When it comes to the cost of living, crisis and soaring gas and electricity bills, one of the biggest clues that you are the target of a scam is if you are asked to pay by bank transfer.
It’s one of the least protected and least reversible methods of payment and should be avoided at all costs, unless you are 100% sure of who you are dealing with.
Don’t sign up to anything on a whim – it really is worth doing your homework first. Your local authority’s website should have reliable information about green schemes operating nationally or in your area, and the legitimate traders providing them.
And when it comes to making payment, then using your credit card (particularly for items costing £100 or more) or debit card will ensure you get the most protection if something should go wrong.
Don’t let anyone try to pressure you into anything.
Part of the success of most scams is the ability to make you feel as though you will be missing out if you don’t act quickly.
No matter what the situation, it is worth taking five minutes to think about whether or not you are dealing with a scammer.
If you’ve received a call, text or email that you think could be genuine, the safest thing to do is to source a contact number for that organisation from its website or a recent letter and contact them yourself to verify its authenticity.
Remember also to check the company’s help and customer services pages.
Often firms are aware of scams circulating and have published advice for customers on what to watch out for.
Emails that look genuine should still be closely scrutinised.
Double-checking to see if the sender’s email address is genuine is a good starting point – hovering your cursor over the address will help you to work this out.
When it comes to text messages, don’t be fooled into thinking you are being contacted by your bank, the NHS, or the police, just because the message crops up in a stream of previous messages from the organisation, or based on the Caller ID.
Criminals can ‘spoof’ phone numbers to deceive people into thinking they are being contacted by a legitimate organisation.
With both scam emails and texts, fraudsters will often want you to follow a link to a fake website to enter some personal details.
So any communication with a link that is trying to get you to do something is probably worth examining closely.
You can sign up to Which? Scam Alerts, a free email service that will keep you updated on the latest scams circulating online and on social media.
Reena Sewraz is senior editor at Which? Money.
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