There are a range of things you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to a fraud or scam, including staying aware of the ways scams tend to work and how to protect your personal information.
But anyone can be caught out. So while awareness of what to look out for is important, knowing what to do – and who can help – if you think you’ve been scammed is also important.
From fake websites to text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, scammers will try a variety of ways to get money or personal information from you. As well as using technology, scammers will try to manipulate or exploit situations to build trust, or create a sense of urgency or panic, to get you to reveal information to them over the phone, and sometimes even face to face.
And it isn’t just your bank accounts you need to look after – fraudsters also aim to target pensions, investments and insurances. It’s important to be vigilant.
How we can help
If you have been the victim of a scam, and you’re unhappy with how your bank or payment provider has responded to your complaint, we may be able to help. Our service is free to use and we see a wide variety of circumstances in the complaints that are referred to us.
We share information about the complaints we see to help explain our role and when and how we can help following a fraud or scam. We also share this information with financial businesses so that they know how we approach specific situations, to help prevent complaints arising in the first place.
If you think you’ve been scammed
- Contact your bank. The first thing to do is contact your bank or payment provider as soon as you can and explain what’s happened. They might try to stop a transaction or, where that’s not possible, to block or freeze your account so no more money can be taken from it.
- Contact the police and report it to Action Fraud. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Reports taken are passed to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
- Complain to your bank or payment provider. If you think they aren’t helping, or you think they’re not treating you fairly, you can complain to them. They should investigate what’s happened and respond to you, normally within 15 days for this type of complaint.
- Contact us. If the bank or payment provider doesn’t reply in time, or you’re not unhappy with what they say, contact us to make a complaint.
Make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman
If you have been the victim of a scam, and you're unhappy with how your bank or payment provider has responded, we may be able to help. If you have already complained to them, and you’re not happy with their final response, get in touch with us.
Find out everything you need to know about making a complaint to us about a fraud or scam in our online guide.
Cases we see and how we helped
How we helped with a complaint about an intercepted invoice scam
Fraud and scams
How we helped with a complaint following a vehicle purchase scam
Fraud and scams
How we helped with a complaint about a “safe account” scam
Fraud and scams
Consumer complains after a holiday apartment rental scam
Fraud and scams
Consumer complains about bank’s response following a social media investment scam
Fraud and scams
Consumer contacts us to complain after a cryptocurrency investment scam
Fraud and scams
What to look out for
Knowing what to look out for and feeling confident to check or challenge what you're being asked to do, especially where something doesn't feel quite right, is very important. It's especially important to be cautious if you've been caught out before, because someone who has been a victim of fraud in the past might be contacted again.
Online fraud and scams come in many forms, including fake websites or online adverts, scammers taking over email accounts, malware and computer viruses and fake investment opportunities, cryptocurrency offers and trading platforms.
Often, scammers try and get hold of your personal information through emails or texts that look like they come from a legitimate source, like a large and well-known company, or a government department – or they might even appear to be from someone you know.
Take care with links and downloads, and when shopping online for purchases like cars or holidays.
- Pay close attention to how you’ve been addressed in the email – scams may not contains your name in full, correctly or at all.
- Where the email is coming from – at first glance, the name of the sender might look like a company you recognise, but double check the email address it’s been sent from. Scam messages won’t always be able to use real domains (like ‘[email protected]’) and instead will often use misspelled or random email addresses.
- However, scammers can hack into email accounts and impersonate the business or individual using their actual email address. Fraudsters sometimes monitor communication styles to make correspondence believable. Make sure you check the sender is who you think it is – even if it joins an existing message thread you know to be authentic. Don’t be afraid to double-check and call the company directly on a number you trust.
- Don’t click on a link if you think it’s suspicious - if the email talks about a problem with an account, go to the company or organisation website directly and log into your account to check. Don’t rely on the link provided if you’re suspicious.
- Use secure websites – if you’re making an online purchase, check that the website is a secure one with a padlock icon in the web address bar and that it has https:// in the address bar. These aren’t always guarantees, but are a good starting point
- Pop ups – messages online asking you to give out personal information unprompted can sometimes come up, so the best thing to do is close the window and not input any personal information. You can also activate ‘pop-up blockers’ on your web browser to help with this.
Many of us share information about ourselves on social media to connect with family, friends and people across the world. But this can create opportunities for scammers to access to your personal information. This could be through using the information you share on your social media accounts – or using social media to advertise or offer products and services that aren’t legitimate.
What to look out for
- Suspicious direct messages or posts to your feeds – these might appear unprompted or appear to be from friends or contacts, making a request for money or with an offer of a deals or product that doesn’t seem realistic or sounds too good to be true, sometimes with a link to a fake website which ask you to input your personal information.
- People selling tickets to events (like concerts, festivals or shows) that seem too good to be true – either because the event is sold out, or the price seems cheap. It may turn out that the tickets are fake, or never arrive.
- Adverts on social media – adverts for fake products or investments might include testimonials from customers who don’t exist, or unproven or false claims about a product’s effectiveness. If you’re unsure about a product, do some further research to make sure that the information is correct. This includes adverts for fake investment opportunities or ways to buy cryptocurrency, promising high returns or that you’ll “get rich quick”.
- Your privacy settings – when you sign up to a social media account, they’ll ask you to provide certain key pieces of information. But it’s worth revisiting your privacy settings on a regular basis to make sure that you’re only sharing your information with the people you want to see it. Strong privacy settings means that you can limit what advertisers and scammers can see about you.
