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Staying safe from scammers

There are many different types of scam out there, know the warning signs to look out.

Most of us will be targeted by scammers at some point. Their goal is to trick us into giving them our money or revealing personal data they can use to steal from us. Their opportunistic natures have also meant that Coronavirus related fraud has been on the rise, so to avoid getting caught, read our helpful tips below.

How to spot a scam

How to spot a scam.

Have you been contacted out of the blue?

If you've never heard of the organisation, and you haven't been in touch with them before, you should be suspicious.

Do they want money upfront?

A common scammer's tactic is to ask for some money upfront with greater rewards following later. If this happens, it’s almost certainly a con.

Does it sound too good to be true? probably is. Be sceptical of claims of easy money and big prizes, especially if they ask for you to give money or your bank details.

Are you being pressured?

No organisation should require an answer straight away. If they put you on the spot, refuse. If they’re legitimate, they'll be happy to wait.

Are they telling you you have been hacked?

Some scammers will contact you telling you that you’ve been hacked and want to confirm your details or tell you to move your money into a second account for safety. Never give any personal details to someone that has contacted you, and always get in contact with the company or bank in question directly.

How to spot a scam.

Is their spelling and grammar bad?

Ignore any mail, emails or websites with lots of errors. Legitimate organisations know better.

Do they want you to keep it secret?

Organisations normally want publicity for special offers or competitions. They'd never ask you to keep secrets from friends and family.

Did they use your real name?

Organisations who’ve obtained your details legitimately will refer to you by your first name or surname, rather than ‘dear sir’ or ‘hello madam’. And they’d never refer to you by an online username or nickname.

Do they want your personal details?

Don't give personal details to anyone if you're not sure who they are, especially if they're asking for bank details. Anyone contacting you should have some details already - ask them what they know and how they got that information.

Can you get their details?

Organisations shouldn't hesitate to offer a phone number or address. They should have a landline, not a mobile number (beginning 07) or premium rate number (beginning 09).

Top tip

Be wary of PO Box addresses - that won't tell you their location. If someone shows up at your door, ask for ID. Don’t trust a number or address you get on an email or letter, use the details they have on an official website.

Social media scams

Look out for scams that.

Look out for scams that:

  • Come from someone in your friends list out of the blue. They may have been hacked. If someone you know has shared something with you, check with them that they actually recommended it.

  • Offer free app downloads.

  • Look like quizzes but ask you to share personal details.

  • Look like they send you somewhere official, but direct you to a fake login page.

Warning signs.

Warning signs

  • You receive messages from fake friends and strangers.

  • The offer looks too good to be true.

  • The URL has misspelled brand names that send you somewhere completely different.

  • They want you to share personal details.

Email scams

Look out for scams that.

Look out for scams that:

  • Ask you to confirm an order or details of an account.

  • Tell you you have a tax refund.

  • Tell you that your password has changed unexpectedly.

  • Offer get rich quick schemes.

  • Offer work from home schemes.

  • Refer to a money transfer or online order you don't recall making.

  • Send you offers on medicines.

  • Ask you to transfer money for a reward.

Warning signs.

Warning signs

  • You’ve never heard of the company or person before.

  • You are put under pressure to act immediately.

  • They have bad grammar and spelling.

  • The email doesn’t address you by your real name.

  • It requests bank details.

  • The sender email address uses odd letters and numbers.

Phone scams

Look out for scams that.

Look out for scams that:

  • Tell you your computer software needs updating.

  • Inform you that you’ve won a prize, and you don't recall entering any competitions.

  • Advise that you could claim compensation.

  • Claim you have outstanding debts.

  • Notify you of tax problems or that you are entitled to a refund.

  • Try to sell you pensions or investment opportunities.

  • Tell you that there are problems with a bank or user account.

Warning signs.

Warning signs

  • If it takes a long time for the caller to answer when you pick up.

  • You’ve never heard of the company before.

  • They pressure you to act immediately.

  • They ask for bank details or your pin.

  • They ask you to install software.

  • The company/ bank that is calling wouldn’t normally contact you by phone.

Call blocker phones can help you reduce nuisance calls.

Top tip

Some scammers will encourage you to hang up and call your bank straight away. If they do this, either use a different phone line to contact your bank or wait 10 minutes to ensure the fraudster is no longer on the line.

Text scams

Look out for scams that.

Look out for scams that:

  • Tell you that there are problems with a bank or user account.

  • Include links to open or download something.

  • Notify you of tax problems or that you are entitled to a refund.

