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Debt collection scams on the rise – make sure you stay safe

Posted 29 May 2016 by Emily Bancroft

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Make sure you don’t get tricked by fraudsters – we’ll take you through what you need to know.

When you’re managing debt repayments yourself, you might have to deal with emails and letters from your lenders. But if you got an email about a debt you don’t even remember, what would you do?

If this has happened to you, it could be a new kind of phishing scam designed to infect your computer. Let’s find out what the scam does and how you can make sure you’re not a victim.

How the scam works

Scammers use phishing emails to try and trick you into giving away personal information. They’re designed so they look like they’re from real companies and they could ask you for your bank account details or to click on a link. These links direct you to a seemingly trustworthy website but if you put in any of your details, scammers can steal your information.

This new phishing email is no different. Scammers sent out an email pretending to be from a company called Optex (Europe) Ltd. In fact, this is a legitimate company but the scam email isn’t anything to do with them – the fraudsters are just using their name.

In the emails, the scammers tell people they owe money and include their personal information, like their full name, address and postcode. This is what’s tricking some people – if someone’s emailing you and they have your real info, you might be more likely to trust them.

The emails also include a link which says it will take you to the invoice for the debt. But in reality, the link could infect your computer with ‘ransomware’.

This is a virus that takes control of your computer and won’t release it unless you pay a fee. It should go without saying that you should never give into demands like this, as there’s no guarantee that the scammers will give you back control of your computer. Instead, get in touch with Action Fraud.

As this is a relatively new phishing scam, it’s possible that we could start to see different versions of it soon, claiming to be from other companies.

Protect yourself

You might think you wouldn’t fall for this scam but if you’re repaying a number of debts, it could be all too easy to think one might have slipped through the net. This uncertainty is what fraudsters play on, and it’s what could convince you into clicking an infected link.

If you get an email like this, you should never click on any links in the message. Instead, you can Google the name of the company in the email and find a contact number for them. You can ring them up and confirm whether the message is from them or not. Don’t reply with any of your personal details and if it asks for your bank details or PIN, you should be wary.

Look out for any warning signs that emails might not be all they seem. For example, phishing emails might start with ‘Dear customer’ or think your email address is your name. They might also have a handful of misspellings or grammar mistakes – these are signs it’s not from a real company.

by Emily Bancroft

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.