Category: Warning

The Fake Marriage Rebate

There is a marriage allowance worth £250 that can be claimed from HMRC each year.

Marriage Allowance Limited has taken to sending out letters and emails to people advising them to get this rebate and they will do it for you. What they don’t tell people is that although the claim is free, the company charges 42% plus a processing fee and that doesn’t leave much of the rebate remaining to actually get to the tax payer.

Their website is designed to make people believe it is HMRC.

This activity is legal as they don’t explicitly claim to be from HMRC and the company runs similar operations targeting other tax allowances.

As always, read messages carefully to see who they are actually from, be careful with Google searches not to just pick the top of the list in case it’s an advert and the official site you want is lower down the list.

If you want to claim the marriage allowance, go to www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance or call 0300 200 3300

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Big Increases in Identity Fraud

Identity theft is when someone collects enough information about you to pretend to be you in order to access your bank account, use your credit card details, open accounts in your name, take out loans in your name, block your access to your own accounts etc.

This is a very destructive form of fraud as it can be very difficult for the victim to prove it wasn’t them taking out the money and to get their identity back, including access to the various accounts.

UK Government statistics show almost 190,000 cases of identity fraud in a 12 month period with CIFAS (the fraud prevention service) recording increases of 8% per year.

The figures also show that levels for older people are rising faster, suggesting they are being targeted for this type of fraud.

Most people do not realise they have been a victim of identity fraud until bills start arriving and demands for repayment for loans they didn’t request.

To avoid becoming such a victim, you need to make sure you keep personal information to yourself – starting with setting social media network privacy levels to high, use strong passwords and never reveal passwords to anyone in emails or by phone.

Always be cautious of emails or websites or text messages offering anything too good to be true.

Stay safe.

If you have any experiences with identity theft, do let me know, by email.

TV License Plus

The official website for renewing your TV licence, registering a change of address etc. Is www.tvlicensing.co.uk

You have to pay for a licence of course but address changes etc. are free.

Operators such as www.licenceplus.co.uk  make money from offering free services at a premium price, such as TV licence address change and often users don’t realise they’ve been conned into paying for something that is actually free.

This is legal but it catches people out as they trust the first result on Google search and may unintentionally choose a service without realising they are being charged for it.

To try to combat this, the official site  www.tvlicensing.co.uk pays for Google adverts, so they appear twice on the search results.

If you were warned in advance by the website that there will be an extra charge to pay then most people would stop and go to the official website, but often for people in a rush they expect Google to show up the official site and just start entering their details.

You will still get your licence renewed or address changed etc. by using one of these premium operators but it will cost you more for no good reason.

If you have any been caught out by these premium charge operators – do let me know, by email.

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The Timeshare Resale Scam

Timeshares were a great idea – you buy the rights to the same holiday home for set weeks each year and then you can book travel early on, save money and you know the place so no worries about a poor holiday.

But, that great idea was largely taken over by con artists who used high pressure sales techniques to get people signed up at huge expense and facing risings costs each year that they didn’t expect.

That collapsed and everyone realised it was better to stay away from timeshares.

But what about the people left with timeshares they can’t sell and facing high costs each year for basically no return?

Another generation of con artists sprang up to make life even worse for those people by making false promises – “We will sell you timeshare at no cost to you”.

Often they claim there is no upfront cost to you at all. But once they have you hooked – a variety of upfront charges appear, such as a closing fee which strangely has to be paid in advance of a sale or an assessment report needed for the sale to go through or Brokers fees (they will be allied to the Broker if it exists and hence get that money themselves).

The con artists take whatever they can from you (and many others) then disappear – the phone number goes dead, emails are bounced back, the company name turns out to have been false or they used the name of a legitimate company not connected with the scam.

Guaranteed Sale Scam

Watch out for companies that guarantee a sale as no company can realistically guarantee that. They can certainly guarantee to advertise it until sold, but that’s all. They’ll also likely tell you that you’ll get your money back at closing if anyone else sells it before they do, but that carries the same level of truthfulness as the guarantee i.e. none.

Guaranted Offer

Be cautious of companies who guarantee to bring you an offer on your timeshare. What typically happens in these cases is that the same company who is guaranteeing to bring an offer will themselves make you the offer for a ridiculous price, maybe $100. This keeps their guarantee of an offer “legitimate,” but obviously isn’t what you had in mind. Guaranteed offers are never worthwhile.

The Buyer Waiting Scam

Some companies try to get you to sign-up by claiming they have a buyer waiting to purchase your property. Of course you’ll be required to pay a fee in order for them to forward this buyer to you. Once you pay the fee, the buyer either suddenly gets cold feet, or you never hear another word from the person or their company again.

Timeshare scams continue, so be careful. Don’t be caught out a second time.

If you have any experiences with Timeshare scammers do let me know, by email.

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The Website Contact Form Con

Hackers scour websites to pick up email addresses and other contact details which can then be sold to other scammers and spammers. Some legitimate companies also use the same method to get contact details to then sell on, although they know that’s really not allowed (but it’s not a criminal offence).

Some hackers specialise in collecting contact information from websites that use contact forms, as this sells for a higher price. Typically companies are less wary of messages created on their own websites so the scammer or spammer can get more of their messages read.

There is software available to scammers that will automatically fill in contact forms on websites and that is a problem for the website owners, as the messages can look legitimate whereas spam messages arriving on email are much easier to filter out and automatically delete.

