Scam calls, texts and emails: How to avoid them and what to do if you receive one

Unfortunately, scamming is on the rise and has become quite common in recent years. According to a recent report, there were 35,739 reported fraud and cybercrime cases in 2020, and that rose to 445,357 reported cases in 2021.*

Along with this, scammers are also becoming more sophisticated and making it harder to spot a scam. These can come in the form of fraudulent phone calls, emails, text messages or websites.

However, there are many simple measures we can all put in place to increase our safety. This guide explains how to reduce your likelihood of receiving scam messages, and what to do if you receive one.

What is a scam?

A scam is a fraudulent activity or a deceptive scheme designed to cheat a person out of something. It often involves tricking people into sharing their personal information, so that scammers can steal their money.

Most of us would like to think we could easily spot a scam, yet the number of successful scams is still on the rise. This is because scammers are often very insistent and persuasive in their approach.

Who is most at risk of scamming?

Anyone can be a victim of a scam, so it is important to be aware of the signs as much as possible. According to Citizens Advice, people aged 55 and over are most likely to be targeted by scammers – but it is younger people (34 and below) who are more likely to become victims of a scam.*

 

What does a scam look like?

There are lots of different types of scams, which makes it difficult to warn against one particular type of message.

Often, scams will involve a fraudster pretending to be someone they aren’t. They might say that they are from a fake company, or even pretend to be someone from a trusted brand such as the Motability Scheme. They could also pretend to be someone from a bank or a government agency, to trick you into a false sense of security.

Payments to and from the Motability Scheme

As mentioned, scammers will often pretend to be from a trusted company or organisation, and this could include the Motability Scheme. To stay safe, we’ve shared some key things to remember when anyone contacts you saying that they are from the Scheme:

  • The only time we’ll call you about a payment is if you need to make a payment to us, for example to pay excess mileage charges incurred during your lease. Usually, you’ll have received a letter or invoice about this before we call – and we’ll always confirm security details with you before discussing anything, to make sure we’re speaking to the right person. But if you’re in any doubt about who you’re speaking to, please end the call and call us back on 0300 456 4566 before giving out your details.
  • If you are expecting a payment from us, such as the Good Condition Payment, we will not call you to confirm your bank or payment details. So if someone calls you claiming to be from the Motability Scheme and asks to confirm your bank details for a payment you’re due, you should not give this to them. If we make a payment to you in error, we may contact you to inform you that the cheque has been stopped, so you should therefore destroy it.
  • Your dealer may sometimes call to ask for a payment towards your Advance Payment or optional extras. However, if you’re not expecting this or are in any doubt about who you’re speaking to, you should end the call and contact your dealer directly before giving them any details.

Read our article for further information on how the Motability Scheme issues refunds and payments.

Scammers tend to base their deception around issues that are currently in the news or that affect lots of people. Consumer rights company Which? recently warned of scammers pretending to be someone from an energy grant scheme or the People’s Postcode Lottery, in order to trick vulnerable people.

How to spot a scam

Three popular channels that are used to target people are: emails, text messaging, and phone calls on landlines and mobile phones.

    • ‘Phishing’ emails are designed to steal your identity by ‘phishing’ for information. They look like they’re from a trusted company and ask you to click through a link. Keep a close eye on the spelling, grammar and unusual or inconsistent font within unexpected emails – this could be a sign that it isn’t actually from a legitimate company.
    • Scam text messages will usually ask you to reveal personal information – often a password or account number – to gain access to your email or bank accounts. This type of message often features a link to a ‘free prize’, ‘gift card’ or other financial incentives. Other messages may claim to have noticed unusual activity in your bank account, tell you that there’s a problem with your payment information, or that you need to click the link to pay an invoice. Text messages with fake delivery track links have also become more common with the rise of online shopping.

      Click the link, and you’ll often end up on a fake but often authentic-looking website. If you try to log in, the scammers will have your username and password to use themselves or sell to other scammers.

    • A ‘vishing’ phone scam is a cold call that typically involves a criminal deceiving a person into believing they are talking to a member of bank staff, a police officer or some other trusted figure. They will often tell the individual that they have been a victim of fraud and ask them to ‘confirm’ personal details that they claim to have on file.

Being aware of how common scams are is a good first step to help you protect yourself against them. The following ten tips will also help you feel more confident in avoiding them.

10 tips to avoid scams

1. Be wary of any cold calls or texts from unknown phone numbers. If you get an unexpected phone call, you might feel that you need to pick it up and talk to the person. But remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry – consider blocking any unknown numbers that pester you with unwanted calls. 

2. Legitimate companies should never call you to discuss personal details or ask for sensitive information. Your bank will never ask for details such as your card number or PIN over the phone. And since 2019, there has been a ban on cold calls about pensions, so you will only be called to discuss your pension if you’ve asked the pension company to contact you.

3. Fraudsters will often push you to make decisions fast, so don’t feel pressured into making any decision you are not comfortable with. If in any doubt, hang up and contact the company directly using a number you find in correspondence from them.

4. If an offer you receive sounds too good to be true… it’s always safest to assume that it is.

5. Choose your passwords very carefully. Make sure you mix upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use one password for all your accounts and never share your passwords with anyone else. If you need to write them down somewhere, make sure you keep any notes in a safe place.

6. Protect your personal details:

  • Shred all bills and documents that include any personal details before throwing them out.
  • Review your privacy settings on social networks.
  • Limit how much personal information you make public. Scammers can access those details and piece together a profile of you to make their approach more convincing.

7. Never open suspicious texts, links or attachments in emails. Take a screenshot in case you need evidence, and then delete the message immediately.

8. Don’t give them access to your computer. Scammers often claim that they can fix a problem with your computer or install a ‘free upgrade’. If they say they need you to give them remote access to your personal devices, be suspicious. Doing this could allow them to install a virus onto your device, which can enable them to access your passwords and personal details.

9. Take great care when shopping online. When you pay for your items, ensure that you are using a secure payment page. You can check if it is secure by seeing whether there is a ‘closed padlock’ to the left of the browser’s address bar. Avoid using websites without a locked padlock.

10. Regularly check your bank statements. This will allow you to identify any unfamiliar transactions, so you can make sure that any payments being made from your account are all legitimate.


What to do if you are scammed:

Report any suspicious activity as soon as possible. Contact your bank immediately, if you think your personal financial details might have been accessed or compromised in any way. You should also make sure you protect yourself from any further risks – Citizens Advice has a useful list of things to do if you have been the victim of a scam.

To report any suspicious emails, texts, websites or phone calls, contact the National Cyber Security Centre.

 

*Statistics taken from: 2021 Fraud and Cybercrime Report and Citizens Advice research


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Interested in joining the Scheme?

About the Scheme

The Motability Scheme offers an all-inclusive package. If you are in receipt of a qualifying mobility allowance you can use it to lease a car, scooter, powered wheelchair or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle. The Scheme provides flexible and hassle-free access to a brand-new, reliable vehicle of your choice. As well as a great choice of cars, we also provide a wide range of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, scooters and powered wheelchairs.

Eligibility

To join the Scheme, you must be in receipt of one of the following mobility allowances:

  • Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Higher Rate Mobility Component of Child Disability Payment – Scotland
  • War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement (WPMS)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)

You can easily check whether you’re eligible to join the Motability Scheme by using our eligibility checker tool.

From the Motability Scheme


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