Stay one step ahead

How to protect yourself from fraud and scams

Let’s fight fraud

Your money matters to you, and it matters to us. Unfortunately people will take advantage of opportunities to find a fraudulent way to get hold of your money through deception. We are right here to help you stop this happening.

Here you can find information on things to look out for when keeping your money safe and to stop you falling victim to some of the types of fraud we know about. Please keep visiting these pages for up to date guidance.

What to do if you’re concerned

Please contact us immediately if you think:

  • you have fallen victim to a scam
  • you have disclosed confidential information to an unknown third party
  • a transaction on your account is fraudulent
  • you have been a victim of identity theft
  • you have concerns about security



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Latest Fraud and Scams updates

Read on to find out more about different types of fraud scams, and what you can do to protect yourself and your money. When you’ve finished reading our advice, don’t stop there. Spread the word to your loved ones. With greater awareness of banking security, you might prevent them becoming a victim too.

Investment scams

The scam:

Criminals convince people to invest their money in commodities such as property, gold or cryptocurrencies, which turn out to be non-existent or worthless.

Scammers draw people in by:

  • Approaching people directly by phone, email or private message to offer an investment opportunity.
  • Placing advertisements on social media and websites.
  • Using celebrity images or the name and logo of a genuine company to make their advertisement look legitimate.
  • Placing sponsored links at the top of search results to attract people to their websites.

Criminals watch genuine investment trends and copy them to attract a higher number of victims. A good example of this is the increased popularity of cryptocurrencies. This has led to an increase in fraudsters posing as cryptocurrency traders and offering to help people invest in cryptocurrency.

How to spot an investment scam:

  • Someone contacts you out of the blue to offer an investment opportunity, either by phone, text, email or private message.
  • You are put under pressure to make a quick decision about an investment.
  • Someone offers to invest in cryptocurrency on your behalf. Genuine cryptocurrency providers keep your money in an online wallet, which only you should have access to.
  • Company names or logos appear similar to well-known companies, possibly with a small variation.

Stay one step ahead

  • Be ScamSmart: the FCA’s ScamSmart service is a free and helpful tool that anyone can use to check if an investment is genuine.
  • Check it out: you can check whether you’re dealing with a genuine company by viewing their details on the FCA’s Financial Services Register.
  • Take your time: remember that you can take as long as you need to consider or research an investment opportunity. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Seek advice: if you’re thinking of making an investment, consider getting professional independent advice from a genuine company.
  • Stay in control: don’t allow anyone to remotely access your computer, phone or other devices.
  • Remember: if something sounds too good be true, it’s probably a scam.
  • Report it: if you think you may have fallen victim to a scam, call your bank or building society straight away and make a report to Action Fraud.
Impersonation scams

The scam:

You’re convinced to make a payment or give personal and financial details to someone claiming to be from an organisation you trust. This could include the police, your bank, a delivery or utility company, communication service provider or a government department such as HMRC or the DVLA.

These scams often begin with a phone call, text or email that appears to be from a trusted organisation. Criminals can use a tactic called ‘spoofing’ to make their call or text appear genuine by cloning the number or sender ID which is displayed on your phone. In some cases, criminals even trick you by sending couriers to collect your cards, PINs or valuable items in person.

Recently, criminals have also started using WhatsApp and other social media to contact people, pretending to be their friend or relative and asking them to send money. If you receive a text from someone asking for money, stop and think. If you can’t speak to them in person, it could be a scam.

How to spot an impersonation scam:

  1. You receive a call, text, email or social media message with an urgent request for your personal or financial information, to make a payment or move money
  2. You’re asked to act immediately, sometimes with the claim that ‘your money is at risk’, ‘your account will be blocked’ or ‘there are suspicious transactions on your account’. If you don’t act immediately you may be threatened with arrest or the prospect of losing all your money
  3. The caller asks you to transfer money to another account for ‘safe-keeping’ or for you to buy high value goods/vouchers to cover the cost of fines
  4. The sender’s email address is ever so slightly different to that of the genuine sender

Stay one step ahead:

