10 scams to avoid

Scammers may be ruthless, despicable and immoral - but they sure are creative.

Every day, scammers are working hard to invent new and ever more successful ways to con you out of your cash. Here are 10 scams to avoid - along with help on how to protect yourself.

1. 'British Airways' phishing scam
A spate of phishing emails purporting to be from British Airways have been sent out to members of the public. The emails, which asked customers to confirm flights they had never booked, were attempts to get people's personal details, British Airways said. It also warned against emails which ask passengers to pay a BTA tax (Basic Travel Allowance) to travel with a friend.

2. Fake mattress scams
The National Bed Federation (NBF) has issued a warning about fake mattress scams, claiming "hundreds, if not thousands" of people are being targeted by rogue traders. The scammers find discarded mattresses and put a new cover on them, then sell them on 'as new'. Trading Standards said it is finding such "substandard mattresses on a regular basis. As well as being ridden with bugs, the mattresses may not meet British fire-retardant foam standards. The NBF promised mattresses carrying its logo are safe, however.

3. Fake accident claims
Imposters claiming to be Citizens Advice advisers have cold-called and texted members of the public and pretended to offer them help with accident claims, in an attempt to scam them out of thousands of pounds.

4. Gold mine scam
Investors are being told to be on their guard against a gold mine scam. A leading gold mining company, Petropavlovsk, warned its 20,000 shareholders are being targeted by scammers calling themselves 'Equiniti Stock Registers' (similar to the bona fide Equiniti Group) and offering to swap bogus warrants for thousands of pounds of shares.

5. Tax rebate phishing
HMRC has issued a warning about new spate of tax rebate phishing emails. The emails, which purport to be from HMRC, may be carrying the official logo and appear very convincing. Nearly 100,000 people are typically affected by these scams in the three months running up to the self assessment deadline on 31 January, a 47% increase on last year. Gareth Lloyd, Head of Digital Security at HMRC, said: "HMRC never contacts customers who are due a tax refund via email – we always send a letter through the post. If you receive an email claiming to be from HMRC which offers a tax rebate, please send it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and then delete it permanently."

6. 'Flappy Bird' malicious app
Users of the popular Flappy Bird game have been lured into buying malicious apps from Google's Android store after Flappy Bird's developer, Dong Nguyen, decided the game was too addictive and had "become a problem". He removed it from the app store, and scam artists have since created clone apps containing malicious software that is designed to trick users into sending premium rate text messages, says software firm Trend Micro. "The fake Flappy Bird app ask for the additional read/send text messages permissions during installation - one that is not required in the original version."

7. Investment con
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau announced hundreds of elderly people are being targeted by a new form of investment scam involving diamonds and rare jewels. Companies have cold-called victims and tried to persuade them to hand over thousands of pounds to invest in gems that have been marked up by as much as 17 times their actual value. The companies may also refuse to hand over any diamonds at all and will constantly encourage people to keep the investment a 'secret' from potential jewel thieves. Diamond brokers do not have to be registered with a regulator, which makes the market vulnerable to such abuse, so police advise hanging up on cold-callers.

8. Rebate scam
Police in Nottingham have issued a warning about a phone scam in which callers are being asked to purchase Ukash vouchers in order to receive a rebate from the Office of Fair Trading. The scammers tell their victims they are eligible to reclaim thousands of pounds of bank or other charges such as payment protection insurance (PPI). The fraudsters then claim the service requires an upfront payment of between £200 and £250, and ask them to do a money transfer, disclose their bank account details or supply a UKash voucher serial number. These serial numbers are like cash - hand them over and it's like handing over money. "Never reveal a UKash voucher code to anyone over the phone," said a spokesperson for Action Fraud.

9. 'BT' disconnection scam
Police have also warned that scammers are cold-calling people pretending to be from BT and tricking them into thinking their phone line has been disconnected. Police say the fraudsters claim your BT bill has not been paid and the account is in arrears. If you refuse to immediately make a payment over the phone, they tell you your phone line will be disconnected and warn you that if you do not pay now, it will cost you a lot more to reconnect it later. Challenge them and the scammer will 'demonstrate' that they are from BT by pressing the mute button on their phone, which makes it seem like the phone line has been disconnected. The fraudsters will eventually hang up, call you back and demand payment again. BT has stated that, while they may have to call you about a debt, they will never disconnect your landline during the call.

10. Rogue traders
Householders have been warned to watch out for rogue traders and cowboy builders following the recent storms. Trading Standards are warning flood victims against paying cold-callers to carry out repairs to their homes or remove 'dangerous' trees. Meanwhile, some motorists have been targeted by conmen, who have removed 'road closed' warning signs and waited for cars to get stuck. Then the scammers driven up to their victims in 4x4s and offer to free them - for a fee.

Spotted a scam? Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.

Have you been affected by any of these scams? Which one do you think is the cleverest - and which is the most despicable? Let us know your thoughts using the comments box below!
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