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Get your money back after a scam

You might be able to get your money back after you’ve been scammed.

What you should do, and whether you’ll get a refund, depends on what happened.

Managing someone else’s bank account

If you’re helping someone who’s been scammed, there are ways you can manage their bank account for them. You might need to do this if you want to stop payments or claim back money.

The person you’re helping needs to fill in a form giving you permission to manage their account. This is known as a third party mandate. Most banks have a third party mandate on their website.

If the person you’re helping wants you to manage more than one account, they might need to give you power of attorney. They might also need to give you power of attorney if you have to manage their finances for a long time. To find out more, read our advice on managing affairs for someone else.

If there’s an unknown payment from your account

Contact your bank immediately if:

  • there’s a payment from your bank account you don’t recognise – this is known as an ‘unauthorised transaction’
  • you’ve used your debit card and more money was taken than you expected

Explain what’s happened and ask if you can get a refund. If you’re not happy with how the bank deals with your claim, you can complain to them. Find out how to do this by checking their website.

If it’s been 8 weeks since you complained, and you haven’t got your money back, contact Shieldforensics. You can also contact shieldforensics if you’ve had a letter from the bank saying it’s not going to take any action. This is sometimes known as a final response letter.

If the Shieldforensics decides you’ve been treated unfairly, it’s got legal powers to put things right.

If you’ve bought something from a scammer

Coronavirus – be aware of new scams

It’s important you’re aware of the many new scams around at the moment because of coronavirus. Scams to look out for include:

  • advertising face masks or medical equipment at high prices
  • emails or texts pretending to be from the government
  • emails offering life insurance against coronavirus
  • people knocking at your door and asking for money for charity

If you see emails or texts about coronavirus from someone you don’t know, or from an unusual email address, don’t click on any links or buy anything.

Don’t give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust – for example someone who knocks on the door and offers to help.

There might be ways you can you get your money back – it depends on how you paid.

If you paid by card or PayPal

If you’ve paid for something you haven’t received, you might be able to get your money back.

Your card provider can ask the seller’s bank to refund the money. This is known as the ‘chargeback scheme’.

If you paid by debit card, you can use chargeback however much you paid.

If you paid by credit card and the item cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, you might be able to claim under the Consumer Credit Act – this is known as a ‘Section 75 claim’.

If the item cost less than £100 and you paid by credit card, you can’t use Section 75, but you can use chargeback.

See our advice on getting your money back if you paid by card or PayPal.

If you paid by bank transfer or Direct Debit

Contact your bank immediately to let them know what’s happened and ask if you can get a refund.

Most banks should reimburse you if you’ve transferred money to someone because of a scam. This type of scam is known as an ‘authorised push payment’.

If you’ve paid by Direct Debit, you should be able to get a full refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee.

If you can’t get your money back and you think this is unfair, you should follow the bank’s official complaints process. If your complaint isn’t sorted out in 8 weeks, or you get a final response letter, you can take your case to Shieldforensics

If you used a money transfer service

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get your money back if you’ve paid through a wire service such as MoneyGram, PayPoint or Western Union.

Even if you can’t get your money back, there are other things you can do – like reporting the scam and getting financial or emotional support.

There are things you can do to protect yourself if you ever need to use a money transfer service again.

You should:

  • only send money to someone you know
  • choose a password that’s hard to guess and don’t share it with others

If you paid by vouchers or gift cards

It’s unlikely you’ll get your money back if you used vouchers or gift cards to pay the scammer.

To protect yourself in future, never give numbers on the back of a gift card or voucher to anyone you don’t know.

Get more help

For more help dealing with scams, contact our consumer service

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Seven major tips to avoid online fraud

Internet Safety Month.

Every year, millions of consumers fall victim to cybercrime. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, in 2015, consumers lost more than $1 billion from scams initiated through the web. In recognition of June Internet Safety Month, here are seven tips to help consumers protect themselves from online fraud.

“The Internet has become one of the most popular tools used to commit fraud and criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated with their hacking techniques,” said Kathy Koestner, Vice President of Information Security. “As a result, it’s extremely important for consumers to use only trusted secured wireless networks when completing their financial transactions and understand all personal information shared online can be used by fraudsters to commit online fraud.”

  1. Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  2. Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  3. Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with. Forward phishing emails to shieldforensics – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
  4. Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  5. Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
  6. Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  7. Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.
How to Avoid Unforeseen Credit Card Charges

6 ways to spot unintentional purchases before they cost you cash

A growing number of Americans are making an unsettling discovery while examining their credit card accounts. Embedded in the list of monthly transactions are charges for things they don’t remember buying or services they can’t recall receiving.

