Scams come in many different forms, whether it’s someone knocking on your door or calling you to try and sell you something you don’t need or sending a ‘genuine looking’, but malicious text message or e-mail, which ultimately tries to steal your sensitive information.
Scammers are always looking for new ways to target unsuspecting and vulnerable victims. Unfortunately, once a person has supplied their personal information, this is often compiled into a mailing list, which is sold to other scammers.
Criminals / scammers are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police and will often spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment. Remember to always stop, challenge and protect.
Stop: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with any money or information, as it could help keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests or offers and remember that it’s only criminals who will try to rush or panic you into making a decision.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and handed over your bank details. You should also report it to Action Fraud, so it can be investigated, which helps to protect others against the scam. You can also report a scam to police by calling 101.
Top tips to spot and avoid a scam
- If it sounds too good to be true, then it's probably a scam.
- Never deal with any cold callers who contact you out of the blue, either at the door, on the phone or via e-mail.
- Don’t automatically respond to any leaflets or flyers, which come through the post. Always speak to a relative, friend, neighbour or carer, before you do anything.
- Never send money or give out your bank account details or personal information to anyone you don't know or if you’re unable to confirm their identity, even if they say they’re from your bank or the police.
- Never feel pressured into making a decision, especially if you’ve been contacted out of the blue. A legitimate business will be happy for you to take time to think, before you make a decision and if they don’t, they’re not to be trusted.
- Never call a premium rate number, which usually start with 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098. These are quite often displayed as adverts online, when you’ve searched for a legitimate number, for example to renew your car tax or driving licence. A premium rate number can cost as much as £20 to £30 a call.
- If you receive a text or e-mail, which states it’s from a reputable company, check the spelling and grammar, as scam messages are often littered with mistakes. Remember to never click on any links or call any numbers contained within these messages.
Doorstep selling scams
Bogus traders often operate by cold calling - making uninvited calls to your home trying to sell you goods or services, or doing the same over the phone. Never deal with cold callers who visit or phone.
Doorstep selling scams include:
- Offers to tarmac/ block pave driveways
- Security alarms
- Gardening work
- Insulation - including spray foam
- Mobility products, for example, reclining chairs
- All roofing work
- Roof and wall coatings purporting to insulate the home
- Double glazing - starting at inflated prices and then giving discounts
- Fascias, soffits and guttering
To find out more, take a look at our doorstep sellers and rogue traders page.
Phone and postal scams
Common phone and postal scams include:
- Lottery scams
- Prize draws and scratch cards
- Cold telephone calls regarding a fault with your internet/virus on your computer
- Free trial offers for beauty, slimming products - they will take money off your bank card
- Offers to reduce your Council Tax
- Banking scams - coercing you to give your bank card details, pin number etc.
- Bogus holidays
- Catalogues purporting to enter you into a prize draw if you order goods from them
- Free memberships
- Bogus charity clothing collections
- Insider racing and betting syndicates
- Home working schemes
- Clairvoyant and miracle health cures
- Mock auctions
- Fake Debt recovery
- Cold calling for stocks, shares, investments
Action Fraud is the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre, where you can report all types of scams and frauds, such as stolen bank details or computer passwords, either using their online reporting tool or by calling 0300 123 2040 (Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm).
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) provide a handy form, which lets you report any potential online scam adverts, including those on newspaper websites, search engines and social media.
Citizens Advice provide information to help you if you’ve been scammed, including what to do next, how to protect yourself from further risks and how to check if you can get your money back. You can also call their consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.
Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams. Their awareness sessions can help you learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones, empowering you to take a stand against scams.
Victim Support offer free, independent and confidential support and advice, if you’ve been the victim of a crime or traumatic incident, including fraud or a scam. You can complete an online form, start a live chat or call their 24/7 support line on 0808 168 9111.
Which? provide helpful information and advice on how to recognise different types of scams and the steps you can take to safeguard yourself against them, including e-mail, internet, social media, holiday and investment scams.