A brief guide on avoiding Common Scams: Citizens Advice Investigates A lot of us may associate scams with emails off ‘Nigerian princes’ and dodgy internet pop-ups proclaiming that we’ve won prizes for being a website’s millionth visitor. In reality scammers are everywhere both online and within the local area, with their methods have adapting in recent years to swindle their victims more efficiently. Over five million accounts of fraudulent activity and computer misuse were recorded within a twelve months period, spanning across 2015-16, with middle-aged people (45-54 years) being the most likely to be affected by a significant margin. We urge everyone to report any suspicious activity! As part of scam awareness month, we at Citizens Advice Gateshead have compiled a list of common scams to watch out for, letting you know how to avoid falling trap to fraud and where to report any such activities. Phishing – Phishing is by far the most common scam reported and is committed online. It consists of a fraudster pretending to be a trusted business, such as your bank or your internet service provider, and requesting sensitive information which can then be used to steal money. Phishing scams usually take the form of an email, a website or an instant message containing a link to a fraudulent website. To avoid phishing scams, beware of emails which contain poor grammar, spelling, threats to close your account, or suspend any services you are using. Avoid clicking links from suspicious emails as these may send you to a spoofed website. Cashpoint Fraud – Cashpoint fraud can be committed in a number of different manners and can be particularly hard to detect. Common techniques include using a skimmer to copy your card’s information or using a hidden camera to spy on you entering your PIN. If a cashpoint looks suspicious, for example containing a bulky keypad or standing alone, avoid using it and make sure to regularly check your bank statements for any suspicious activity. Investment Scams – A type of fraud which often targets elderly victims with savings, investment scams consist of a bogus company asking you to invest money in their business, promising an amazing return. There have been reports of pyramid schemes, a common type of investment scam, targeting people in the North East. Investment scams often work through initially contacting you through cold-calling or email and then pressuring you to invest before a certain date, promising that you’ll be able to get rich quick. They often harass potential victims with repeated phone calls and advise not to tell anyone else about the opportunity. Romance Fraud – An increasingly common type of scam which preys on people’s emotions is romance fraud, a type of ‘catfishing’. A criminal creates a fake profile on a dating site, slowly building a relationship with a potential victim before asking for money. This request for money may draw on your emotions, fraudsters often claiming that they need financial assistance to fund a visit to you or pay for a relative’s medical assistance. Make sure to reverse image search any photos of someone you meet online (they may be using someone else’s photographs) and to be suspicious of anyone who avoids talking about themselves. Other Scams – These are simply some of the most common types of fraud, scams can take many other forms. We recently investigated phantom goods scams on our blog and we will be covering other types of fraud over the course of Scams Awareness month. If you believe you’ve fell victim to a scam, make sure to report it to Action Fraud in addition to contacting the police. It is also worthwhile informing Trading Standards of a potential scam you’ve encountered; you can contact them through Citizens Advice by either visiting or ringing our consumer helpline at: 03454 04 05 06.