Have you received a random call lately suggesting you have some kind of problem with an account that needs you to input personal details to fix it? Are you cautious when answering the phone when an unknown number is calling?

Phone scams - also known as phishing - are a type of fraud where cybercriminals try to trick you into visiting a website in order to steal sensitive information.  

There are new phone scams every day, from people pretending to be your bank to HMRC scams. We want to make sure you know how to protect yourself so you don’t become the next victim - plus a few tips on what to do if you get caught in one. 

Your best protection is screening your calls, and not automatically trusting what you're told over the phone. 

Most importantly, don't be afraid to just hang up. 🙅

How do you know if something is a phone scam? 

Have you ever received a call from an unknown number claiming there's a problem with your account? Or perhaps someone insisting you need to provide personal information right then and there?

The key thing to know about phone scams is that they’ll most likely make you feel a sense of urgency when there really is none. It’s not always obvious when something is a scam, which is why so many people fall victim to it. 

You can take these steps to avoid a phone scam: 

8 steps to avoid a phone scam 

  1. Screen your calls: If you receive a call from an unfamiliar number, be cautious. Don't feel pressured to answer every call that comes your way. Let it go to voicemail if you're unsure.

  2. Hang up: Trust your instincts. If something feels off during a call, don't hesitate to hang up immediately. Legitimate companies won't mind if you want to verify their identity or the purpose of the call.

  3. Never transfer money over the phone or email: Legitimate companies will never ask you to transfer money over the phone or via email. If you're ever asked to do so, it's likely a scam.

  4. Verify caller identity: If you're unsure about the legitimacy of a call, take proactive steps to verify the caller's identity. You can ask for their name, identification number, and the purpose of the call. Again, don’t be afraid to hang up. Then you can independently look up the company's central number and contact them directly to confirm the caller's identity.

  5. Refuse to provide personal information: Scammers often use high-pressure tactics to coax personal information out of their targets. Remember, it's okay to refuse to provide any information. The more they push, the more likely it’s a scam.

  6. Use secure channels for transactions: If a legitimate company needs you to transfer money or provide sensitive information, they will do so through secure channels, such as their official app or website. Be wary of any requests for transactions made over the phone.

  7. Trust your gut: Legitimate companies understand and respect security concerns. If the caller becomes pushy or insists on secrecy, it's likely a red flag.

  8. Do your research: Before engaging with any caller, especially if they claim to be from a company you're familiar with, take the time to research. Look up the company's official website and contact information. If the caller's information doesn't match, it's likely a scam.

What are the latest phone scams? 

Scam artists are constantly finding new ways to prey on unsuspecting people - and they’re getting more creative and advanced in their methods. 

Especially in today’s digital age, there are new scams to watch out for that can be even harder to detect. 🔍

Here are some of the latest phone scams to be aware of in 2024:

Subscription scams

Voice cloning technology has become more advanced, allowing scammers to mimic the voices of someone you trust, like a family member or friend. They may call and request urgent financial assistance, claiming to be in distress or facing an emergency. 

While you may feel like it’s an emergency, you can still take a moment to try and verify the caller’s identity. One quick way to do this would be to have a family ‘passcode’ - a word or phrase that would allow you to ensure it’s really the person who they say they are.

‘Hi mum’ scams

The ‘hi mum’ scam is a new scam done through WhatsApp or text, where the scammer pretends to be the recipient’s child. The scammer usually claims their phone broke and they got a new number. Then, they try to request money through a third party. 

Make sure your family members are all aware of this type of scam - especially as a student who may change numbers more frequently (if you move cities or change phone plans).  

SIM swap scams

SIM swapping involves the scammer convincing mobile network providers to transfer your phone number to a new SIM card under their control. Once they gain control of your phone number, they can intercept sensitive information, such as two-factor authentication codes sent via SMS. Consider switching to an authentication app for verification instead of SMS, as these offer more secure protection. 

To protect against SIM swap scams, be vigilant for any unusual activity on your mobile network account and contact your provider immediately if you suspect something is off. 

Subscription scams

Subscription-based services are on the rise, so it’s no surprise that scammers are exploiting this trend. They’ll try to trick you into signing up for fake subscriptions or renewals over the phone. And they may use high-pressure tactics or offer some kind of deal to persuade you to provide your payment details. 

Always be cautious when providing financial information over the phone and verify the legitimacy of any subscription offers independently.

Tech support scams 

Tech support scams involve someone posing as tech support representatives from well-known companies, such as Microsoft or Apple, and claiming that your device is infected with malware or experiencing technical issues. They may then request remote access to your device and ask for payment for supposed repairs or in the form of prepaid vouchers. 

Remember, legitimate tech support representatives will never contact you unsolicited - always be sceptical of any unexpected calls claiming technical problems, even in moments of stress.

What to do if you’ve been scammed 

If you’ve been scammed, you should report it as soon as possible. You can do this by contacting Action Fraud, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), or Police Scotland

You should also contact your bank immediately to report the scam. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get your money back, but you may help prevent it from happening to others. 

If you’ve been scammed, you should always: 

  • Contact your bank 

  • Change your passwords

  • Report the scam to the authorities 

  • Monitor your accounts 

  • Stay up to date with new scams 

As phone scams continue to evolve, it's important to stay in the know with the latest scammer tactics. By being proactive in protecting your personal data, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to one of these schemes. 

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true or feels suspicious, always trust your instincts. 🙏

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