The common objective of scams is to either con victims out of their money or to steal their personal data.

A scam can take various forms and is not always easy to detect. A scam can often be recognised if the answer to the following situations is ‘yes’.

You are contacted out of the blue. Sometimes you may be unexpectedly contacted via e-mail or a phone call and are asked to give your personal or payment details. Trustworthy firms do not do this. So if you are not 100 per cent convinced of the origin of the e-mail, or of the identity of the person speaking to you on the phone, you should ignore the e-mail or hang up.

You are offered an attractive free gift. You may also be tempted by scams that invite you to claim a free gift. While browsing the internet, a window may sometimes pop up on your screens prompting you to click on it to claim a free prize. If you click on it, you are usually either asked to enter your personal details, sometimes even your bank account details, or asked to call a specific telephone number to claim the gift.

Be warned that such calls are usually very expensive, and if you fall for this scam you not only end up being charged a lot of money for the call but you also never receive the promised prize.

You are asked to share personal details. Another common scam is phishing. This occurs when scammers try to get your personal details, like your bank account and credit card numbers, user name, and passwords. If you give out such details you risk having money stolen from your bank account, or someone may spend money using your credit card. You also risk having your online identity stolen.

The telephone is one of the preferred tools used by phishing scammers. A common phone scam entails receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a popular computer or software company. Usually, the scammer tells their victim that their PC has a technical fault or has been infected by a virus and that they can resolve the problem remotely. They may claim that they can install software on the victim’s computer but it is not free or there is an annual subscription, and they ask for the victim’s bank account or credit card details.

These scammers may be quite persuasive, so to avoid falling victim to such scams the best thing to do is hang up. You should always keep in mind that if there really is a problem with your computer, you would have already realised it yourself and you would be the one calling a PC technician, not the other way round.

Scammers may be quite persuasive, so the best thing to do is hang up

Phishing may also be carried through an e-mail that may appear to come from your bank or credit card company, asking you to click on a link or to update your personal information. If you are asked for any confidential information related to your finances, you should immediately realise it is a scam.

Remember that your bank will never ask for your personal details in this way. If you are in doubt because the e-mail looks genuine, or the caller sounds very professional, you should contact the bank yourself.

You notice grammatical or spelling mistakes. E-mails or messages littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes are a scam giveaway. Legitimate organisations will usually check their correspondence for such mistakes before sending it to you.

Such mistakes are also a way to spot fake websites while shopping online. If you are shopping from a website that has fantastic offers for the first time, take a few minutes to carefully read the information on the website, such as the details about the company.

If there are grammatical and spelling mistakes it could indicate that the website was set up and put online quickly. Trusted companies will put in extra effort to present a professional, proofread website which includes all the required information.

Furthermore, remember that while stores may occasionally offer attractive discounts, it is very unlikely that popular designer brands offer, say an 80 per cent discount. The best advice is to stay away from such websites as the chances are that you will end up not only without the product you purchase but also the money you pay.

Anything bought online should be done securely. Online payments must always be made through either a credit card or a secure payment mechanism. Avoid direct bank transfers and never give your credit card details to sellers by e-mail.

To conclude, you need to be extra careful and not trust anyone with your personal or bank information.

Also, remember that no one ever gives you something for free, and if something sounds too good to be true then there is a catch somewhere.

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