The damage from falling victim to a fraud or scam is not only financial. It can also have huge emotional consequences.
Remember that if you are a victim of this type of crime, you are not alone. Support is available, but you need to report what has happened as soon as possible.
How to spot a scam
Fraud and scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. However, there are warning signs which indicate someone is trying to steal your money.
Have you received an unsolicited call?
Someone may unexpectedly contact you offering you something or needing to fix something. This will usually be a scam.
Have you been asked to keep something quiet?
Scammers want to avoid detection. They will often ask you to not to discuss any financial transaction they want you to make with anyone.
Are there spelling mistakes in the emails or letters you have been sent?
Legitimate organisations rarely make grammatical or spelling mistakes. If you spot lots of errors, this should be a red flag that you may not be dealing with a genuine business.
Are you being offered something that looks too good to be true?
Someone might contact you offering an investment offering high returns with low risks. This is likely to be a scam.
Are you being asked to pay for something in an unusual way?
Someone asks you to pay for a service or goods using an international money transfer service. Another option might be paying in vouchers. Either of these should ring warning bells.
How to protect yourself
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Never disclose your debit card personal identification number (PIN), your full telephone banking passcode or full online banking membership number/login details to anyone.
- If in doubt that a company contacting you is genuine, use a telephone number from the official website, your statement, or a bill. Always check the line is properly disconnected before calling back. Call someone else first or use a different phone
- Do not be forced into making any hasty decisions. Always take your time and remember legitimate organisations should not push you into anything
- Avoid any investment promising unrealistic returns
- Never dispose of bills, bank statements and other documents containing your details without shredding them first
- Always verbally check that bank account details have genuinely changed, by calling the company’s telephone number from their official website
- Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card and PIN or ask you to move money to a safe account, so never agree to do this.
Stay safe online
To protect yourself from online fraud, make sure you create strong passwords for all your accounts, and never use the same password twice. The strongest passwords usually contain a mix of numbers, letters and other symbols. Try a memorable phrase such as ‘I had my son James in 2005!’ and use each word’s initial letter, for example, IhmsJi2005!
You should also be careful when using public WiFi. You should never use it for banking or shopping as fraudsters may be able to access your log-in details.
Be wary of any unsolicited emails asking for information about passwords or log-in details, even if they look entirely legitimate. Always contact the company who has supposedly made the request to find out if it is from them. Make sure you use their correct number rather than calling any number shown on the email.
What to do if you think you are the victim of a fraud or scam
Notify your bank immediately if you have handed over your account details or if you have made a payment out of your account that you believe is a scam.
Report the fraud to Action Fraud, which is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, on 0300 123 2040, or you can report fraud online at Action Fraud.
You should let the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) know via its Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768, or you can report it online.
If you live in England or Wales and have been affected by this or any other type of crime and need support, you can call Victim Support’s Support line on 0808 1689111, or you can request support online.
If you live in Scotland, you can contact Victim Support Scotland on 0800 160 1985 or visit Victim Support Scotland. If you live in Northern Ireland and want to make an appointment to speak to someone from Victim Support NI, call 02890 243133 (Belfast) or 02871 370086 (Foyle) or go online at Victim Support NI.