  • Your bank or the police will never ask you to transfer money to a safe account or contact you out of the blue to ask for your full PIN, password or passcode.
  • Only give out your personal or financial information to services you have consented to and are expecting to be contacted by.
  • Always contact your bank or an organisation directly, using a known email or phone number.
  • Don’t give anyone remote access to your computer following a cold call or unsolicited text.
  • You can forward suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk and suspected scam texts to your mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726. An easy way to remember 7726 is that they are the numbers on your telephone keypad that spell out the word ‘SPAM’.
  • HMRC will never notify you about tax refunds, penalties or ask for your personal or financial information through emails, texts or phone calls. You can forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599. If you’re unsure whether it’s a scam, check their guidance on recognising scams, and for more detail on reporting methods visit gov.uk.
  • If you have visited a website you think is suspicious, you can report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.

For more information and examples of impersonation scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

Romance Scams

The scam:

You’re convinced to make a payment to a person you’ve met either through social media platforms, dating websites and apps or gaming sites. Fake profiles are used by criminals in an attempt to build a relationship with you – this is also often known as catfishing. Criminals use information found on social media to create fake identities to target you with a scam, looking for profiles that say you’re ‘widowed’ or ‘divorced’.

They often go to great lengths to gain your trust and convince you that you’re in a genuine relationship before appealing to your compassionate side to ask for money. Criminals will use language to manipulate, persuade and exploit so that requests for money do not raise alarm bells. These requests might be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit you if they are overseas.

How to spot a romance scam:

  1. You’ve met someone online and they declare strong feelings for you after a few conversations
  2. They suggest moving the conversation away from the dating website or social media to a more private channel such as email, phone or instant messaging
  3. Their profile on the internet dating website or their social media page isn’t consistent with what they tell you
  4. There are spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and they make claims such as their camera isn’t working
  5. They refuse to video call/meet you in person
  6. Photos generally tend to be stolen from other people
  7. You’re asked to send money to someone you have not met face-to-face, either through bank/money transfer or through the purchase of gift cards or presents such as phones and laptops. You may even be asked to provide them with access to your bank account or card
  8. Upon questioning your friend or family member, they may become very secretive about their relationship or provide excuses for why their online partner has not video called or met them in person. They might become hostile or angry, and withdraw from conversation when you ask any questions about their partner

Stay one step ahead:

  • Avoid sending money to someone you’ve never met in person, particularly if you have only recently met online.
  • Research the person you’re talking to, as profile photos may not be genuine. You can do this by uploading a picture of the person you’re talking to into your search engine to check that profile photos are not associated with another name. Performing a reverse image search can find photos that have been taken from somewhere, or someone, else. 
  • Be alert to spelling and grammar mistakes and inconsistencies in stories.
  • Stay on the dating site’s messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are and meetings in person take place in a public place.
  • Always consider the possibility of a scam.
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know and trust.
  • Speak to your family or friends to get advice.

For more information and examples of romance scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

Doorstep Scams

The scam:

A cold-caller may offer you a service you don’t really need. They may claim to have noticed something about your property that needs work or improvement, such as the roof, and offer to fix it for cash or an inflated price

How to spot a doorstep scam:

  1. Someone knocks on your door that you weren’t expecting warning that there’s a problem with your roof or driveway that needs to be fixed without delay
  2. You’re asked to make a payment upfront for work to be carried out
  3. You’re convinced to go to your bank branch and withdraw money whilst they set up
  4. Additional problems are identified for which additional money is needed immediately

Stay one step ahead:

  • Never disclose your PIN or let anyone persuade you to hand over your bank card, financial information or withdraw cash
  • Don’t feel pressured. Don’t agree to hand over money at the door. Take time to think about it and talk to someone you trust.
  • Only let someone in if you’re expecting them or they’re a trusted friend, family member or professional. Don’t feel embarrassed about turning someone away.
  • Check their credentials. You should always check someone’s credentials -a genuine person won’t mind. You can phone the company they represent or check online, but never use contact details they give you.
  • Take the time to think about any offer, even if it’s genuine. Don’t be embarrassed to say no or ask them to leave.
  • Call 999 if you feel threatened or in danger. Call the police non-emergency number 101 to report an incident if you’re not in immediate danger.

