EVER READ ABOUT someone losing money to a scam and thought, ‘How were they daft enough to fall for that?’ We hear so much about scams these days that it’s easy to think we’re wise to all the tricks, but as our financial lives become increasingly complex, and so much of our spending is online, it’s getting ever easier to be tricked. Action Fraud received over 275,000 reports last year, which is thought to be the tip of the iceberg, as many scam victims keep quiet, through embarrassment or because they think there’s no point. The losses can be devastating: pension pots representing a lifetime’s savings, deposits for a new home running into thousands. But it is possible to beat the scammers, if you know how to protect yourself.SCAM 1 THE HOLIDAY THAT NEVER WASYou spot the perfect holiday villa online – and great news, not only is it cheaper than on other sites, but it’s available for your dates. Think before you book because, according to ABTA, millions of pounds a year are lost by holidaymakers booking villas and apartments that don’t exist, or aren’t owned by the people taking the money. Scammers set up legitimate looking websites, often lifting photos from genuine ones, and take payment upfront by bank or wire transfer, then disappear. Some victims haven’t found out they’ve been cheated until they turned up with their suitcases.
Protect yourself Ideally, book through a company that’s a member of ABTA. If you want to book direct with a property owner, look out for the warning signs of surprisingly cheap prices and full availability. Speak to them on a landline phone number before you pay anything, and avoid paying by bank or wire transfer; paying by credit card gives you protection.
‘I lost £3,000 on a holiday scam’
CARLA EVANS, 40, who runs lifestyle blog jabberwock.me, was taken in by a fake holiday company. The villa I booked looked stunning. I had a flurry of emails with the agent, who waxed lyrical about the local area and even offered to arrange free airport transfers. I paid £3,000 via bank transfer and signed a booking contract. A month before the holiday, I thought I’d remind myself of what our lovely villa looked like. The website was down. I tried again later – still down. I Googled the holiday company and to my horror, it was listed on Trip Advisor as a scam, with victims warning others not to part with any cash. I reported it to my bank and Action Fraud but because I paid via bank transfer, directly into the fraudster’s account, there was nothing that could be done
THE ‘FAUXMANCE’ TRICK
Scammers love to target the vulnerable – and we’re never more exposed than when we’re looking for love. Criminal gangs set up fake profiles on dating websites, often claiming to be living abroad, and spend months gaining a potential victim’s trust. Then comes the request for money, for a plane ticket to visit you, or a sob story such as a sick relative. If you pay, you’ll get more requests, and when the money runs out, so does the ‘relationship’.
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