Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert: My five top tips to stop scammers

PUBLISHED: 11:41 01 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:24 02 July 2018

Martin Lewis, founder of

Martin Lewis, founder of


Criminals aren’t always thugs with meaty arms and little between the ears.

It's not always this easy to spot a fraudster, writes Martin Lewis. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoIt's not always this easy to spot a fraudster, writes Martin Lewis. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In our ever more interconnected world, these days many thieves wear suits, have charm, act in a sophisticated manner and make out they are on our side.

Sadly, I’ve been engaged in this world personally, as my image has been used across social media and online advertising, to try to dupe vulnerable people.

I’m fighting it as hard as I can. Yet as these con artists get more professional we all need to get more vigilant.

Here’s my five scam self-defence rules:

1. Never give personal details if they text or email. Fraudsters commonly send messages asking for your details to break into your accounts, claiming to be from a bank, insurer, HMRC, or even the police. This falls into two camps:

• Phishing: this a scam email, purporting to be from a company it hopes you have a connection with.

It’ll then take you through to a professional-looking website – often a mirror image of the real thing, and it’ll ask you to put in your password or personal details in.

Never click a link in an unexpected email or open an attachment unless you’re 100% sure of its contents.

• Smishing: like phishing but by text, not email. Yet what’s tricky here is deciding whether it is just spam or a scam.

If it is a scammer, texting back isn’t a good idea as you’re just validating that it has texted a legit phone number so you could get more – and of course never call them. If unsure, play safe and delete it.

2. Beware fake dialling tones when you call them back. Vishing (voice phishing over the phone) is a growing issue.

Calls can pretend to be from banks etc, all asking for passwords or personal details. Don’t do it.

So, if it’s an unexpected call always say you’ll call them back. If they are legitimate, the caller won’t mind. And don’t call on the number you are given – go and find that institution’s official number.

Even that may not be protection enough, though. An increasingly common trick is where they call, and tell you to call back. However when you hang up, they don’t hang up, and instead just play a dialling tone, tricking you into thinking it’s a new call, but they answer.

If you’ve any suspicions, then as well as finding the right number to call back, do one of the following.

Either call from another phone, or if you are using the same phone, call a friend first. If the ‘bank’ answers, you know they’ve spoofed a dial tone. Thirdly, you could just wait a decent time before calling.

3. Know the scammers’ tells. In poker a ‘tell’ is how you judge when someone is bluffing.

Similar tells applies to cold calls from scammers, including:

• Anyone rushing you. You never need to make a decision straight away.

• Anyone asking you to pay in an unusual way (such as vouchers).

• Poor grammar or dodgy spelling in emails, or starting emails with “Dear sir or madam”.

4. Don’t fall for fake deals on WhatsApp & Facebook and other social media.

The key here is to know the source. Is the person giving you the information trustworthy, and are you certain it really is that person?

Go to where you know it’s legit, and look for the same offer.

It’s easy to use lookalike web links, so if you think you’re reading an article from The Times or The Mirror or even my, think about whether you went direct or clicked a link.

If the latter it may be a spoof from a clicked link in an email which looks similar.

As you may know I’m in the midst of a campaigning lawsuit against Facebook which has published over 1,000 scam ads with my pic in. None are genuine. I don’t do ads – so any ad with me in is a lie.

5. Ensure you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Free software which, while not as full of features as paid-for programs, still keeps on top of threats. These include Windows Defender, Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast Antivirus free (full comparison in

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