Check out this week's Scam Alert column by John Trotter:
So, a cold and (perhaps) snowy week is the forecast. Whatever, let’s just look forward to 12th April and the reopening of our shops, especially the hard-hit charity shops, such as the RSPCA and Cats Protection.
In the last year or so, we have become so used to online shopping. However it is still very easy to be scammed, so here is some safe online shopping advice: It can be difficult to spot a fake, fraudulent or scam website. Fraudsters are extremely cunning and good at creating convincing websites.
So, Double-check the domain name, because many fraudulent websites will use a domain name that indicates it is a well-known brand or product name. But it won't be the official website.
For example, website domains such as www.ipadoffers.net or www.discountnikeclothes.com should raise alarm bells. Be cautious of domains that end in .net or .org, as they are rarely used for online shopping so may have been acquired by questionable organisations.
A padlock next to a website's URL means the site is encrypted, so what you do on on it – such as browse or make payments – can't be intercepted. Most websites now have this feature, so if you notice a site doesn't have one it could be a red flag.
Is the offer too good to be true? When you see very low prices with ridiculous discounts, you should be a bit suspicious. If prices seem too good to be true then, sadly, they probably are.
Scam websites use low prices to lure bargain-hungry shoppers to quickly sell fake, counterfeit or non-existent items. Never pay by bank transfer. Alarm bells should ring if you are asked to pay for something online via a bank transfer. If you buy something that turns out to be fake or non-existent with a credit or debit card, you do have some rights to get your money back. But if you pay by bank transfer, there’s very little you can do to get your cash back.
Since last week’s column, I have been reading through messages from Trading Standards about consumer scams etc. Apparently there has been a spate of banking scams where fraudulent text messages are being sent to consumers who are using digital devices, particularly mobile devices to make payments.
One such message asks the recipient to tap a link to confirm payment to a named person. All messages like this lead to a request for the recipient’s bank login details.
The messages claim to be from some of the UK’s largest banks and building societies, including Barclays, Halifax, HSBC and Lloyds. The public is very vulnerable to this type of fraud, especially when more people rely on online payments.
Katherine Hart, a Lead Officer at CTSI,(Chartered Trading Standards Institute) says “Fraudsters change the form and methods of their scams to match shifting consumer behaviour. The surge in online shopping and payments means that the public must be more vigilant when making online payments and receiving messages claiming to be from their bank. If you receive a suspicious text like this, please contact your bank directly and verify with them. Also, forward any scam texts to 7726, which is a free reporting service run by Ofcom.”
If you or someone you know is struggling to pay bills or outstanding debts, Citizens Advice may be able to help. Citizens Advice Sefton telephone service is available: Help To Claim advice line number for help claiming Universal credit is 0800 144 8444. 8am to 6pm. Mon to Fri. For general advice 0344 493 0012. 9.30 to 4.30 Mon to Fri. The debt number is 0151 318 6407. 9.30 to 4.30 Mon to Fri. Our local website address is- www.https://seftoncab.org.uk/
Citizens Advice Lancashire West telephone is available between 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday, & 9.00am and 1.00pm Saturdays on Adviceline 0344 245 1294 and Help to Claim line
0800 144 8 444. Their website address is – www.citizensadvicelancashirewest.org.uk