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From Internet fraud to cold callers, shameful con artists are finding ever more devious ways to get their hands on other people's cash, so it's wise to be wary. Here are five of the latest scams doing the rounds and leaving honest folk out of pocket.
Last month HMRC was forced to issue a warning about a spate of phishing emails purporting to be from the tax office. Particularly prevalent in the lead-up to the self assessment deadline on 31 January, nearly 100,000 people were affected, a rise of 47 per cent on 2013. If you receive an email, no matter how apparently official (they usually include the official logo), advising that you are due a tax rebate, you are advised to forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org, then delete it. HMRC insists that customers who are in line for a refund will only ever be contacted by post.
Police were alerted to a cold-calling scam relating to BT back in January, where cold-callers claiming to be from the firm telling customers they were about to be disconnected. The extortionists were reportedly advising that customers' accounts were in arrears and insisting on taking immediate payment over the phone, warning that the cost of reconnection will be expensive. When challenged, they simply press the mute button to make consumers believe their phone line has been cut off. In reality, they simply hang up and call back later with the same demands. BT insists they will never disconnect you during a call, so don't be taken in.
Dong Nguyen, the creator of hit app Flappy Bird, removed the game from app stores when he decided it had become too addictive. But that has paved the way for scammers to create clone apps tricking users into downloading malicious software, which then sends premium rate text messages. Software firm Trend Micro advises that the original version will never ask for additional read/send text messages permissions during installation, so steer well clear if that's the case.
Con artists, by their very nature, are unscrupulous when it comes to a money-making opportunity. In March, the National Bed Federation warned consumers over a spate of fake mattress scams, where rogue traders found discarded mattresses and simply put new covers on them before selling 'as new'. Aside from the obvious danger of nasties hidden within, many may not meet fire-retardant foam standards. If you're in the market for a mattress, always look for the NBF logo.
Accident claims firms are well known for cold calling, but in March, members of the public were targeted by scammers claiming to be from the Citizens Advice Bureau. Consumers were either telephoned or texted by fraudsters who offered to help with accident claims in a bid to gain thousands of pounds out of the deal. The CAB reported that no CAB adviser would ever text or call someone without prior contact.
Have you or a family member been the victim of a scam? Leave your comments below...