Scams and fraud are on the rise - in 2018 £1.2 billion was stolen through fraud and scams, and a further £1.6 billion in attempts was prevented by the finance industry.
It should go without saying, but scams are a crime – using fraud and manipulation to get you to part with your money or personal information. It’s not just you being silly - criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment.
And unlike what we might think, it’s not just the elderly and vulnerable at risk. According to Lloyds Bank – those age 18-34 are the most likely to fall victim to fraud. However – it was still those age 55+ who lost the most money – an average of more than £10,000 each.
There are things we can do to keep our identity safe and protect our money from criminals.
I’m not sure if it was a scam?
Ultimately – there are a lot of different forms that scams can take out there, and it can sometimes feel quite scary and overwhelming. But online banking and payment technologies have made our lives infinitely easier, and we don’t need to give them up. To make it simple to stay safe, there are three easy questions to ask yourself to help decide if something might be a scam.
Has someone contacted you unexpectedly? Contact out of the blue is always a red flag.
Have they promised you something? If they’re promising you something – why? Is this too good to be true?
Have they asked you to do something? Are they asking you to provide your personal or financial information? Why would they ask you to do this? Often, this request will also be time-sensitive – they want you to make the decision without really thinking it over.
If any or all of these questions are a ‘yes’ then feel free to challenge. It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Steps to take if you think you’re the victim of a scam or identity theft
Stop all contact with the scammer
Once you realise you are being scammed, do not continue the conversation. Hang up the phone. Don’t reply to emails or letters scammers have sent you. If you have been scammed online, block the scammer from contacting you.
Do not make any more payments
It can be tempting to stay involved in the hope you will get some of your money back. You must not make any more payments. Some scammers target people caught in recent scams, eg by pretending to be an overseas enforcement agency that can return all of your money for a fee. Don’t give money to anyone on the promise they will get your lost money back. Unfortunately, if you have paid scammers, the chances of recovering your money are not good.
Contact the bank or service you sent money through
If you are the victim of a financial scam, credit card scam or identity theft, contact your bank immediately. They will have a policy in place to deal with fraud. If you have sent money through another bank or transfer service, it’s a good idea to contact the service you used. If you notice unusual transactions you haven’t authorised, report these immediately.
Report the fraud or scam
If you’ve had personal documents stolen (such as passports, driving licences, credit cards and cheque books), report this to the Police and the organisation that issued them.
Also report the scam or fraud itself. Although it can be really embarrassing – reporting is an important step. It helps others avoid this kind of scam, and puts you in touch with someone who can give you advice about your specific situation.
- Action Fraud - online or 0300 123 2040
- Report to Police
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website to report unauthorised firms or individuals
- Victim Support can provide emotional and practical help
- Contact CIFAS (the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service) to apply for protective registration
Telling your friends and family can also help protect others from falling into the same trap.
Request a copy of your credit report
Check for any suspicious credit applications that may have been made using your information. Check out the links in our Toolbox to check your credit report for free.
Reset your security
If your personal or financial information has been given out or stolen in a scam, change all of your online passwords on a device not linked to the scam. Use a different password for each account. If your computer or phone has been hacked in a scam, take it to an authorised technician to be cleaned.
Our articles cover a wide range of mainstream financial products and employee benefits. Terms and conditions of each product may vary depending on your provider. Please ensure you check the specific terms and conditions of any financial products and employee benefits available to you from your employer.