For more information and examples of doorstep scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

Payment in Advance Scams

The scam:

Also known as an advance fee scam, this is when you’re convinced to pay an upfront fee in order to receive a prize/service, high value goods or loans which never materialise.

How to spot a payment in advance scam:

  1. You’re asked to pay an upfront fee to receive money, a prize/service or goods that you weren’t expecting
  2. You’re asked to pay an upfront fee for a training programme or background check for a job that may not exist
  3. You’re told that the fee is fully refundable and will be used as a deposit or an administrative charge
  4. There are follow-up fees you need to pay in order to secure the loan, prize/service or goods
  5. You are put under pressure to pay quickly by wire, bank transfer or cryptocurrency
  6. The domain name doesn’t match that of the sender of the email e.g. gov.uk

Stay one step ahead:

  • Question claims that you’re due money for goods or services that you haven’t ordered or are unaware of, especially if you have to pay any fees upfront.
  • It’s extremely unlikely that you’ve won a lottery or competition that you haven’t entered, and which requires an upfront fee.
  • Check the email addresses of recruiters or potential employers to ensure they’re genuine and be vigilant of those platforms that businesses would be unlikely to use, i.e. Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail.
  • Confirm the organisations you’re being contacted by are registered on Companies House and use the details provided to contact recruitment companies and/or organisations directly. You can also check their website is genuine by checking the web address that they’ve registered with Companies House
  • Be wary of potentially fake profiles on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, as they could be offering jobs that don’t exist
  • If you’re concerned about a job scam you can report it to their trade association and/or to JobsAware using their online reporting tool.
  • If you have visited a website you think is suspicious, you can report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.
Purchase Scams

The scam:

The increase in online shopping has provided criminals with an new opportunity to trick people into paying for goods and services that don’t exist, often advertised via auction sites or social media with images taken from genuine sellers’ to convince you they’re the real deal. Criminals also use cloned websites with slight changes to the URL to trick you into thinking you’re purchasing from a genuine website. They may also ask for payment prior to delivery and send you fake receipts and invoices that appear to be from the payment provider.

Scams include buyers paying deposits for pets that don’t exist, DIY purchases and electronic devices such as games consoles to name a few.

How to spot a potential purchase scam:

  1. You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper service or product compared to the original genuine worth. The deal sounds too good to be true.
  2. You’re asked to pay by bank transfer instead of using the online platform’s secure payment options
  3. You receive a fake email receipt/invoice that appears to be from the website you’ve purchased from or the payment service used to make your purchase – the email address domain doesn’t match that of the genuine senders.
  4. The website that you’re purchasing from was only launched days/weeks ago

Stay one step ahead:

  • Be suspicious of any "too good to be true" offers or prices.
  • Use the secure payment method recommended by reputable online retailers and auction sites.
  • Where possible, use a credit card when making purchases over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive protection under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act.
  • Read online reviews to check websites and sellers are genuine, and ask to see high value items in person or via video link, as well as getting copies of the relevant documentation to ensure the seller owns the item
  • Purchase items made by a major brand from the list of authorised sellers listed on their official website.
  • Always access the website you’re purchasing from by typing it into your web browser and be wary of clicking on links in unsolicited emails
  • Always ensure you click ‘log out’ or ‘sign out’ of websites
  • The introduction of Lucy’s Law makes it illegal for you to purchase pets sold by a third-party seller. If you’re looking for a pet, buy it directly from a breeder or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead
  • If you have visited a website you think is suspicious you can report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.

For more information and examples of purchase scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

Invoice and Mandate Scams

The scam:

Invoice or mandate scams happen when criminals pose as your builder, solicitor, tradesperson or someone from a trusted organisation and provide you with new or amended bank account details. You’re then tricked into sending money to the account, which is controlled by them.

These scams often involve a criminal intercepting emails, gaining access to your supplier’s email account or pretending to be from them (also known as spoofing).

