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Scammers - they have YOU in their sights

Batch emails
I mentioned these in our Cyber Minefield article (Focus 10) and they are of great concern. These are the emails you may receive that usually include a direct link, supposedly to a web address that will inform you of some informative or beneficial information. If you open the attachment and check the recipients, you will often find that the same communication has been sent to a number of people, many of whom you may recognise as friends and family. Don’t be fooled by this. These contacts may have been acquired by dubious means, and just because it seems like the sender is a close associate, don’t accept that as gospel. If you take the risk of clicking on the link – I’d recommend that you definitely don’t! – and are asked to forward personal information in the form of addresses, bank account details, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc., simply exit and delete the email. The chances are that, if you comply with the requests, you will be regretting it later.

Mail order
We’ve had this kind of scam for a long time and it usually involves snail-mail. Even when the purchase item is brand-named, something you can inspect an example of in a local store, there is no guarantee what you are ordering is the same or of equivalent value, or that you are going to receive it at all. What, in effect, you are doing if you comply, is trusting a nobody with your money in exchange for something that you may never receive. If the mail-order system is convenient and you like using it, test out the company offering the service with a small item of insignificant value before purchasing something more costly. That way, you can see if it works the way you hoped it might. Just bear in mind, even though the seller might have a “no obligation, return for a full refund policy”, it will still cost you for postage and packing to send it back. You will then have to add that to the price of the exercise.

Builders and Renovators
Having a home of your own can prove costly with regard to repairs and improvements. Receiving a flier in the junk mail offering a service you really need, and at a cheap rate, could seem an opportunity too good to pass up; the personal approach is even more appealing. A guy in work-clothes knocks on your door, says he is doing a job in the area and noticed your house needed a bit of attention - the gutters are rusting out, the front fence is falling down and the exterior could do with a re-paint before winter - and he can fix it all up at a bargain price. He might glance at a vehicle parked in the driveway with his firm's name painted on the side, so he seems genuine enough. If you decide to take him on, you'll find out which profession he excels in - renovations or scamming. Usually, the crooks will ask for a payment up front, in some instances before they've even started the work - for materials mainly, or the hire of special equipment. Be suspicious! Give them the cash and they could take it and run. A worse-case scenario is that they'll start the job, pulling down the gutter, or ripping out the fence, then disappear into the sunset. Not only will you be minus whatever you have given them, but you will then find yourself paying more to employ someone else to sort out the damage they have caused.

Another scam we heard of was driveway repair. A couple of "workmen" had been doing a job locally and they had some material left over. There was enough to make this particular drive like new, and they only wanted to recoup their costs. It turned out they were pulling the same scam all over the place to the extent where they made the six o'clock news and became known as the driveway bandits. Need I say that a kid with a barrow-load of gravel and a bucket of tar could have done a better job! Always remember that you are an employer who pays their wages - that is, AFTER they've done the job and the work is to your satisfaction. If they ask for any payment up front before they've even started work, think twice before handing over the cash.

Just as a post-script to the personal-approach scammers, these low-lifes frequently target the elderly and the disabled, many of whom tend to be naive and confused by financial matters, often to the point where they keep considerable sums of money in the house because they don't trust banks. A con-merchant paid a large amount on the spot is likely to believe that there is more where that came from and return later to break in and steal it. The more brazen won't even wait that long, as happened here recently - they noticed the little old lady taking money from a tin and simply grabbed it and bolted! To us, this is mean and despicable; to the scammer, it is simply taking care of business.

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