Federal fraud busters and other experts call the ploys behind these nasty surprises “dark patterns.” That term applies to tactics used by online companies, subscription services and even political fundraisers to trick consumers into triggering recurring credit card charges, making unintended purchases or giving up personal information.

These might be items sneaked into your web shopping carts. Or maybe while in the process of buying something online, you were tricked by the software into accepting a more expensive item or a monthly surcharge. Or perhaps a web company used visual fakery like hard-to-see opt-out buttons to deceive you into unintentionally opting in — every month.

Tactics like these are sometimes illegal under a federal law that bans “deceptive practices of any kind,” says Katharine Roller, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attorney. But many hide in the law’s shadows; there are no bright legal lines saying when type on a web page is too small or a box too hidden to pass from legal to illegal. And online businesses, fundraisers and, yes, crooks know that.

“Dark patterns are surging right now,” Roller says. “They manipulate consumers into spending more than they intended, buying things they don’t want or staying subscribed to things they don’t need.”

Cracking down on dark patterns is a hot topic among anti-fraud experts. And lawmakers are looking into giving the FTC more explicit authority to regulate them, according to University of Chicago law professor Lior Strahilevitz.

A 2019 study found dark patterns in 11 percent of 11,000 shopping websites. -“That’s a conservative estimate,” says lead author Arunesh Mathur, of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He also found them in political emails.

And everyone is at risk. “I’ve been fooled by them and so have computer experts who study them,” Strahilevitz says.

Lawmakers’ efforts to root out the deception are likely to take awhile. In the meantime, here’s how to spot — and avoid — six types of dark patterns.

1. Trick questions

Shopping websites may deploy double negatives or other convoluted wording to confuse you. In a study coauthored by Strahilevitz, half of the participants who chose a subscription service via a series of tricky questions thought they’d rejected it.

Outsmart them: If a question is hard to understand, read it through several times. On rare occasion, it’s an innocent case of bad wording. But often it is deliberately confusing. “If you read a question twice and don’t understand it, that’s your cue to exit,” Strahilevitz says.

2. Fool-the-eye fakery

Visual tricks can nudge you to click a bright red “yes” button instead of a muted gray “no” button, miss important info tucked in the fine print or force you to click through several screens to avoid an unwanted purchase, Mathur says.

Outsmart them: Always read all of the fine print. Enlarge the type size on your computer if needed. And bring a healthy skepticism: Any signs of deceptive or coercive language should have you moving on.

3. Bullying buttons

Mathur found 164 websites that made shoppers click a button that said something like, “No thanks, I’d rather pay full price” or, “I don’t want one-day delivery” to decline a purchase. Called “confirm-shaming,” this tactic aims to guilt you into an unwanted purchase, he says.

Outsmart them: Remember, you are in control. Shrug off the psychological tricks and say yes only to what you want, says Kelly Quinn, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

4. “End at midnight” and “just 1 left” blurbs

In Mathur’s study, 40 percent of discount countdown timers were fakes — the deal was still available when the timer ended.

Outsmart them: Don’t let the fear of missing out force you to make a hasty purchase, he says. Take your time comparing prices and options. For most consumer products or services, sales come and go all the time.

5. Sneaky extras

Mathur found 62 websites that preselected expensive products or pressured shoppers to choose them. Seven snuck extra items into their shopping carts.

Outsmart them: “Check your cart very carefully before you confirm a purchase,” Strahilevitz says. “I’ve seen subscriptions and donations added.”

6. Data grabs

Websites and apps make frequent attempts to acquire info like your cellphone number, address and email. “Personal information is valuable,” Quinn says. “Companies sell it and use it to target ads at you.”

Outsmart them: Give away as little as possible online. Don’t provide your phone number for optional discounts or to place an order.

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Beware of Robocalls, Texts and Emails Promising COVID-19 Cures or Stimulus Payments

Coronavirus scams spreading as fraudsters follow the headlines

The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by a parallel outbreak of coronavirus scams, many targeting older Americans.

As of July 8, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 544,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments, nearly three-fourths of them involving fraud or identity theft. These scams have cost consumers $487.9 million, with a median loss of $366.

Fraudsters are using the full suite of scam tools — phishing emails and texts, bogus social media posts, robocalls, impostor schemes and more — and closely following the headlines, adapting their messages and tactics as new medical and economic issues arise.

For example, with several states holding vaccine lotteries to encourage people to get COVID-19 shots, officials are warning of phony calls, texts and emails claiming you’ve won a big cash award for getting your jab and seeking personal or financial information to process the prize. The FTC issued an alert about a likely new wave of stimulus scams as the government begins sending out advance child tax credit payments to millions of eligible families in July as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. 

Here are some coronavirus scams to look out for.