How to spot an invoice and mandate scam:

  1. You receive new bank details from an existing service provider (such as a builder, solicitor or other tradesperson) that are different to the account details you hold
  2. You receive duplicate or more frequent invoices for a product or service than the genuine service provider normally sends

Stay one step ahead:

  • Confirm service provider bank details directly with the company before payment is made
  • When paying someone for the first time, transfer a small amount first and check payment has been received directly by the company
  • Where possible, send confirmation of payment to service providers once their invoice has been paid
  • Always question changes in payment information. Companies rarely change their bank details
  • Be careful what you share on social media as criminals may target you if they know the next step is a large financial transaction

For more information and examples of invoice and mandate scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

Holiday Scams

The scam:

From fake caravan or motorhome listings to “too good to be true” offers for holidays, villa rentals and holiday lets, criminals use a variety of methods to trick us into handing over our money and information.

Holiday cancellation refund scams

Having your flights or holidays cancelled by flight operators and travel companies can be stressful, even more so when you’re seeking a refund. Criminals use these opportunities to defraud people in a number of ways, including via phishing emails, ‘spoofed’ calls or social media posts or ads.

Holiday booking scams

Whether you’re booking that dream holiday or just a short break, make sure you do lots of research into your accommodation, flights or the package that you’re hoping to book to ensure it’s genuine. Criminals often set up fake websites offering ‘cheap travel deals’ which are used to obtain your money and information. Websites may look like that of genuine organisations but subtle changes in the URL can indicate that it’s fraudulent. You may also be directed away from secure payment channels to ‘avoid missing a booking’ to pay via bank transfer or through fake payment pages. The tickets advertised may be fake or not exist.

You may also receive phishing emails advertising “too good to be true” offers or prices for package holidays or flights. When the link contained is clicked, you’re directed to a fake website designed to obtain your personal and financial information.

Stay one step ahead:

  • Be suspicious of any “too good to be true” offers or prices – if it’s at a rock bottom price, ask yourself why
  • Do your research before making any purchases by reading reviews of the site or person you’re purchasing from. Before booking accommodation ask what checks the agent makes on both the landlord and advertised property. Verify that the address exists through web searches and online maps.
  • Where possible, book directly with an established hotel or through a reputable travel company/agent that is a member of a trade body such as ABTA or ATOL. If you do decide to book independently, establish if you’re dealing with the property owner or a letting agent or via the local tourist information desk.
  • Ensure you read the terms and conditions before making any bookings to confirm exactly what you’re being sold. Double-check both your travel and accommodation information, particularly if there is a long gap between making the booking and arrival.
  • Always use the secure payment options recommended by reputable online travel providers
  • Where possible, use a credit card when making purchases over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive protection under Section 75
  • Always access the website you’re purchasing from by typing it into your web browser and be wary of clicking on links in unsolicited emails. The website should use the padlock symbol to indicate that the site is secure.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments in social media posts or emails
  • Question uninvited approaches and contact organisations directly to confirm requests using a known email or phone number
  • Only give out your personal or financial information to services you have consented to and are expecting to be contacted by
  • If you have visited a website you think is suspicious you can report it to the National Cyber Security Centre.

For more important information and advice about holiday scams, visit the Take Five to Stop Fraud website.

 

 

Stay One Step Ahead

How you can protect yourself from scams

To stay safe from fraud and scams, remember the Take Five to Stop Fraud advice:

  • Stop. Take time to think about what you are being asked to do before parting with your money.
  • Challenge. Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will rush or panic you.
  • Protect. Contact us straight away if you think you’ve fallen for a scam.

You should also make a report to Action Fraud. Your report might help prevent others from becoming victims.

Staying Safe Online

Follow the link below to find out more about using the internet safely and protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud.

Find out more
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Read our guide

Download our Protect yourself from Fraud and Scam (4273 KB) leaflet.

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Read our guide

Download our Protect yourself from Identity Theft and Fraud (221 KB) guide.

 

More information

For more information on scams, fraud and banking security, please visit the following websites:

  • Take Five - My money? My info? I don’t think so. Take Five to stop fraud.
  • Action Fraud - A service that is run by the National Fraud Authority – the government agency that helps to co-ordinate the fight against fraud in the UK.
  • Metropolitan Police
  • FCA - Regulator of financial services in the UK
  • Get Safe Online - Easy-to-understand information about online safety.