The world of scams is forever getting more and more sophisticated, it has always been the case that scammers are opportunistic.
In the current environment the one that is doing the rounds is where people trying desperately to rent a home are told to transfer money to a “fake” landlord. Once the money is gone it is very difficult to get it back and the rental property itself, if it did exist at all, had nothing to do with the supposed landlord.
How this works is people see a rental property online, it looks great. Given the backlog of people looking for property they reach out the landlord and the landlord offers to do a quick deal with them and give them the property immediately if the deposit is transferred now. Of course, the landlord does not have a property and can often copy the details of a legit properties previously advertised to lure you in. Once the money is transferred you are going to find it hard to get it back.
Scams are not unusual however the cloning of details of legit properties and acting as a landlord is opportunistic in our current environment.
We have previously seen situations where you get contacted by a “prince” who needs you to transfer money for him. Or emails telling you that you have won some lotto you never entered.
A little cop on can often highlight the fact that you are trying to be scammed but there are some other tell-tale signs.
For example often times there are spelling mistakes made on purpose in these emails. The reason for this is straight forward. These scams work on a numbers basis. They literally send the email to thousands of people, the scammers accept that to fall for this you need to be a little stupid/Gullible? and therefore put spelling mistakes in to weed out the more intellectual people.
Emails are one way for scammers to get at you but your guard is a little down when you talk to somebody who seems legit over the phone, particularly when they call you and they have some personal details about you.
Don’t forget how much information is out there about you. For example a fairly common scam is for somebody to ring you offering to sell shares that you own on your behalf. They know your name, address and the fact that you own shares in a certain company, they must be legit, right? Remember all these details are a matter of public record on the share register for the company you own.
There are also the people who call you claiming to be from your work IT dept, they then ask you to let them log into your machine by going to a web based service and they can then follow your actions in future and gleam details such as you logging into your online banking etc. or worse still they tell you “for security reasons we need you to hang up and just ring us back on our usual IT department telephone number” when you hang up they have hacked your phone and it does not actually hang up, so when you think you are dialling you are actually still connected to the scammer.
So how do you protect yourself from these people?
This is difficult particularly when the scams are becoming more and more sophisticated. How do you protect yourself from scams as sophisticated as fake landlords, or scammers having all your personal details to start with?
- Be very wary of anybody who is looking for personal details early on in a conversation.
- Don’t give too much info away to new callers.
- Remember any regulated entity who contacts you should not be doing so cold. The consumer protection code states you should already have business with them and be in regular contact or they should only be calling to discuss things like life cover.
- If you are considering engaging or particularly transferring money to a particular entity you should make sure you have at least verified them.
- Get their name and details and check it on the central bank website, there is a register there that lists all regulated entities.
- There is also a register of all firms the central bank has issued warnings on.
- Call them back on the landline listed on the central bank register.
- Ideally go and visit their address. I would not be happy passing money to any firm that wouldn’t meet me face to face in their offices.
- Ask for details of other people who have dealt with the firm and ask to get to speak to them. This isn’t fool proof but can be useful. Make sure you call them not the other way around.
- If you have been scammed before you could be on a “sucker list”. These are lists sold between scammers and therefore you could be more prone to future attempts
- Remember scammers are probably the best sales people in the world.
- If you are scammed or think you might have been, contact your bank, the central bank and the Gardaí.
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.