Why do scams work?

To support Citizen Advice’s Scam Awareness week, we run through some of the well-known ways scammers may try to target you.

Types of scams - A-Plan Insurance

With so many of us sharing personal details across social media platforms, it isn’t hard for fraudsters to find some basic details about us, including our telephone numbers, email address, birthdays, even the area where we live. They are then able to target us, knowing ‘just enough’ to engage and, in many cases, convince victims a call or email is genuine.

Scammers are continuing to perfect their schemes, so here’s a run-down of some well-known types of scams to help keep you suspicious, and safe.

Ghost broking

As insurance brokers, we would like to warn you about fraudulent insurance scams. ‘Ghost broking’ is a well-known scam, often advertising online in places such as social media, online forums and even paid Google ads with the promise of cheap insurance.

They typically target those with potentially higher premiums offering to save them money – hard to resist right?

They may convince you that they have negotiated a ‘special deal’ but have absolutely no partnerships with any insurers. Once you obtain a fake quote, you may hand over your payment details. They then pocket the money themselves.

You may receive a fake insurance certificate and other documentation. They can do this by either buying real car (cheap) insurance policies using fake details or design their own documents which appear to be from the insurer.

At this point, not only are you out of pocket, but you are also left without any insurance at all and unlikely to realise this until it’s too late.  The cost, to the victim of the scam, can really be limitless in the event of a serious car accident, for example.

Fake No Claims Bonus Certificate

Another ghost broker scam includes the ability to purchase a fake no claims bonus (NCB) certificate, to help bring down the cost of your insurance. Don’t be fooled.

Not only are (genuine) documents freely available from your existing insurer, but your new (genuine) insurer will also be able to spot any accidents you’ve had via a central database. A better option is to pay to protect your no claims bonus each year.

Top Tip: Check the FCA register to see if the insurer who offered you the ‘improved’ no claims certificate is registered with the FCA. If you were contacted by email, don’t click any links – instead find out more about the company by searching directly online. If you do come across something and aren’t sure if it’s legitimate, simply get in touch with your local A-Plan Insurance branch. We are here to help!

Social media ad scams

The most common type of fraud complaint received by Action Fraud is where you buy something online and never receive it. It’s an easy win for scammers who upload an image, select their demographic, pay a relatively small fee to advertise and await the clicks.

With endless ‘ads’ popping up in your social media feed, from Facebook to Instagram, with little to no policing, it is no surprise that this type of fraud has increased during a period where more and more of us were shopping online.

This type of scam increased by 65% from 2020 to 2021!

As opposed to purchasing directly from a social media feed, particularly an advertiser you have not heard of before, if you are interested in the product, make a note of what it is called and who is selling it and run a Google search. Not only will this bring up other, possibly more reputable suppliers, but you may also come across reviews of the company advertising on the social media platform.

Advance fee fraud

We all know how this one goes – you receive an email from someone in distress or stating that you have been left a huge amount of money. All you need to do is send them a small amount of money to relieve their suffering/release the funds to you. You do not know the person emailing you, and often the message is filled with typos and impersonal content.

This can come in the guise of offering you a loan, or a chance to claim a fictitious inheritance, or threatening money recovery. Find out how to tell the difference between phishing and spamming here.

Even dating scams, or scam-based ‘catfishing’, grew by 30% during the pandemic. If you meet that someone special online, and they ask you for money, that is a Big. Red. Flag. And yet, it still happens, daily.

Impersonation scams

There are no lows the scammer won’t stoop to get their hands on your hard-earned cash.

Fraudsters can contact you claiming to be from your bank, the police, Royal Mail, HMRC or any other ‘authority’. First things first, just because someone calling you may know some basic things about you does not mean that they are genuine.

And if you receive a text, email or call proclaiming to be from a health authority, whether NHS or a pharmacy, offering you a COVID vaccination or booster with links to pay for it ‘in advance’, delete.

Genuine vaccinations and boosters are not chargeable and you can book for free here.

The rule of thumb is that, if you receive a call telling you there is an issue with your account, to move money to a ‘safe account’, or pay outstanding tax, hang up, search for the alleged bank or authority online and call them directly and ask if they called you. Never call them back on the number they called you on.

And if someone contacts you pretending to be your bank and asks you to download a new app, don’t, it’s fake. All banks and authorities understand they cannot call you to request these things, so your bank will never ask you to move money to another account, for example.

National Insurance number scams are well known, and usually received via an automated call telling you your National Insurance Number has been ‘compromised’, and to press a button to speak to an operator. Of course, this is a scam. The scammer wants to get hold of your personal and financial information which they can then use elsewhere. Even in 2021, this was one of the most popular non-cyber ways for scammers to obtain your financial and personal information. Action Fraud continues to warn UK Citizens of this scam, find out more here.

Top Tip: Never, ever share your login details, pin number or any password. A caller may threaten legal action or tell you that your money is at risk if you don’t provide it – it is their job to cloud your judgement to obtain what they want from you. If you aren’t sure, don’t make any apologies, just hang up.

Trust your instinct. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Now that you are more aware of some of the types of scams that operate in the UK, please consider sharing this with your friends and family.