Any of us could be targeted by scammers. We may think we’d spot a scam easily, but do we really know what to look for, how to protect ourselves and what to do if we are scammed?

Scams Awareness Fortnight runs from 14 to 27 June. As part of that, our Trading Standards team is answering the questions they are most asked about scams and sharing their top tips to help you spot one.

Protecting people against scams is more important than ever. Many people are facing issues because of the coronavirus pandemic – from employment and debt, to housing and health – meaning more people are in vulnerable situations. Scammers are taking advantage of this, so it's vital people have the knowledge and tools to protect themselves.

Scams are crimes that can happen to anyone and we can all take a stand to help to stop them.

In North Yorkshire recently, Trading Standards has received reports of people being contacted by fraudsters in attempts to obtain personal data, such as banking information, which might then be sold on or used against the victim in a subsequent fraud. You should never give personal details in an unsolicited call or other contact. Banks and other financial organisations would never ask you to do so.

What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or an organisation.

What type of scams do you see a lot of?

Scams can come in many different forms. Often, scammers respond to current events, for example scams related to vaccines and face masks due to the Covid pandemic.

Common scams include:

  • Someone claiming to be your bank, asking you to log in or provide personal information
  • A text message claiming that you’ve got a parcel waiting and need to pay to collect it
  • Automated messages pretending to be from a Government agency
  • A letter claiming that you’ve won a lottery or competition that you’ve never entered

How can I spot a scam?

Although they might look different, scams often share some ‘red flags’:

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
  • Contact from someone out of the blue who you don’t know
  • Being asked to provide personal information
  • Being put under pressure to respond quickly
  • You’re asked to pay for something in an unusual way, like gift vouchers

How can I protect myself from scams?

  • Don’t be rushed into making decisions. It’s okay to take your time and speak to family and friends if you’re unsure
  • Never give away personal information like passwords or bank details to anyone that you don’t trust, or have only ever met online
  • Research the company you’re dealing with - find reviews, search Companies House, or ask friends for recommendations
  • Pay by debit or credit card to get more protection through your bank if there’s a problem
  • Keep your online accounts secure with strong passwords and make sure your antivirus software is up to date

What should I do if I’ve been scammed?

  • If you’ve paid money, contact your bank to let them know what’s happened. You should also change any log-in details and passwords as well as checking your computer for any viruses.
  • Contact your bank, or third parties like PayPal, to see if you can recover any of the money you’ve paid.
  • Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. They’ll provide advice and pass the details to Trading Standards. You can also report scams to Action Fraud.