Fraudsters are constantly coming up with new ways of trying to defraud people concerning all manner of products and services, including loans, dating, holidays, business opportunities, clairvoyants, pharmaceuticals, lottery prizes, fake Covid-19 vaccines, even recovery of money lost to fraud and a whole lot more.

Useful terminology

  • Phishing: An email that purports to be from companies such as banks designed to trick you into revealing your personal information and passwords
  • Smishing: Mobile phone SMS text messages are sent to try to scam you into divulging your personal information
  • Vishing: Phone calls, sometimes recorded, in which strong and forceful language suggests the caller is helping the victim avoid criminal charges. A second and common tactic is to leave threatening voicemails that tell the recipient to call back immediately or risk being arrested, having bank accounts shut down, or worse.
  • Pharming: Pharming is a term used when you are directed from a link in an email to a website that spoofs a legitimate website to access your personal details.


Common scams

Here we look into some of the different types of frauds currently quite common and what to look out for to indicate that an email, phone call, text message, or doorstep caller may not be genuine.

  • 419 Letters or Emails: You are offered a share in a large sum of money in return for helping to transfer it out of the country. Once you have given the criminals your bank account details, they empty your accounts.
  • Catalogue scams: Catalogues arrive in the post selling low-value and unwanted products, vitamins and ‘miracle cures’ at so-called ‘bargain’ prices.  Products either never arrive or are of little or no value. Sometimes you are entered into a fictitious prize draw as an incentive to continue ordering. Responding to one offer can lead to a flood of catalogues.  The scammer will often say you have won a prize, but you need to purchase goods from the catalogue to receive them.
  • Charity scams: Scammers will call claiming to be collecting money for charity and either pocket your donation or use personal details to access bank accounts
  • Clairvoyant scams: These scammers lure you by claiming they can make contact with a deceased relative or predict your future – for a fee. Bereaved individuals may be particularly susceptible.
  • Computer scams: A telephone call states a problem with your computer or laptop, and help is offered to fix the issue.  But instead, the scammers attempt to put programmes on your computer that can steal, wipe or lock your data. Find out more here.
  • Courier scams: Courier scams usually consist of two parts; firstly, scammers will cold call, claiming to be from the bank or other authority and persuade you to tell them your PIN and your address. Then they will send a fraudulent courier to your house to pick up your bank card.
  • Doorstep fraud: Fraudsters try to scam you after knocking on your door. They might be pretending to collect money for charity or offering to sell you overpriced or substandard products or services, such as home improvements. In the case of rogue traders, they will call uninvited and offer to do some work on your roof, driveway or garden.
  • Frequent calls: Legitimate and illegitimate organisations pressurise people to spend money.
  • Impersonation of UK officials: Criminals impersonate UK officials to obtain personal information and steal money, often claiming that you are due a refund or must make an urgent payment. Scammers may call you on the telephone or send you a text message purporting to be from your bank to say that your bank account has been fraudulently accessed and therefore, a new ‘safe’ account is opened that you should transfer your money into. Other examples are an email, telephone or text message purporting to be from HMRC or the Council, claiming you are due a tax refund and requesting your bank account details or directing you to a website link. Find out more here.

REMEMBER: your bank will NEVER contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password, or move money to another account.

  • Investment scams and pension scams: These can originate online, over the phone or in the post and usually involve offers of worthless, overpriced or non-existent shares in unregulated products such as wine, diamonds or land, or a time-limited opportunity to convert some or all of your pension pot into cash. Click here to find out more about how to protect yourself against investment scams.
  • Lottery or prize draw scams: You receive a letter or email congratulating you on winning a prize or lottery jackpot – even though you didn’t enter it. You are then asked for your bank account details or copies of personal documents such as your passport so that they can send you the money.  Sometimes they will ask for an advance fee before they can release the money – they will claim this is for taxes, legal or banking fees, or processing or handling fees. Once you send your bank details, your bank account is emptied by the scammers.
  • Payment scams: Emails or telephone calls purporting to be from genuine suppliers updating their bank details and quickly requesting an invoice. Find out more here.
  • Ponzi scams: These offer get-rich-quick schemes with high financial rewards for low-risk payments. Receiving and passing money through your account may constitute money laundering.
  • Recovery room scams: These offer you the chance to recover funds already lost through other scams for a fee.
  • Romance scams: Bogus online dating or chat room accounts where someone believes they have met their perfect match through an online dating site or app. Still, the other person is a scammer using a fake profile to build the relationship to steal money from groomed victims. Scammers slowly gain victims’ trust to ask them for money eventually or obtain enough personal details to steal their identity. If the scammer successfully persuades their victim to lend or give them money, they will usually come back with more and more reasons for needing more. Sometimes victims are asked to pass money from another country through their account – this may be money laundering.  Click here to find out more about romance scams.
  • Shopping and auctions: Scammers will steer victims away from online sites and request unusual payment methods such as money transfer agents or Emoney, a digital equivalent of cash. For more advice, click here.
  • Text scams: You receive text messages offering money as compensation for an accident you had or prizes where texts/calls at premium rates are charged with no prize at the end.