Don't fall for this gambling tipster scam

Horse racingThese scammers will promise to provide you with gambling tips that will win you a fortune. Remember, the only person guaranteed to win is the bookie!

Pete, one of my oldest friends, is a racehorse owner. That's a slight exaggeration – he owns a bit of one leg via a racing syndicate.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
In early September, he was at Goodwood to watch the animal. It was a 50-1 outsider so it did well to finish seventh in a field of eleven.

But as Pete puts it, the horse is young and might improve. "In any case, racing is not about making money – it's a day out with friends and a few drinks. I spend money on this, others buy a season ticket at Chelsea or take a dozen short breaks a year. It's just my choice which I budget for and can afford."

Others, however, try to claim the racetrack is the route to instant, easy wealth. Now, call me an obsessive if you like, but I file away schemes which come in the post or email.
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Make good money quickly, without risking your cash
Three years ago, a guy we'll call Raymond wrote to me out of the blue saying he had "a personal involvement in certain events which will be financially beneficial to you. I will explain how you can make good money very quickly – without risking any of your hard earned cash".

Now the only connection with racing was the Newmarket address (which turned out to be a sweet shop), his claim that his father was a jockey (almost impossible to verify as his surname was hardly rare and, in any case, so what?) and that he "had decided to allocate a percentage of the money I'll be raising from this offer to support the Injured Jockeys Fund". The fund is a genuine and worthy registered charity but the percentage could be 0.1%.

"I sincerely hope you give me the chance to prove myself", he concluded. Looking a little further into the offer I could choose between a four-week trial of racing tips at £37 or a two-year plan at £347. The second promised to return my money if his recommendations did not produce enough winners.

There was a facsimile of a bookmaker cheque for £6,250 which he claimed was from one race two months earlier. This is easy enough to forge, but, if genuine gives no indication of how many losing bets he made. Equally, anyone can compose a list of winners simply by working through past editions of The Racing Post (or many websites) just as phoney share tipsters can use back numbers of the Financial Times to create an impressive success record.

He also promised "over £500 of goods and services" which turned out to be "free" bets bookies offer if you open an account.

Delving further, you needed £500 in cash to start with as each bet had to be £100, a very hefty amount for most people.

Winners and losers
So what happened to Raymond (almost certainly not his real name) and his horse tipping service? Certainly he took some money in – helped by the charitable reference although the good cause was not aware of his "generosity" - and he texted some tips over the next month or two.

According to some posts on betting sites, these tips were all winners.

But there were also complaints that they were all losers. They can't both be right so it could be that those stating he was a turf genius were sent by himself or his friends.

He did then eventually send out one or two winning tips. That's not difficult as all you need to do is to name enough favourites at very low odds (so your winnings for each pound bet may be as little as 10p) and you are bound to find winners after a time – it's virtually a statistical certainty. I could do that. So could anyone else.

After that, the tips stopped. He did not refund any money, telling people that they had to wait two years for this. He apparently told one punter that he had received an offer from a syndicate and "moved on to other things", but promised a "super premium" service for £649 in return for another cheque.

Finding a serious tipster
There are, of course, genuine tipsters. Some work for newspapers – others provide more specialised services. So how do you separate the real from the phoney?
  • Look for consistency of adverts. Someone who buys space in The Racing Post on a regular basis over a long period is serious.
  • Check specialist racing and football betting websites. There are often posts praising the good and damning the bad.
  • Avoid unsolicited mail. People who write to you out of the blue may disappear with your money.
  • Be sceptical of "guarantees" - the only guarantee in racing is that bookies always win.
  • Be especially wary of past records that are not independently verified as related to real tips.
  • Ignore claims that you could make big money or easy money. You can't.

10 PHOTOS
The top 10 scams of 2011
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Don't fall for this gambling tipster scam

Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.

The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme

It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.

Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.

Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.

The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.

The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.

A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense

Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.

The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.

Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.

They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.

Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.

July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.

The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.

The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.

Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.

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