  • Inform you that you’ve won a prize, and you don't recall entering any competitions.

Warning signs.

Warning signs

  • You recieve a text from a company asking for personal/ bank data.

  • The text looks suspicious and has bad grammar.

  • It asks you to click on a link within it.

  • It pressures you to act immediately.

Mail scams

Look out for scams that.

Look out for scams that:

  • Inform you that you’ve won a prize/ lottery, and you don't recall entering any competitions.

  • Tell you about a psychic’s or clairvoyant’s predictions.

  • Offer work from home schemes.

  • Are ‘Fallen on hard times’ letters, offering you a loan or similar to help you out.

  • Try to sell you pensions or investment opportunities.

  • Claim that you have unclaimed inheritance.

Warning signs.

Warning signs

  • They pressure you to act quickly.

  • You are asked to send money.

  • They want you to provide your bank details.

  • It requests money now for rewards/opportunities later.

  • They have a premium rate phone number for you to call, beginning 09.

Pension scams

Look out for scams that.

Look out for scams that:

  • Offer a free pension review.

  • Pitch you a ‘One-off’ investment opportunity.

  • Claim you can get high investment returns from overseas.

  • Suggest you put all your investments into one investment.

  • Offer you help to access your pension before you hit 55.

Warning signs.

Warning signs

  • You’re contacted out of the blue.

  • You're pressured into making a deal fast.

  • They offer to send you brochures/paperwork overnight.

  • They talk about legal loopholes.

  • They're not registered with The Financial Conduct Authority.

Who can help?

If you suspect you have received a scam regarding a pension, contact the Pension Advisory Service for advice.

How to protect yourself from scammers

Password protection.

Password protection

A great way to protect yourself online is to have strong passwords for any account that you have. Have a look at some of the below methods and advice on how to create a strong password.

  • Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Try and avoid shorter passwords. The longer a password is, the more secure it will be.
  • Base your password on a sentence or a phrase to help make longer passwords easier to remember.
  • Avoid using the same password for all your online accounts, it will make it easier for a hacker to access them if one of them is compromised.
  • Avoid using people's names. These can be easily exposed using common hacking tools.
  • Try to use obscure words and not something that could be easily guessed by researching your social media.
  • Using a secure password manager is a great way to generate hard to guess passwords and also have somewhere to store them safely. Discover more about password managers on the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Protect your devices.

Protect your devices

To help you keep you protected from online attacks it's important that you have antivirus software installed on your devices. Whilst they can't stop every cyber attack, they will help prevent hackers from getting into your mobile or computer.

Not all threats to a computer are designed to steal information or corrupt it, but that doesn't mean that it isn't dangerous. All breaches are designed to take advantage of what is known as a vulnerability, or weakness, in a computers software or operating system.

Here are a few key ways to help prevent spyware from infiltrating your computer or mobile:

  • When installing software, make sure you read the security information, license agreements and privacy statements.
  • Keep your device's software up to date. Updates to apps and software tend to contain important security updates that help to further protect your device from cyber criminals.
  • Make sure you know what you're signing up for before you click 'I agree' or 'Ok' on pop-up windows.
  • Ensure that programs you download and install onto your device are from a website that you know and trust.

Top tip

Scammers can also steal your details via thrown away documents that have personal information on them. To further protect yourself, ensure anything that shows personal details is scribbled out, ripped up, or even better, shredded using a shredder.

Still not sure?

If you're still not sure if it's a scam or not...

If you're still not sure if it's a scam or not...

  • Do some research. If it’s a letter or email, don’t trust the contact details they give you, or click on any links. If you get a phone call, say you’ll call them back.
  • Look the company up online. If it’s an organisation you know, find and use the contact details on their site and ask if they’ve tried to get in contact.
  • If you don’t know the company, search for them online. Check if they have a professional-looking website and see what other people are saying about them. If there are any red flags, don’t contact them.


What to do if you suspect it's a scam

If a scammer is pretending to be a real organisation, contact the real company and let them know about it. Some other authorities you can contact are below.

Action fraud

The National fraud and cyber crime reporting centre if you have been a victim of a scam, fraud or cyber crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

ICO (Information Commissioner's Office)

An independent UK authority who uphold information rights in the public interest, advocating openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

National Cyber Security Centre

A Government authority dedicated to providing cyber security guidance and support, to help make the UK the safest place to live and work online.

Get safe online

A website dedicated to easy to understand advice and guidance on how to make sure you are protected online.

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