwords and pins and notify your bank.
- Keep an eye on downloads – Never download any attachments or files in emails or click on any links if you don’t know the sender. If you have done this, you should check that your device security is up to date and run a scan for viruses.
- Don’t be caught out by call backs – Avoid calling any numbers you have received in an email, text message or letter, especially if it is a premium rate number – If you are unsure about the cost of dialing a particular number, you can contact your service provider for advice.
There is up to date information on the Financial Conduct Authority’s websites about current scams to watch out for, as well as a warning list of scam firms.
Have you paid for something online with your card and not received it?
- For purchases made on a credit card over £100 – Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 states that a credit card company is ‘jointly and severally’ liable for a breach of contract or misrepresentation by a trader. This means that a claim can be made against the credit card provider if a purchase was made with a trader that misrepresents the goods/services or breaches contract.
- For purchases under £100 on a credit card, or those made on a debit card – You can make a claim to your bank’s chargeback scheme. You should contact the bank to discuss the options available to you in this situation.
It’s important to understand that financial scams are fraud and are a criminal offense. You should reach out to your bank in the first instance to see if they can put a stop to any pending transactions, and report this to the police on the non-emergency number ‘101’.
You can also report scams to consumeradvice.scot by visiting the website, or by calling the team on 0808 800 9060 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm), or by using the Quick Reporting Tool at scamwatch.scot.