Scams – what to watch out for
What is a scam?
A scam is a scheme designed to con you out of your money or your personal details such as your bank account details, PIN numbers or internet banking login details.
Scams can take many forms – fake lotteries, pyramid schemes, and other “get rich quick” deals, as well as phishing. The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of the different types of scams so that you can easily spot them.
How can I spot a scam?
There are many ways that you can fall victim to a scam or fraud. The best defence is to be on your guard. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!
Here are some general tips on what to watch out for:
- Never give your personal, bank or credit card details to someone you have never heard of before. Remember, banks, credit card companies, utility companies and your internet provider already have your personal details if you are a customer – they would not ask you to confirm them.
- Never click on links within emails that you feel a friend or acquaintance wouldn’t normally send or that you are unfamiliar with. Also be very wary of clicking on links in emails that come from an email address that you don’t recognise.
- Think twice before responding to a friend’s message requesting money. It could be a scam with someone hacking into your friend’s email or social media account. The message will appear to be from your friend saying they are abroad, have lost their money and bank cards or they have been stolen and they need you to wire money to them.
- Use your bank and credit cards safely and securely. Scammers can copy your card in just a few seconds – this is known as “skimming”. Never let your cards out of your sight and never give anyone your PIN number. Always cover the keypad when entering you PIN.
- If you are offered an investment deal, always check that the firm is authorised on the Central Bank’s registers website. You should also check the Central Bank’s list of unauthorised firms to make sure a warning notice has not been issued about them.
- Scammers sell lists of people who have responded to scams on to other scammers. These lists are called “suckers lists” and if your details are on them you will be targeted again and again.
- Take care when buying or selling goods online. Never accept large sums of cash, cheques, or money transfers as payment. If you are selling something valuable like a car, ask the buyer to get you a draft from their bank or to transfer the money to your bank account. A draft will guarantee you receive the money immediately at your bank, and if a buyer refuses to pay by draft or transfer, be suspicious.
- If you are putting an item for sale in the local newspaper or on a website, for example your car, never accept a cheque or draft for an amount over the asking price. This is a scam. You will typically be asked to refund the amount over the asking price after you deposit the cheque or draft. The scammer will claim it was a mistake or for shipping expenses. The cheque will inevitably bounce and you will lose the money the money you have “refunded”.
Although not scams, you can be caught out in other ways and lose your money without realising it, such as:
Charging for something that is free
Many organisations ask you to book or register for something online, for example, applying to sit your driving test. There is no cost to book or register on their websites but there are other websites that offer to do the application for you. You are not saving yourself any time by using these companies, and they will charge you a fee to do something which would be free if you did it yourself.
Some examples of services which are provided free of charge include:
- The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you access to healthcare in the public system of any EU member state (and EEA or Switzerland) if you are sick or injured while on holiday. You can apply for this online at www.ehic.ie
- The Road Safety Authority (RSA) processes applications for driver theory and practical tests and uses the internet to let people book their tests online at www.rsa.ie
To be sure you are not charged a fee for a free service, you should only use the official website of the organisation that you are applying to. Be careful using search engines as many of the companies that charge fees advertise on search engines and might look like the official organisation.
What should you do if you have been caught out by a scam?
If you think you have been the victim of a scam or fraud and you have given someone your bank account or credit card information, inform your bank or credit card company immediately so they can tell you what action they need to take. This might include putting a stop to your account, cancelling your credit or debit card or stopping a transaction from going through your account.
You should also contact your local Garda station immediately.
Contact us and tell us about any scams you, your friends, families or colleagues have experienced. Building awareness about scams is the best way to put a stop to them.
If you were scammed somewhere else in Europe, tell the European Consumer Centre Ireland. You can also sign up to the European Consumer Centre’s monthly e-newsletter which warns Irish consumers about scams in Europe
And finally, you should let your friends and family know so they won’t get caught out.