Below is a typical incoming message to the radio station using the website contact form to enter the information.

Name: Forest Bovril

Email: forrest.bovril @ gmail.com

Message: Hello

I want to say what a beautiful shop you have made.

I am a regular customer of your website.

I visited your website last month and saw an item I wanna buy.

But I have a question today I wanted to order it but cannot find the product anymore on your website.

It looks like the first picture on this website (then a link)

Mail me if you are going to sell it again.

This is all rubbish – the radio station doesn’t have a shop and doesn’t sell anything online so the entire message is irrelevant and obviously the sender has no idea who they are sending to, so presumably the message has been sent to a huge number of random websites.

All just to get you to click a link which may simply be a website that the sender gets paid for each time someone clicks the link or it may be to download malware or anything else. Never click such links.

If you get a lot of such unwanted irrelevant emails from your contact page then you might consider implementing a Captcha on the form.

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A Scammers Mindset

As with many criminals, people who scam others for a living tend to carry on doing so until something dramatic makes them think again – such as a significant prison sentence, losing someone important in their life, violence etc.

“Fred” was a scammer for many years, working for various scam outfits until the day the Federal agents turned up at his office and he ended up spending several years in prison. Now he works to prevent fraud and warn people of how it is done. This is Fred’s warning.

 

Developing the Persona

The scammer assumes a false personality or social mask that makes it easier to pull off the deception. Swindling is really acting, and you play a character who will help you appear legitimate, confident and successful … even when you are not.

On the outside you will see nothing but charm, an engaging personality and swagger. On the inside lies a predator. There is no conscience in this business. It’s every person for themselves, and the goal is to get as much money as possible.

The business needs to have a persona, too, to look legitimate and trustworthy. Some scam companies run television commercials and hire famous actors to appear in them.

It’s About Emotion, Not Logic

Think about the first time you fell in love or a time when someone cut you off on the freeway and you were seething for hours. Were you thinking clearly? Probably not. Those who believe they’d never fall for a scam don’t realize it’s not about how smart you are; it’s about how well you control your emotions. Fraud victims are people with emotional needs, just like the rest of us. But they can’t separate out those needs when they make financial decisions. That’s what makes them vulnerable.

As a master scammer, I made it my first objective to get the victim’s emotions stirred up and so agitated that you won’t know which way is up and which is down. Once I have gotten you into this condition, it doesn’t matter how smart or dumb you are, you will succumb.

The two most powerful ways to do this are through need and greed.

To find a client’s emotional need, I’ll ask a bunch of personal questions. Then I’ll throttle up the pressure by focusing on that need. “Oh, you lost your job? That’s got to be tough.” Or “So your two kids are in college and the tuition is driving you into the poorhouse.” Now the person isn’t thinking about whether the offer is a scam but instead, “Here’s a fix for my problems.”

The “crush,” or the “kill” — that’s what we call closing the deal — is emotionally driven. It’s not logic. If you apply logic, the answer is: “No, I am not going to send you my hard-earned money. I don’t even know who you are.” If my victims had applied logic to our deals, they would have walked away every time.

The other pathway to the ether is simple greed: I just promise people they can make a ton of money.

 

The Perfect Victim

I’m often asked how I could have ripped off senior citizens. The answer is that con men target people who have money, and a lot of seniors are sitting on fat nest eggs. It’s the Willie Sutton rule: He robbed banks because that is where the money was.

But there’s more to it than that. I think older people are easier to scam, because their emotional needs are closer to the surface. They aren’t afraid to tell people how much they care about their kids and grandkids. They aren’t afraid to share their fears about the unstable financial markets and how much they worry about being on a fixed income. These fears are real. And every one of them is a bullet for my gun.

My scam career was focused on investments like phony oil and gas deals, bogus business opportunities and gold-coin scams. And for these types of investments the perfect victim was almost always a male. Why men? Men are grandiose; they are full of ego. And that’s all driven by emotion; it’s driven by insecurity; it’s driven by a feeling of inferiority.

Most people who get emotional quickly will fall every time. And if they don’t get worked up, I won’t waste my time with them. If prospects are asking a lot of questions or tell me they want to think it over or talk with their lawyer, I will hang up the phone. Victims don’t ask a lot of questions; they answer a lot of questions. Victims don’t read paperwork; they wait for you to tell them what it says. Victims don’t look for why the offer is a scam; they look for why the offer will make them money. They want you to make them feel good so they can pull the trigger.

 

Early on in my career I was selling bogus oil and gas units to investors. We were selling units for $22,500 for a quarter unit, or $90,000 for a full unit, promising a 10-to-1 return. Sure, we had a well, but it was a dry hole, and we knew it — there was no chance of hitting oil. Every so often when I was pitching these deals, an investor would ask if I was registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. I would always say, “Of course we are, and I want you to verify that the minute we get off the phone.” The truth is, we were never registered, but 98 percent of the people who ask that question never check. They just want to hear me say it.

Don’t Get Burned

Never make a buying decision when you’ve just heard the sales pitch. Always give yourself at least 24 hours to think about it. This gives you time for the emotional effects of the sales presentation to subside — and time for you to do research.

Don’t ever share personal information about your family or about your worries with people who are trying to sell you something.

In any interaction with someone trying to sell you a deal, always ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” In other words, if this is such a great deal, why are they calling you about it? Why don’t they just do it themselves?

 If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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