Scamwatch - how to stop yourself getting scammed

Paul Lewis / 22 May 2014

Paul Lewis keeps you up to date with the latest scams and potential financial pitfalls for you to avoid.

A distressing health scare scam

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reports that emails are being sent out at random saying that the recipient’s blood sample shows a low white blood cell count and they may have cancer.

The email tells them to download and print out an attached file and visit their GP. The downloaded attachment infects the computer and can be used to steal data or to use the machine for further scams.

Anyone who has had blood taken recently is likely to be deeply distressed by this dreadful scam. People who have not had a blood test recently may be puzzled and alarmed. Blood test results are never sent out in that form and the email should always be ignored.

Never download anything from anyone you don’t know or who claims to be from an official body. It’s a scam.

Read about five scams which attempt to steal your identity.

No such thing as a free sample

The following is a true story from a reader of Saga Magazine. I’ll call her Jean. She followed up an advert for a free sample of skin cream. In fact, it cost 99p for postage and she had to give her debit card details to pay for it. Fourteen days later £89 was taken from her account.

Jean complained but was told she had agreed to a regular subscription when she submitted her details. She said that wasn’t made clear and cancelled the subscription. A month later another £89 was taken.

She complained again but was told the same.

Jean was, of course, unwise to give all her bank details to a strange website for a payment of any size – especially for a ‘free’ product. But she can stop the payments by telling her bank she no longer authorises them. At that point the bank is legally obliged to stop making them. 

If it does make any more, it must reimburse her in full – regardless of any contract she may or may not have entered into with the cosmetics supplier.

If the sale were a scam and Jean received nothing of value for her £89, she could also apply to the bank to reimburse the money she was tricked into paying earlier. 

The process is called ‘chargeback’, run by Visa and MasterCard. If the bank proves difficult to deal with at any stage, she should appeal to the Financial Ombudsman Service (; 0800 023 4567). 

Free sample offers often turn out to be scams. Never take them up.

Have you heard about the car tax email scam?

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.