Scams sometimes start with a text message or email that gathers some personal information or detail that leads on to a phone call, and some door-to-door scams help gather personal details to be used at a later date.
What to look out for
- Don’t get pressured into signing up, buying or giving out information if you don’t feel comfortable – scammers will try and make you feel like you’re going to miss out on something, using phrases like ‘time-limited’ or ‘time-sensitive’ to pressure you into revealing information. They’ll also be very insistent on getting this information from you without giving any real reason for it.
- Just because someone has an official-looking badge with them, it doesn’t mean that they are who they say they are. Don’t allow anyone you don't know to come into your home , or to pressure you into sharing information, if they turn up unannounced. Feel confident in telling them that you’re not interested and close the door.
- Deals and offers that come out of the blue – scammers will often call about offers that aren’t relevant to you or aren’t something that you’ve asked for. This could range from pension reviews, computer software issues or investigating an ‘accident’ you’ve been in. If you’ve not requested this information first, tell the caller you’re not interested and hang up.
- Double check phone numbers – just because the telephone number appears to be the same as your bank’s or any other institution, don’t assume it is. Put the phone down then call them directly
Romance scams involve a scammer making their victim believe that they have a genuine romantic relationship in order to trick them into giving them money or personal information.
Victims of this type of fraud may have joined an online dating service or been contacted by someone displaying interest in them, sometimes through social media (like Facebook or Instagram), messaging services (like WhatsApp) and online games. A relationship develops but at some point the victim will be asked for money by the scammer to help pay for something – sometimes this is travel or visa application costs so they can meet in person, or money for a family member or close friend who is severely ill and needs treatment.
At first, the money is sent in good faith as there seems to be a real relationship, but then the scammer will come back with more requests for money. From what we’ve seen, people only realise they’ve been scammed once the money has run out, or when there's been a lack of contact from the scammer after money’s been sent. This type of scam is often under-reported. People can feel embarrassed about the situation and worry about the level of intrusion into their privacy. There’s also often large sums of money involved.
What to look out for
- Trust your instincts – if something feels wrong when you’re talking, it’s ok to break off contact with that person. You can give a brief explanation if you want, but you don't have to.
- Is the picture real – if someone's profile picture looks a little too perfect, you could try a reverse image search online to make sure it's not a stock photo, a photo of a model, celebrity or online influencer.
- Protect your personal information – don’t feel like you have to tell the other person every detail of your life immediately. Build up trust slowly, keep your details safe and secure and only reveal what they need to know. If you let someone know your full name, address and date of birth, this can be used to steal your identity.
- The balance of the conversations – scammers will often try to find out as much information about you as possible and as quickly as they can, and not really reveal much about themselves. This is so they can find the best way to target you and get the information they want or get you to sympathise and give your money to them.
- Sending money overseas – if you’re sending money to someone overseas there can be less protection if you do find out you’re a scam victim, so if you’re concerned about this, speak to your bank or use a trusted money transfer service.
Resources and guidance
Scams are constantly evolving, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with latest news or updates from trusted organisations from time to time. These organisations offer a variety of information and resources.
Take Five, is a national campaign led by UK Finance, that offers advice on preventing email, phone-based and online fraud, particularly where it involves criminal impersonating trusted organisations.
The NCSC supports the public, small businesses, the public sector and organisations across the UK to understand cyber security and how to better protect the devices and online services we use every day.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the conduct regulator for financial services that authorises or registers financial services firms in the UK. As well as providing guidance about how to avoid scams when looking to save money into an investment or pension, you can use their Financial Services Register to see if a firm or individual is authorised or registered with the FCA.
Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by them – if they’re not, it could be a scam. Always access the Register from their website, rather than through links in emails or on the website of a firm offering you an investment. If you use an unauthorised firm, you won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong – and you’re unlikely to get your money back.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) represents the UK’s insurance and long-term savings industry. They share information on their website about how to avoid buying a fraudulent insurance policy, and detail of other insurance-related scams.
If you’re worried about money and finding it difficult to know where to start, the government-backed MoneyHelper service can help you find a way forward. Whether it’s living on a squeezed income, working out how to prioritise your bills and payments, or access to free, expert debt advice, they can help you take the first step towards getting on top of things. MoneyHelper also shares guidance on choosing a financial advisor and getting investment advice more generally.
Protect your personal information
Ways you can help keep your personal information safe.
Help keep your personal information safe
- Create strong, randomised passwords that aren’t the same for multiple accounts
- Research a company, product or service you haven’t used previously, before making a purchase
- Reject offers that come out of the blue, or deals that seem too good to be true
- Keep evidence of online purchases, such as emailed receipts and confirmations of orders
- Call your bank or credit provider straight away if you suspect money has gone missing from your account
- If you’ve been a victim of a scam, report it to the police
- Report any possible scams to Action Fraud
What not to do
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, especially if you don’t know the caller. The police, your bank or HMRC will never cold-call you and ask for bank details.
- Don’t click links in emails and texts that look suspicious or if you don’t know the sender
- Don’t use the same password for multiple apps or accounts – especially if these have your bank details added
- Don’t give personal details to someone who’s turned up to your home unannounced
- Don’t feel rushed or pressurised into a decision or course of action
- If you think you’ve been scammed, don’t keep it to yourself – act straight away
- Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or relative for advice if you’re not sure something is legitimate