Top Ten Scams

Have you had bad experience of a scam? Or has a friend or relative been conned out of their money?

The National Consumer Agency is working to combat scams in Ireland. You can help them by telling them about the scams you are aware of, or have experienced. Send them your ideas on how to spot them or avoid them, and find out what other consumers think.


Here are the top 10 "money for nothing" scams that Irish consumers are likely to come across.


1. The premium rate con

A letter says you have won a sweepstake or a holiday or a holiday of a lifetime. To claim your prize you are told to ring a premium rate number. In Ireland these numbers begin with 15.

The recorded message goes on for ages, and the prize doesn’t exist. It’s a scam, and the next time you look at your phone bill you realise the call has cost a small fortune.


2. The misleading prize offer

In this one you’re asked to do a questionnaire, or they ring saying they’re doing a quick survey. It’ll just take a few minutes, they say, and the information they’re looking for seems harmless.

So you go along with it, but they’ve snared you – and put you on a so-called "suckers list". A short time later, someone else contacts you about a brilliant holiday or some other fantastic prize.

But in order to collect it, you have to pay a fee, or go along to a high pressure timeshare seminar, or listen to a vacuum cleaner sales presentation. They make you responsible for the travel or accommodation part of the offer, or it turns out that the prize isn’t really a prize at all.


3. The pyramid scheme

Pyramid schemes come in all shapes and sizes, from clubs to chain-letters. But in every case the scam is a con.

4. The bogus holiday club

You are pressurised – usually while on holiday yourself – to join their holiday club. But some of these operators are very shady, and hit you with hidden costs and conditions.

The package turns out to cost far more than a normal average holiday deal. And once you sign up it can be very hard to get out of the arrangement.


5. The work-at-home scam

"Work at home" adverts might sound great in theory, especially if you can’t work outside your home, and some offers are straightforward and genuine enough. But many schemes are scams.

The advert doesn’t mention that you may have to work many hours without pay. Or there’s hidden costs that you yourself will have to pay, such as money up front for materials, stamps, envelopes, photocopies or placing adverts – then you wait for weeks and hear nothing.

Another twist is where the company makes you pay for an expensive "instruction manual" or "tutorial" software.


6. The "Nigerian letter" scam

This scam got its name from the fact that many emails appeared to come from Nigeria, though nowadays the scam could be based anywhere. It’s usually an email, though it can sometimes be a letter or a fax.

The person claims to be a government official, or the widow of a government official, or from a charity or business group. The situation usually involves a foreign country, and a promise that you will receive a huge sum of money.

They say all you have do is send them your bank details. Or you should pay some kind of "advance fee" – such as customs, taxes or bribes – to assist this transfer.

The fees can add up to tens of thousands, or the tricksters use your bank details to empty your account. Never ever give your bank details to someone you don’t know.


7. The phishing fraud

The Nigerian letter scam is part of a wider trend called phishing. It’s about using email and false websites to fish for your personal details.


8. The directory scam

You get a false invoice in the post for an entry in a directory. The letter asks for payment as soon as possible. Then it’s followed up by threats of debt collectors or legal proceedings.

The directory, if it exists at all, turns out to be rubbish, but many Irish businesses big and small have been caught out in this one.


9. Lottery and sweepstake scams

These can come by letter or email. For example, they might say that you have ALREADY SCOOPED THE FIRST PRIZE WORTH MILLIONS OF EURO. Or YOU’VE WON THE HOLIDAY OF A LIFETIME. But the small print tells a different story.


10. The "what’s your pin code?" scam

Since March 2007 you have to use a PIN code to pay with a card, and shops won’t let you sign for things you buy. This is called the chip-and-pin system.

Your PIN – the four digit code for your card – is as good as a signature, so it is a very important piece of information. And it’s only a matter of time before more tricksters try to get consumers to give away this number.

Never ever give it to anyone. Nobody – not even your bank manager – has the right to ask for it. If someone asks for your PIN number over the phone or on the Internet, stop the transaction there and then.


If you think you have come across a scam contact  National Consumer Agency on LoCall number  1890432432  or email them at [email protected]