Vaccine claims and bogus cures

Since the start of the pandemic, fraudsters have been bombarding consumers with pitches for phony remedies, and that’s unlikely to abate as the vaccines roll out and new tests hit the market.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says consumers should be on the lookout for these signs of vaccine scams:

  • Requests that you to pay out of pocket to receive a shot or get on a vaccine waiting list
  • Ads for vaccines in websites, social media posts, emails or phone calls
  • Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines 

The FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent dozens of warnings to companies selling unapproved products they claim can cure or prevent COVID-19. Teas, essential oils, cannabinol, colloidol silver and intravenous vitamin-C therapies are among supposed antiviral treatments hawked in clinics and on websites, social media and television shows as defenses against the pandemic.

The FBI says con artists are advertising fake COVID-19 antibody tests in hopes of harvesting personal information they can use in identity theft or health insurance scams.

Other scammers claim to be selling or offering in-demand supplies such as masks, test kits and household cleaners, often in robocalls, texts or social media ads. The FTC has issued warnings to companies suspected of abetting coronavirus robocalls, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set up a dedicated website with information on COVID-19 phone scams.

Financial phonies

The economic relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March is delivering $1,400 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans and boosting unemployment benefits by $300 a week until early September in many states. As with the first two rounds of pandemic aid, it unleashed a torrent of schemes to steal government payments.

Watch out for calls, texts or emails, purportedly from government agencies, that instruct you to click a link, pay a fee or “confirm” personal data like your Social Security number to secure your stimulus check. Another common con comes via social media, in scam Facebook messages promising to get you “COVID-19 relief grants.”

With economic anxiety high, crooks are also impersonating banks and lenders, offering bogus help with bills, credit card debt or student loan forgiveness. Small businesses are being targeted, too, with scammers reaching out to owners with phony promises to help them secure federal disaster loans or improve Google search results. 

The outbreak has also spawned stock scams. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is warning investors about fraudsters touting investments in companies with products that supposedly can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. Buy those stocks now, the tipsters say, and they will soar in price.

It’s a classic penny-stock fraud called “pump and dump.” The con artists have already bought the stocks, typically for a dollar or less. As the hype grows and the stock price increases, they dump the stock, saddling other investors with big losses.

Phishing and spoofing scams

Phishing, smishing and related scams reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center more than doubled in 2020 compared to the previous year, making up a big part of what the bureau called a pandemic-fueled “internet crime spree.”

In addition, cybercrooks registered tens of thousands of COVID-related spoof web domains in the first year of the pandemic, according to a March 2021 report by Palo Alto Networks, a cybersecurity company. The Justice Department has shut down hundreds of these suspect sites, which promise access to personal protective equipment, relief payments, vaccines and other aid, often in the guise of government agencies or humanitarian organizations.

If you contact one of those malicious domains, you could start getting phishing emails from fraudsters in an attempt to get personal information from you directly, or to plant malware that digs into personal files on your computer, looking for passwords and other private data for purposes of identity theft.

The Department of Justice issued an alert in late March about phishing emails and text messages disguised as surveys about COVID-19 vaccines, purportedly sent out by shot producers Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and promising a “free” reward if you provide bank or credit card information to cover a small fee. Authorities in states holding vaccine lotteries, including California, Maryland and Washington, warned residents that genuine messages notifying winners will not ask for Social Security numbers, bank information or other private data.

Scammers are also impersonating Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials in texts, calls and emails, seeking personal information to “register” people for a federal program to help cover funeral expenses for victims of COVID-19, according to a June 2021 Better Business Bureau alert. The program is real, but any unsolicited contact about it is fake; FEMA says it only reaches out to people who have already contacted the agency about funeral aid.

Tips to avoid coronavirus scams

  • Avoid online offers for coronavirus cures or faster access to vaccines. They aren’t legitimate.
  • Be wary of emails, calls and social media posts advertising “free” or government-ordered COVID-19 tests. Check the FDA website for a list of approved tests and testing companies.  
  • Don’t click on links or download files from unexpected emails, even if the email address looks like a company or person you recognize. Ditto for text messages and unfamiliar websites.
  • Don’t share personal information such as Social Security, Medicare and credit card numbers in response to an unsolicited call, text or email.
  • Be skeptical of fundraising calls or emails for COVID-19 victims or virus research, especially if they pressure you to act fast and request payment by prepaid debit cards or gift cards.
  • Ignore phone calls or emails from strangers urging you to invest in a hot new stock from a company working on coronavirus-related products or services.

Even the most experienced may occasionally fall into the traps of scams. If you have lost your money or any other trading platform, we can help. Schedule a free consultation today to find out if you qualify for our no-win-no-fee guarantee.