Spain is a relatively safe country but, like many parts of Europe, there are some common scams in place that you need to be aware of. These scams are invariably designed to empty your pockets, and they often involve stealing your identity or online data too. But knowledge is power, so knowing what the scams (or estafas in Spanish) are is the best way to avoid them.
With that in mind, here are some of the most popular scams in Spain in 2022
1. Postal or Courier Company Scams
More people than ever have turned to online shopping and online delivery services in order to secure the goods they need during the pandemic, but this has only let to an opportunity for scam artists to use your shopping habits to try and steal your data. The most common of these scams is receiving a fake email or text message informing you that your order has been cancelled or delayed because there is a €1.75 customs charge owing. When you click through to pay this charge, you will be redirected to a page that pretends to be the postal service Correos or another courier, but actually the page is designed to steal your data. Alternative versions of this scam see you go to pay the ‘fake’ fee and then have your bank details stolen by the website.
An identical scam has been identified that utilises Amazon order confirmations in order to steal both your data and your bank details.
If you have an Android phone then the most serious of these scams you need to be aware of is one that claims to be FedEx: When you go to download the app you are asked to download in order to track your ‘missing’ parcel, the app can be used to take total control of your phone
2. Mobile Phone Company Scams
On the subject of phones, there has been an increase in the number of phone company scams in recent months, with a particular focus on Vodafone. The most common of these scams will see you receive a fake email from Vodafone saying you have an unpaid bill or invoice: when you click on the link contained in the email to pay this bill, malware will be downloaded to your computer, allowing the scammers to steal any private details contained on your device.
Sim card cloning is also on the rise across Europe, including in Spain, so if you find that your Spanish mobile phone isn’t behaving in the way you would expect, this is something to be aware of. Your sim card can be cloned if you take it for repair, or if you lose (or temporarily misplace) your phone and a criminal gets hold of it. By cloning your sim card, criminals are then able to authorise transactions using the bank details that you hold on your phone.
3. Fake Utility Salesperson Scam
If someone knocks on your door without warning claiming to represent a Spanish utility company then you should approach with caution, because it is actually illegal to act in this way in Spain. As a result, the police force in the country advise that you call 091 to report the scam before you open your door, and you certainly shouldn’t give them any bank details or other personal information.
4. Holiday Home Rental Scam
If you regularly visit Spain for your holidays, and enjoy renting property rather than staying in a hotel, then you need to be aware of this scam. The Guardia Civil have released several press statements warning people about a new scam that directly affects tourists in Spain: properties are advertised that don’t exist, and then people are paying deposits only to find that when they arrive in Spain, they have nowhere to stay.
There are ways to avoid this scam: Only book your holiday accommodation through reputable companies, read reviews from other visitors before making a decision, ask to speak to the landlord on the phone before you arrive, and remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
5. Bank Account Hacking Phone Call Scam
As we are increasingly aware of scams, many of us are also afraid of them happening to us, and this next scam preys on that fear. This scam sees you receive a phone call from a scam artist claiming to be from your bank: they may even know your ID number in a bid to prove that they are from your bank. They will then tell you that they have noticed fraudulent activity on your account, and will the offer to send you a code via an SMS message, claiming that you should then confirm the code with them for security purposes. This is a red flag. Spanish banks will never request that you share your verification code over the phone: if this happens then you should hang up and call your bank directly or deal with them in person. Remember that your real bank will never be offended if you tell them that you would prefer to call back or to deal with any issues by going into branch.
6. The Bizum Scam
Bizum is an incredibly popular mobile phone app in Spain. If you aren’t already aware of it, Bizum is a payment service that many Spaniards choose to use when they’re splitting bills for items such as bar tabs, restaurant meals, and even rent. The app has 12 million users in the country, but with popularity comes scammers trying to make a quick buck.
This scam specifically targets individuals using Bizum for business. They pose as customers and send out messages where they ask the seller or business to “authorise” a sum of money as payment. This isn’t how Bizum usually works, and clicking on the link will send money directly to the scammer, rather than sending payment to the business.
7. Tax Agency Scams
This is an old but still enduringly popular scam, and one that occurs in Spain every tax season. There are several versions of this scam but the outcome is the same: cybercriminals pretend to be from the tax agency in order to secure your financial details or personal data. This could be in the form of text messages or emails, and will often include a link that will ask you for your information when you click through. You may also receive an email with an attachment, and when you click through it will download malware onto your computer. A good rule of thumb is to check thoroughly before you open any links sent from the tax office, who generally will not email you directly in this way.
8. Covid-19 Scams
Whenever difficult situtions arise, unfortunately there will always be criminals waiting in the wings to take advantage of them. This has happened with the coronavirus pandemic: there are several scams in place where people pretend to be official bodies and send you notifications about border restrictions, vaccines or aid for companies. When you click on the links in these messages, you then find yourself subject to malware or landing on pages designed to steal your personal details.
Being Scam-Aware in Spain
One of the best ways to ensure you don’t fall victim to a scam whilst living in or visiting Spain is to trust your gut and try to be organised: if you receive a message from a company that says you’ve ordered something you haven’t, for example, this is something to be suspicious of. The best advice is to trust your gut and remain cautious: if an email doesn’t seem right, check the address to see where it’s come from and, if in doubt, hit the delete button!
Spanish scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so if you do fall victim of a scam in Spain then the first thing you should do is change all of your online passwords. You may also need to contact your bank to secure a new bank card, and so that they can look out for any suspicious activity on your account. You should also pay close attention to your phone bill, and liaise with your phone company, in case access to any premium phone lines or messaging services has been added to your account.
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