Telephone Fraud – Calls and text messages

Phone and text message fraud is a common way for criminals to con people out of money.

Cold calls are not the same as scams calls. These are phone calls from companies trying to sell you something, even though they have had no business with you previously. Cold calls aren’t usually illegal and don’t necessarily count as a scam although they can be annoying, frustrating and even frightening.

Even though it won't necessarily block scammers, you can register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to reduce the number of cold calls you receive.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a scam and cold calling. Below are the most common phone and SMS scams and tips on how to avoid them.

Bank scams

Someone may call claiming to be from your bank telling you there’s a problem with your card or account. The caller will often sound professional and try to convince you that your card has been cloned or that your money is at risk.

They may ask for your account and card details, including your PIN number, and even offer to send a courier to collect your card. They may also advise transferring your money to a ‘safe account’ to protect it.

This is a common scam and your bank would never ask you to do this.

Computer repair scams

Someone may call you claiming to be from the helpdesk of a well-known IT firm, such as Microsoft. They’ll tell you that your computer has a virus and will ask you to download ‘anti-virus software’, possibly at a cost.

This turns out to be spyware, used to get your personal details. Legitimate IT companies don’t contact customers this way.

Compensation calls

This is a call from a company asking about a car accident you’ve supposedly had claiming you may be entitled to compensation. Some of these could be genuine companies looking for business but others are scammers. Don’t engage in these calls. If you’ve had an accident, call your own insurance company on the phone number provided on your policy.

HMRC scams

You may get a call from someone claiming to be from HMRC saying there is an issue with your tax refund or an unpaid tax bill. They may leave a message and ask you to call back. Again, don’t be fooled by this. HMRC would never contact you this way and would never ask you to reveal personal financial information such as your bank account details.

Number spoofing

Scammers now have the technology to mimic an official telephone number so it comes up on your caller ID display. This can trick you into thinking the caller is really from a legitimate organisation, such as a bank or utility company. If you’re in any doubt, hang up and call the organisation directly. If possible, call them from different phone as scammers can keep the phone line open, so that even if you hang up and call the organisation directly, the line may still be connected to the scammer. If it’s not possible to use another phone then wait for at least 10 minutes before you call.

Scam Text Messages and Phishing

Fraudsters often send fake text messages to trick people into handing over personal information. The most common text message scams may:

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity on your account
  • claim there’s a problem with your payment information
  • send you a fake invoice and tell you to contact them if you didn’t authorise the purchase
  • send you a fake parcel delivery notification alleging to be from Royal Mail, DPD or another courier.

If you get a text message that you weren’t expecting and it asks you to give some personal information, don’t click on any links. Legitimate companies won’t ask for information by text.

If you think the message might be real, contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Not the information in the text message.

What should I do if I get a scam call or text?

It's important to be aware of phone scams and how to handle them. Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Don't reveal personal details. Never give out personal or financial information (such as your bank account details or your PIN) over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from your bank. 
  • Hang up. If you feel harassed or intimidated, or if the caller talks over you without giving you a chance to speak, end the call. It may feel rude to hang up on someone, but you have the right not to be pressurised into anything.
  • Ring the organisation. If you're unsure whether the caller is genuine, you can always ring the company or bank they claim to be from. Make sure you find the number yourself and don’t use the one provided by the caller. 
  • Don't be rushed. Scammers will try to rush you into providing your personal details. They may say they have time-limited offer or claim your bank account is at risk if you don't give them the information they need right away. 

If you suspect you’ve been a victims of fraud report it to your bank and call Action Fraud. Don’t feel embarrassed, it can happen to anyone.