Scams come in many guises, so it can be all too easy to fall victim to fraud.
Fraudsters often contact thousands of random people in the hope that a few will be tricked into giving away their cash, bank details or other personal information.
If someone you don’t know visits, calls, emails or sends a letter asking for your details, take your time and consider whether it’s genuine.
Remember that the police, banks and other trustworthy institutions will never ask you to provide your account numbers or PIN codes – or send them money for ‘safe keeping’.
Golden Rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Speak to Action Fraud if you’re concerned about any recent contact you’ve received.
Top tips to prevent scams
Not all scams are the same, but there are some key things people can do to prevent falling foul of scammers
Remember that the bank is always the safest place to keep your money
Never keep large amounts of cash at home and keep what you do have hidden away
If someone asks for money or personal information, or encourages you to let a complete stranger into your home, stop and think ‘is this a con?
If you’re in doubt over something, seek a second opinion from someone you trust
Regularly check your bank statements and report anything suspicious to your bank in branch or using a phone number that you know is genuine
If you’ve already been a victim of fraud, be aware of scammers targeting you again – they could pretend to be a lawyer or police officer who can help recover your money
Lots of frauds start with a ‘phishing’ email. This is when the con artist sends a huge number of people a message intended to make you click on a bogus link or install a computer virus that can help them access your banking or personal information.
Spotting a phishing email:
- They often start with a non-personal title, like ‘Dear Customer’ or ‘Dear Account Holder’
- Usually there’s an ‘urgency’ to take action – with claimed consequences like account closure or a financial penalty if you don’t
- Sometimes there’s an offer that you might ‘miss out on’ if you don’t provide a small upfront fee
- Check the sender’s email address – has it really come from the organisation being claimed?
You can protect yourself from email fraud by:
Making sure you have up-to-date antivirus software and a firewall on your computer, and check your browser is set to the highest level of security and monitoring
Not clicking on links or download files from a sender you aren’t sure is authentic
Never giving away any personal information unless you are totally sure the request is genuine
Ringing the organisation on a contact number you already have – not the one provided in the potentially fraudulent email to double check
Treating any offer with extreme caution and remember the golden rule of ‘too good to be true’
Fraudsters sometimes send their scams by post to try and get money from you in a fraudulent way or in some ways to get your bank and personal detail.
Spotting Postal Fraud:
These letters often have non-personal titles like ‘Dear Customer’ or ‘Dear Householder’, and often this title doesn’t match the rest of the mail in style, colour or font.
Grammar and spellings are again usually poor – not what you’d expect from a reputable organisation.
The post might claim that you need to take action to avoid some kind of penalty, or offer you a prize or business deal that you first have to pay a fee or share your personal information to access.
You can avoid getting caught out by:
If you’re unsure about any post you’ve received, seek advice from someone you trust. Speak to a family member or call the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03444 111 444 before responding to the post in any way.
You can have your name removed from direct mailing lists in the UK by contacting the Mail Preference Service on 0207 291 3310 or visiting www.mpsonline.org.uk/mpsr.
Make sure you also shred any post that contains your name, address or other personal information before you throw it away – this will help prevent it from falling into the hands of scammers.
If you take an unexpected call from someone you don’t know, asking yourself a few simple questions can help keep your information and money safe.
Is the caller asking you to send any money anywhere? Do they want my bank or personal details? Are they after my money for ‘safekeeping’ or to ‘help catch a criminal’?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, the call is probably a con. Seek a second opinion from a trusted source like a friend, family member or advice organisation before you do or say anything.
Sometimes scam callers will claim to be from real organisations. If you’re uncertain about such a call, put the phone down and make sure you have ended the call. Ring the organisation on a number you already have – not one the caller just gave you – and they’ll be able to tell you whether the call was legitimate.
Remember – banks and the police will never ring you to ask for money or personal details.
You can report suspected fraud calls to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Visit www.actionfraud.police.uk for more information.
Top tips to prevent phone scams:
Sometimes fraudsters stay on the line and play a dial tone to make you think they have hung up, so it’s worth checking an unexpected call has ended by ringing a friend or the Action Fraud automated switchboard on 0300 123 2040.
You can make your phone number ex-directory so that it doesn’t appear in any directories or 118 enquiry services. Simply visit www.tpsonline.org.uk or call 0845 070 0707 to record your preference to not receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.
Tip: To make a formal complaint about nuisance calls, speak to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) on 01625 545 745 or go to www.ico.org.uk.
Some criminals prefer to work face to face when committing crime, so be alert when someone knocks on your door, as they may be a distraction burglary or rogue trader.
Distraction burglars is someone who gains access to your property by distracting or tricking you before stealing items from your home.
Rogue traders are criminals who take advantage of householders by using high-pressure, forceful sales techniques
Please follow our hints for staying safe at the door:
Keep you doors and windows locked.
If someone comes to the door put the chain on before opening the door.
Ask the caller what they want before unchaining the door and don’t let them in unless they are legitimate.
Check they are legitimate by:
- Checking identification cards
- Calling the company they claim to work – don’t let them inside while you do so.
- If unsure ask them to leave until you have a friend or family member with you.
Never agree to have work done without getting a second opinion or getting further quotes.
Further advice and reporting fraud