At this time of year, when you should be rewarded for your sterling efforts to stick with a new resolution, the scammers are waiting to take advantage. Whether you're planing to lose weight, get fit, or meet someone special, you need to be on your guard against those who want to use your new-found enthusiasm to con you out of your cash.
So what should you watch for?
ScamsIt seems particularly cruel that the scammers will get you when you're finally making an effort, but they are criminal gangs and they're not particularly interested in whether something seems cruel or unfair.
Citizens Advice warns that because we are doing something that's outside our usual experience, we may not be wise to the scammers, but they warn that there are plenty lying in wait.
One trend they saw a lot of in 2013 was scammers selling dodgy diet pills, which proved to be overpriced rubbish, but variations on these scams lurk everywhere, so it's worth being wise to the telltale signs.
- You should be skeptical if the call, letter, e-mail or text regarding the diet pill or new dating service has come out of the blue.
- You should be particularly worried if they are asking you to send money in advance, or if they ask for you to wire money to them.
- It pays to beware if they are saying you have to respond quickly, so you don't get time to think about it or ask family and friends before you decide.
- And the basic rule of thumb applies: if it seems too good to be true – it probably is - especially if they are offering you something for nothing.
Small printThey also warn people to take care when they sign up for new services like a gym membership or dating agency. These may not be out-and-out scams, but you need to be sure you understand the deal you're signing up to.
VictimsIf you think you have a been a victim of a scam, you'll need to report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others. Often you can't get your money back if you've been scammed, especially if you've handed over cash. However, if you've paid for goods or services by credit card you have more protection and if you used a debit card you may be able to ask your bank for a chargeback.
Your first port of call is to get advice and report it to Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or online advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk.
And to protect yourself from becoming a victim again you should follow the golden rules of better protection issued by the CAB:
- Never give out contact details like your name, phone number or address to strangers or to people who should have this information already.
- Never give financial information or details of your identity, bank accounts or credit card to strangers or to businesses that should already hold your details.
- Shred anything with your personal or bank details on – don't just throw it away.
- If in doubt, don't reply. Bin it, delete it or hang up.
- Persuasive sales patter? Just say: "No thank you."
- Resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
- Never send money to someone you don't know.
- Walk away from job adverts that ask for money in advance.
- Ask friends, neighbours or family about whether an offer is likely to be a scam.