Online Fraud

Online fraud covers a variety of incidents - including online banking, auction websites, identity theft and online shopping to name just a few. 

It is often very easy for some people to forget that they are not dealing face to face with someone and believe what they see to be true, without reservation, or the sort of caution you might apply in dealing with someone face to face.

Action Fraud have produced some very useful steps which you can take in order to prevent yourself becoming a victim of fraud or cyber crime.  You can view these on their website.


COVID-19 Scams

Action Fraud have seen a number of different scams circulating relating to Covid-19. This includes people falling victim to online shopping scams, believing they are purchasing protective face masks or hand sanitiser, that actually, do not exist. Criminals are also using Government branding to try to trick people, including using HMRC branding to make spurious offers of financial support through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.

Criminals are looking to take advantage of further consequences of the pandemic, such as exploiting people’s financial concerns to: ask for upfront fees fraudulently applied to bogus loans; offer high-return investment scams; or targeting pensions.

Huge increases in the number of people working remotely presents an opportunity for criminals to commit computer software service fraud. The increased demand on IT systems causing slower responses may make approaches of help to fix devices seem more believable, when in reality, criminals are trying to gain access to your computer or get you to divulge your login details and passwords. It is also anticipated that there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.

Government smishing

The Government has only sent one text message to the public regarding new rules about staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Any others claiming to be from UK Government are false.

Criminals are able to use spoofing technology to send texts and emails impersonating organisations that you know and trust. We would remind anyone who receives an unexpected text or email asking for personal or financial details not click on the links or attachments, and don’t respond to any messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

Testing/treatment kits

A Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) spokesperson said:

“The use of products for the diagnosis of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) infection in community settings, such as pharmacies, or for home use, is not at present advised by Public Health England. We are unaware of any CE marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products without a CE mark.

“If members of the public think that they have come across a ‘Self-Test kit’ with CE mark and a Notified Body number, they should contact us and we will investigate, as this product is likely to be fraudulent.

“We are investigating a large number of allegations of non-compliance relating to the selling of medical devices for use during this COVID-19 outbreak. Patient safety is our highest priority so we are looking carefully into all reports on a risk basis. However, we can’t comment on individual cases.

“Our advice is always make sure you are buying your medicines and medical devices from a registered pharmacy or website.

“When buying online, beware of bogus websites, suspicious URLS and remember that claims like ‘100% safe, no side effects’ or ‘quick results’, are often warning signs. Cut prices and speedy deliveries can expose you to fake medicines or devices, identity theft and fraud.”

Universal Credit scam

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey:

“We know cyber criminals and fraudsters are despicably attempting to exploit opportunities around coronavirus. DWP will never text or email asking for your personal information or bank details. Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of fraud should report it to Action Fraud, and notify DWP, as soon as possible.”

Additional Information:

  • For latest information on Universal Credit go to
  • We urge people not to click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details.
  • We continue to work with Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to shut down sites and posts which promote this type of fraud.


  • Take a moment to think before parting with your money or information, especially if the request has come from a cold call, or unexpected text or email. Could it be fake? Do you know or trust the person it’s come from? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you. Take your time to discuss what is being asked of you with friends or family.
  • The police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account. They will never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN.
  • If you receive an unexpected text or email asking for personal or financial details do not click on the links or attachments. Ensure you have the latest software and application updates installed on all your devices.
  • If you believe you have been a victim of fraud please report this to Action Fraud.


Holiday Fraud

There's nothing worse than paying for your dream holiday only to find out its a scam. Fraudsters often target people searching for their dream getaway. Follow these top tips to help you outsmart the scammers:

  • Don’t reply to unsolicited emails, texts, social media or calls with holiday offers. Links and attachments in emails may lead to malicious websites or download viruses.
  • Book a holiday directly with an airline or hotel, or through a reputable agent. Check whether they’re a member of the Association of British Travel Agents.
  • If you decide to deal directly with the property owner or a letting agent, ask them questions about the booking, room, location and area. Don’t book on websites that don’t have a padlock icon (https) in the address bar, and be extra cautious if you’re asked to pay using bank transfer or cash; pay by credit or debit card if you can.

Look out for the signs:

  • You’re contacted out of the blue by a travel agent or company you’ve never spoken to before, offering a holiday at a very low price.
  • The details, pictures or address of the property or hotel on offer look suspicious, or independent website reviews aren’t favourable or don’t exist.
  • You’re asked to pay using bank transfer or cash; pay by credit or debit card if you can for extra protection.

How does it happen?

Fraudsters use fake online adverts, bogus sales calls, emails and text messages offering incredibly cheap rates to tempt you in to booking a holiday with them.

Scammers might steal images of hotels or rented apartments from other travel websites or search engines and pass them off as their own.

You’re told to pay in cash or via a bank transfer, such as MoneyWise or Western Union, which can be difficult to trace and isn’t refundable.

You may find out at the airport that you’re not booked on the promised flight, or once you arrive the hotel or letting doesn’t have your name booked for a stay, or extras that were part of your booking – such as excursions or transport – aren’t included.

In some cases, the fraudster may completely end contact after you’ve paid and won’t confirm anything you’ve booked; the holiday they’ve offered doesn’t exist.

You may be offered the chance to go on a free holiday in return for watching a presentation; this is holiday club fraud.

If you think you've been victim of holiday fraud report it to Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040. If they're a member of the Association of British Travel Agents, report to them too.


Auction Websites

  • Online auctions are popular with shoppers -  when using auction sites always use strong passwords and never give your passwords to anyone
  • When paying on auction sites never transfer the money direct to a bank account, secure sites such as PayPal are usually safer – however payments can be reversed – check the seller's feedback before making a purchase
  • Always make sure you have received payment for sales on auction sites before you dispatch the goods – and when posting, use a fully tracked and signed for postal service
  • Remember if something appears too good to be true, then it usually is

Online Banking

  • If you use online banking it’s important you keep passwords and personal details private to stop criminals accessing your account
  • Banks will never ask you to reveal your full password on the phone or by email
  • When using online banking be aware of who can see your screen and make sure you log out properly

View the video below which has been produced by Barclays Digital in relation to protecting your information:

Online Shopping

  • Shopping online can often save time and effort but there are risks too. When shopping online make sure the retailer is reputable, research them online and make sure they have an address and phone number
  • Look out for secure "https" links in the address of the website to ensure the site is secure in its payment/form handling methods. 
  • Paying online by credit card can offer greater protection than other payment methods
  • Try to use different passwords for different websites - sharing passwords can be very risky
  • Fake scam versions of corporate sites may be set up that look almost identical to the original site - yet may be completely fake. Always check the web address of the page and ensure it is the official website.

Phishing, vishing and smishing

This relates to any website, online service, phone call or text message which poses as a company or brand you recognise such as your bank.

Any contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money, or download something that infects your computer.

The three terms are all plays on the word ‘fishing’, in that the fraudsters fish for potential victims by sending emails (phishing), social media messages or text messages (smishing) or making phone calls with urgent messages (vishing) in the hope of persuading someone to visit the bogus website.

You can find out more information about how to recognise the signs and also ways in which you can protect yourself by visiting the Action Fraud website.

Identity Fraud

You're more at risk of identity fraud than you think. Sharing personal details like your date of birth, address and phone number can make you vulnerable. Don't make it easy for identity fraudsters. Start by setting your privacy settings.