What should you do if you, or someone you know, has been scammed?
If you or someone you know has been the target of a scam, and fallen victim to it, you should report it to the police on 101 and to Action Fraud either through their online reporting tool or calling 0300 123 2040, as soon as possible. The online form takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Action Fraud is the national online and financial fraud reporting database, which exists to build an accurate picture of frauds and scams, in order to help police and other agencies prevent more of these crimes taking place.
After reporting a scam, you’ll get a police crime reference number and the case will be referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau for analysis by the City of London Police. Not every report results in an investigation, but each helps build a clearer national picture of fraud.
You can also report phishing attempts where you have not lost any money or exposed your personal details.
However, Action Fraud cannot help you recover any money lost to fraud.
Don’t be embarrassed
If you did fall victim to the scam, do not feel ashamed, or think that you were to blame in any way. Victims of scams are just like victims of any crime – they have been targeted by criminals and bear no culpability for the crime.
The quicker you act, the sooner you might stop someone else becoming a victim. You might even be able to get your money back – if you sent off a cheque, for example, the police may be able to ask Royal Mail to intercept it or require your bank to put a stop on it.
You should also tell your Neighbourhood Watch coordinator, so that they can warn others in your area that this particular type of scam is being attempted. They will not reveal to anyone else that you have been a victim of it.
Getting your money back
It’s a sad fact that most people who fall victim to scams do not recover their money. However, in some circumstances it may be possible.
Consumer rights organisation Which? has a handy guide outlining how you might be able to get your money back after you have been scammed.
Help from Victim Support
If you have been affected by cybercrime and need confidential emotional support or advice on what to do next, you can contact Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111.
How to report a scam
If you spot a scam, Which? has some advice on who you should report it to. This depends on whether it’s an email scam, telephone scam or another type of fraud. Here’s the advice from Which?…
Reporting email scams
If you’ve spotted a scam email or phishing email, the first step will be to report it to the internet service provider (ISP) that was used to send you the email.
If the scam email came from a Yahoo! account, send it to email@example.com. Gmail has a ‘Report spam’ button and Hotmail has a ‘Report phishing’ button.
Once you report the scam email, the ISP can then close the account that sent the email.
If you’re the victim of a mimicking scam online, where fraudsters pretend to be from a genuine company, it’s also worth contacting the company that has been mimicked.
Whether it’s a bank, government department or other company cited in the email, if you notify the company they can take steps to warn other people about the scam.
Often companies will warn their customers of mimicking scams by putting notices on their websites, explaining the steps people can take to prevent others falling victim to the same scam.
If you’ve been the victim of a phishing email scam and had money taken from your account, you may also want to report it to the bank.
Which? has a free letter template to help get your money reimbursed.
Reporting premium rate phone scams
If you want to complain about or report a premium-rate telephone service scam, contact Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA).
This is the official UK regulator for content, goods and services, charged to a phone bill.
You can call PSA free from a landline on 0300 303 0020 or visit the PSA website.
Reporting scam mail to Royal Mail
If you receive written correspondence you believe to be from fraudsters, you can forward it to Royal Mail with a covering letter to: Freepost Scam Mail, PO Box 797, Exeter EX1 9UN.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 611 3413.
Reporting pension scams
If you’ve already signed something you’re now unsure about, contact your pension provider straight away. They may be able to stop a transfer that hasn’t taken place yet.
Then call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report it.
If you have doubts about what to do, ask the Pensions Advisory Service for help on 0300 123 1047.
Protecting yourself in future
Even if you can’t get your money back, there are steps you can take to get support and to better protect yourself in future.
Contact the national Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0345 404 0506 (or, for a Welsh-speaking advisor, 0345 404 0505), and they will refer you to your local Trading Standards team. They can then help you sign up to the Mail Preference Service or Telephone Preference Service, and get a call-blocker put on your phone that blocks calls from all numbers except your friends and family.
How to support someone who has been scammed
Thousands of people fall victim to scams each year, especially older people. Unfortunately the nature of the crime means that it can be very difficult to recover money lost to scammers, but the quicker it can be reported to the authorities, the better the chance of stopping the payment being processed and of tracking down the perpetrators.
If you discover that someone in your community has fallen victim, here are some things you can do to help them get through it:
How to help:
Let them tell their story
Listen, don’t judge or criticise them
Reassure them that they’re not alone
Help them to report the incident to Action Fraud, their local Trading Standards office, the local police, and the Citizens Advice consumer support line
Set up Telephone, Mail and Fundraising Preference Services for them
Talk to them about having their mail redirected to someone they trust
Arrange a call blocking service on their phone
Help them to set up new bank accounts or change their debit and credit cards
Refer them to Victim Support if they need further support. They can call the Supportline on 08 08 16 89 111 or request a call back via the website. They can also contact their local office directly via the website.
Finally, provide them with some of the materials in our toolkit, to help them be better protected in future.