Wednesday, 14 January 2015

If it looks too good to be true …

NO sooner than the season of goodwill is done and dusted, comes the season of ill will in the shape of a variety scams, delivered by e-mail and traditional post and carefully designed to catch the unwary and the gullible. 

The post-Christmas/New Year weeks bring forth torrents of marketing e-mails. Some of them offer genuine bargains, including big discounts on holidays and travel deals, but as we rush to clear junk out of our in-boxes, it’s all too easy for individuals and companies to be sucked into wallet-shrivelling traps.

Here are some that we’ve seen in the opening weeks of 2015:

1. A letter was sent by conventional post to a British company about something called the UK Corporate Portal 2015. From this month, the way in which Value Added Tax (VAT) is recorded for inter European Union (EU) state transactions has changed. A company’s VAT number must be included in all of its documentation. The letter – which looks as if it’s come from a government department – offers businesses a seemingly smart way to eliminate the mountain of paperwork that would otherwise be generated by the new EU regulation.

Too good to be true? Possibly. The letter is not in fact from a government department. Go right down to the bottom of the second page, and you’ll see that it’s from an internet publishing company in Hamburg, Germany. It’s where you’ll also see a paragraph stating that by accepting the deal and signing your authorization, you are agreeing to pay them an annual fee of £797 on a continuing basis. Curiously, whether or not this includes VAT is not specified, and they reserve the right to change the required payment at their discretion.

So, if you get a two-page letter which has a barcode where a letterhead should be, and has the sender’s name and address (TW Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH, Borsteler Chaussee 85-99a, D-22453 Hamburg) in small print at the bottom of the first page, we suggest you pause ensure that you do not sign up to something that you might not need, and very probably will not provide any benefits for your company.

2. What could be better than a post-Xmas payment, out of the blue, of £17,195.98p? 

This was the promise in an e-mail received by a Go Holiday executive on January 6. It was addressed to Dear all, and signed by Osborn, Senior Accountant. There is no ’phone number, no postal address, and this alleged senior accountant doesn’t have a first name. That the name of the current Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) in Britain is George Osborne might or might not be a co-incidence. Clearly, the e-mail is a scam. Open the attachment to learn about the ££££s that – surprise, surprise! –have been paid into your bank account, and you say hello to a virus that renders your computer/phone/tablet unusable other than to receive another e-mail offering you very expensive virus-clearing software. It’s the 21st century version of a protection money racket.

3. A similar scam is the e-mail – normally with no telephone numbers, but lots of spelling and grammatical errors – that purports in Britain to come from the government’s tax office (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). It tells the very lucky recipient that he or she has been awarded millions of ££££s, either as some sort of ‘gift’ or as a refund of overpaid tax. All you have to do is open the attachment and give your bank account details to the sender … and what you do get is either a computer virus or a bank balance reduced to £0.

If it looks too good to be true, it almost always is.

Go Holiday news :

Picture Credit: GO Holiday

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