Fraud and scam advice
More than three million people in the UK fall victim to scams, many losing hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds. Anyone can be targeted and fall victim to fraudsters as they use a variety of methods including post, phone, email, online, on the doorstep or a combination of these.
Scammers most commonly make contact via email or telephone and can seem very plausible and convincing, but before you give any details ask yourself, How do I know this is genuine, and Is this too good to be true? If it is, then its more than likely a scam.
There are thousands of different scams, the most common ones being fake lotteries and prize draws, bogus health cures, dodgy investment schemes, pyramid selling and phishing. See below for more details and advice on the scams.
In addition to the below advice the Metropolitan Police have also kindly provided their The Little book of Big Scams booklet, which will help cmbat fraud and other economic crime.
Hertfordshire Constabulary has created this recording of a mock phone scam in order to raise awareness around a fake police officer scam and show how convincing they can be.
Police officer impersonator
This is a scam in which a fraudster telephones pretending to be a police officer. The caller claims a criminal has been arrested with a substantial sum of money on them and a list of names and addresses, including the victims.
that a fraud has been committed on their bank account.
They then suggest the victim calls their bank or the police to confirm their details. The victim hangs up but the caller does not and so the call is not terminated. As a result, without realising it, the victim starts talking to the fraudster again, thinking they have called their bank or the police.
During the conversation, the offender says they will need to examine the victims bank card, and take their PIN number in case it has been compromised and that a courier will come to collect the card.
A smartly dressed man then arrives at the victims home, the card is taken and the PIN number used to withdraw cash.
Online shopping and auctions
Internet shoppers get lured into buying phantom cars, mobile phones, pets or anything else you can buy online. Scammers use a range of tricks including bogus websites, spoof payment services and a nasty new variation called “second chance offers”, tempting losing bidders with bogus opportunities.
Online shopping and auction scams are the most common fraud reported, with total consumer losses of £63.6 million in 2013. Most losses were around £200. Online property market places are also infiltrated by scammers harvesting legitimate property details and posing as landlords.
Also called “boiler room” scams because of the high pressure sales technique employed, they are sophisticated enough to lure even experienced investors.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) reports average losses of £5,000 per victim, with approximately 6,000 cases in the last year. Shares remain the most common product offered, accounting for 40 per cent of all investment scams. Next come carbon credits, land, and rare earth metals.
Using online dating websites, scammers groom victims into long-distance relationships using emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. Once they are confident of the victims trust, scammers will tell them about a problem they are experiencing and ask for financial help.
These cruel crimes cost victims a combined £24.5 million in 2013. They often go unreported because of the embarrassment caused to the victim. Nearly two thirds of victims are female and it is most common among 40–59 year olds.
Fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime as it gives a mask of legitimacy to their cruel schemes. The Microsoft scam is probably the best known; methods include asking for credit card details to “validate” copies of Windows, stealing personal information, installing malware and charging to remove it.
Bogus charity collections
Doorstep collections of old clothes and goods, whereby the charity collects donations directly from peoples homes, are a popular way for charities to obtain goods to sell. Many genuine charities rely on these doorstep collections for a substantial proportion of their shop sales, however, some of these charity collections are bogus.
The Association of Charity Shops estimates that the potential value of donated clothing and other items ‘lost to legitimate charities through this method is over £1million per year.
Typically, householders receive a flyer attached to a charity branded bag through their letterboxes appealing for donations of unwanted clothes, footwear and sometimes other household and electrical items, to be distributed to poor individuals and families in Eastern European or third world countries. Householders are asked to leave the goods in a plastic bag by the front door. These are later collected anonymously.
The flyers give the misleading impression that the items are being collected for charitable purposes. In reality, the collections seem to be organised by commercial operators who sell the donated items for profit. The misleading impression is in some instances reinforced by a reference to a registration number, which people may think is that of a Registered Charity but is in fact a limited company number.
If you have any doubts about a leaflet asking for donations, you can visit the Charity Commission website to check whether the collection is for, or on behalf of, a registered charity.
Other older scams
Advance fee scams – scammers get people to send money for a range of dodgy or non-existent goods and services – or to collect lottery “winnings”.
Pyramid selling – people are told they can earn money by recruiting new members to a money-making venture. Only a tiny minority make money, everyone else loses.
Phishing – an email apparently from the receivers bank arrives requesting them to update, validate or confirm details. Its designed to trick people into revealing personal information and passwords so that scammers can access their account.
Phishing and malware – Action Fraud reports increasing use of phishing to distribute malware, which then results in the compromise of online accounts, payment diversion and more phishing emails.
SMShing – mobile phone text messages are used to lure people onto fraudulent websites or invite them to call a premium rate mobile number or download malicious content via the phone or web.
Voice phishing or vishing – the criminal practice of obtaining personal or financial information over the telephone.
What you can do
If you are being targeted by these fraudsters remember that you are only one of many and you can take some minor precautions for your own safety depending on how you are being contacted.
Email – Ensure you are protected by personal firewall and anti-virus software. Keep them regularly updated. Report as abuse to senders ISP any messages you receive.
Never reply to any email you are unsure of.
Telephone - Register your number with Telephone Preference Service (TPS Online) via their website or call 0845 070 0707. Report any suspicious phone calls to your phone company.
Never give personal details over the phone
Post - Beware of unwanted mail from outside this country or from a post-box address in this country.
Register with Mail Preference Service (MPS Online) via their website or 0845 703 4599.
If you have sent money because of any of the above scams, contact ActionFraud via their website or on 0300 1232040.
There are four things you can do to protect yourself from fraud or if you suspect you have been the target of a scam:
CHECK any communication with a trusted friend, relative or neighbour if youre unsure if it is a scam or not.
REPORT scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud is the UKs national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime.
If debit cards, online banking or cheques are involved in the scam, your first step should be to contact your bank or credit card company.
Report any suspected scams to your local Trading Standards if you believe it involves rogue or unfair traders.
TELL family, friends, neighbours about the scams and the advice so that they can also protect themselves.
Get safe online – tips and resources for consumers to protect themselves against online scams.
Cyber street - the government has launched a new website aimed at helping the public and small businesses to spot and avoid fraud and identify theft and other issues that affect online users.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - has a list of firms which have been implicated in scams. The FCA website also has advice on Ten Top Tips to help investors avoid the clutches of scammers.