Scams

As scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, you should be aware of potential risks.

There are many different types of scams, but the aim is always the same – to take money and personal information from innocent members of the public.

Scams are constantly evolving so the best way to stay protected is to be aware of potential signs and tricks scammers may be using.

Different methods and types of scams

Mail and phone scams

Scammers may contact you out of the blue using clever techniques to persuade you to send them money or ask for personal and/or banking details.

Be particularly wary of letters and calls relating to:

  • Lotteries or competitions you have not entered;
  • Clairvoyants who suggest harm may come to you if you do not send them money;
  • Charities you have not heard of;
  • Health products that offer miracle cures;
  • Offers of romance that normally lead to requests for money;
  • Pension offers which normally lead to requests to transfer your pension funds; and
  • Investments in land, wine, precious stones or carbon credits.

Scammers may also claim to be from legitimate organisations such as banks, police services, medical practitioners, telephone/internet providers, electricity or gas suppliers, and computer software providers. Be wary of unsolicited texts, which can lead to high mobile bills if you reply.

Doorstep scams

Not all doorstep callers are bogus, but watch out for:

  • Rogue doorstep traders who may give warnings about your home in terms of repairs and maintenance. Do not be taken in by this, tell someone you know and get advice from a qualified tradesperson who can verify if you need any work done. Never hand over a cash deposit or go with a trader to the bank to take money out. An honest trader will never ask you to do this.

  • Rogue sales persons who try to pressure you into buying goods. They may say the offer has a time limit, but it is usually not genuine. It is best not to decide on the doorstep but to shop around and talk it over with someone you know first.

  • Bogus callers who pretend they are from the Council, a charity, or a gas, electricity or water supplier in order to gain entry to your home. They should be able to present an identification cars. If you are in any doubt, do not be embarrassed to keep them waiting on your doorstep, behind a closed door while you ring Quick check on 0800 013 2290 to verify their ID.

Online scams

There are many different types of online scams. Some examples include:

  • Bogus “free trial” offers for items such as slimming pills, health supplements or beauty products, which turn out to be costly subscriptions.

  • Bogus emails claiming to be from your bank or someone you hold an account with, containing links to trick you into sharing your personal or financial details.

  • Counterfeit goods – it seems like a bargain branded item, but in fact you could be dealing with a copy website selling fake goods.

  • Loan scams – scammers offer a bogus loan and convince you to send money for fees by money transfer services.

Copycat websites

Consumers often mistakenly use copycat websites to book an MOT or order a passport without realising official government websites allow them to do so without a service charge. In NI, the official government website is www.nidirect.gov.uk

Copycat websites often look similar to the official government websites and charge a fee to process or renew official documents, whereas consumers can apply for official documents and licences at the correct price or for zero cost on the nidirect website.  

Often copycat websites are positioned higher in search engine results than the official government websites, resulting in consumers unwittingly being charged a processing fee or renewal fee. It is recommended to look for an official government website which will end in .gov.uk. and not to click on the first website you find on a search engine.

How can I avoid scams?

The Consumer Council is part of the ScamwiseNI Partnership. For more information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/scamwiseni

Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming the victim of a scam:

  • Your bank will never contact you to ask for your PIN or your password, or send a courier to your home to collect cash, your PIN, card or chequebook;

  • Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account because of suspected fraud on your account;

  • Never click on links in emails that take you to another website, it’s better to enter a website address yourself into the internet browser;

  • If you have not bought a lottery ticket – you cannot win it;

  • You should never have to ring a premium telephone number or send money to claim a prize, not even the cost of a stamp;

  • Telephone scammers who convince you they are genuine by asking you to call their head office to check their ID, while they in fact stay on the line and answer your call. Check the line is actually free by ringing a friend first before trying the number the telephone caller has given you.

  • Genuine computer firms do not make spontaneous phone calls to help you fix your computer;

  • Use the “Quick Check Service” by calling 0800 013 2290 to see if doorstep callers are genuine; and

  • If in doubt, do not reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.

If you have been a victim of a scam, or you think a friend of family member has been affected, contact Consumerline who can give advice. If necessary, they may pass the matter on to Trading Standards Service.

Bogus callers should be reported to the PSNI, and scams should be reported to Action Fraud.