If you thought phone fraud was a thing of the past, think again. Earlier this month, attempted phone scams were reported in the North East, and mysterious £300 charges appeared on Vodafone customers’ phone bills in April – for phone calls they never made.
Phone fraud, or phone scams, are everywhere – each year, millions of UK consumers find themselves the victims of malicious phone calls, and older people especially tend to be targeted (80% of the people who dealt with fraud in 2015 were over the age of 55.) For the scammers, it’s a very lucrative business, since consumers can often end up losing hundreds, or even thousands of pounds.
So how do you protect yourself from potential phone scams?
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Scams can take many different forms: from missed call scams, to text messages, and even bogus phone insurance. Let’s take a look at the most common types of mobile phone related fraud.
1. Premium rate numbers
Many scams take the form of a missed phone call inviting the user to call back a number usually beginning with 090, under the pretence of claiming a prize, or money supposedly won through a contest they never even entered. However, calling these will often result in a very expensive phone bills – premium rate numbers can charge you as much as £4 per minute when called from a mobile phone.
2. Text messages
You may receive a text sent from an unknown number, worded like it was sent from a friend (“Hi, how are you? I’m back, we should catch up!") Most people will text back, asking who the text is from, or maybe telling the person they have the wrong number, but you might end up having to go through a long exchange of texts, which will be charged at a higher rate than normal.
3. Not your bank
Instead of automated calls and texts, you might be called by a real-life scammer pretending to be from your bank and asking for your details, PIN, and password in order to fix a security breach. Be careful, and do not give them your details under any circumstance – your bank will never ask for them.
4. Phone insurance/investments/pension
Fraudsters may also call you to sell you phone insurance (or other products), or offering you a brilliant “investment opportunity”, or even offer you to access your pension funds. They’ll say they’re from a reputed company. Once again, do not ever give your bank or card details over the phone, and do not purchase any product from an unwanted call – you’ll probably never receive it.
If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or received a suspicious call or text, you should contact the national fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud. Their website also provides information on the latest reported scams, as well as support and protection resources.