Cyber criminals use a variety of methods to contact people claiming to be working for a legitimate business or organisation.
We have heard of instances where people have been contacted by someone claiming to work for the Financial Ombudsman Service. They use a variety of tricks to make it seem like a genuine message from us but are in fact trying to get personal details and information from you.
It's really important to make sure that you check and verify that any messages you receive are genuine so you can stay safe online and keep your personal information secure. To help you do this, here's some helpful information about how we work:
We never ask for...
Scammers posing as us will try and make their messages sounds as convincing as possible, but there are some things that we will never ask for, such as:
- Money - we are a free service set up by Parliament and our funding doesn't come from consumers. So we will never ask you to pay a fee to use our service. Find out more about how we are funded.
- Information "up front" - if you've never been in contact with us before, it is most likely that the message will be a scam and you shouldn't respond to it. We never "cold call" and would only contact you if you'd been in touch with us to submit a complaint.
- Asking you to take out any financial products or services - we're an impartial body that aims to make fair and reasoned decisions, so we wouldn't offer financial products or services to you
- Asking you to take part in an incentive to get your complaint looked at, upheld or to release compensation - scammers may try to entice you with some kind of incentive, such as buying gift cards or goods, as a way of getting your complaint upheld, seen quicker or in order to release compensation. We will never do this, and any messages claiming to be us with this kind of request are definitely fake.
How to check if something's from us
Here are some examples of things you can do if you receive a message claiming to be from us to check if it's genuine.
- Check the email address - if you're using a tablet, laptop or desktop computer, check the email address between the <> symbols. Most scammers will try and hide the email address as they won't be able to use a verified Financial Ombudsman Service email, so it's best to check for this. If you're using a mobile device, you'll need to select the sender's name to see the email address.
- Check the phone number - if you receive a call from a normal mobile phone number, or from an international area code claiming to be us, do not give any information if you're unsure. Even if the number looks genuine, some scammers use a technique called "Caller ID spoofing" and replicate a real number so it looks genuine. Hang up, wait for five minutes to make sure the line is clear and call us back directly on 0800 023 4567 to check if the call was real.
- Check spelling and grammar - most scammers won't bother to check their spelling when they send a message to you, so this is a good indicator if a message is genuine. They'll also refer to you as 'Dear customer' or 'Dear (your email address)' whereas genuine messages from us will refer to you with your first name or title and last name, depending on how you've told us you'd like to be referred to.
- Check links in emails and texts - if you think a link in an email or text is suspicious, don't open it. In an email, you can check the link by hovering over it (on a laptop or desktop computer) or by pressing and holding (but not releasing) on a tablet or mobile device.
- Questions - a genuine call from one of our team will include asking you for two pieces of security information that you will have agreed on when you first submitted your complaint. If you're unsure that the person you're speaking to is genuine, don't give out the security information, then call us back.
Still not sure?
If you're still not sure that the message you've received is genuine and from us, you can call us for free on 0800 023 4567 and one of our team will be happy to help.
We can provide an email address for you to send us the message to that you think might be fraudulent. The more examples we can put together from scammers will give us more information about what addresses they're using and help us to stop them.
For more general information and guidance about staying safe online and how to report fraudulent and scam messages, here are some helpful online resources you can use:
- Action Fraud - this service is run by the City of London Police with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. They're the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, and have information and advice if you think you are the victim of fraud
- FCA - the Financial Conduct Authority regulates over 59,000 financial services firms and financial markets in the UK. They have a vast amount of information and advice about different types of scams, how to check for genuine messages and ways to avoid these scams
- Money advice service - this organisation provides advice to consumers on a range of financial and money issues, from debt advice to budget and saving tips
- Get Safe Online - this website is one of the leading sources of unbiased, factual and easy-to-understand information about how you can keep your personal information safe online.