Fraud already costs the UK billions of pounds each year, but the scams are becoming more sophisticated and harder to spot. Learn what to look out for, how to protect yourself and what to do if fraud happens to you.
Financial fraud is when someone takes money or other financial assets from you by deceiving you or stealing your personal details.
Criminals use a variety of ways to do this, including text messages, emails, and social media. But they can also trick you over the phone, or in person - which could happen on the street or on your doorstep.
The impact of fraud can be devastating, from unaffordable personal losses to causing companies to go out of business.
With our increased dependency on digital technology, criminals are using more creative ways to access your finances, and their scams are becoming harder to detect.
For example, you could be targeted through:
This is when your personal details are stolen and used to access your accounts or open up new ones to borrow credit in your name
This type of fraud can happen in several ways. For example, loan fee fraud is when you’re asked to pay an upfront fee for a loan or credit that you’ll never receive. Before you pay an advance fee, always check the company is on the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Services Register.
Loan repayment fraud is when scammers target people who’ve taken out loans. They pretend to be the lender by using official-looking emails and letters, claiming you’ve missed a repayment deadline and charging you the repayment plus a penalty charge
Fraudsters trick you into transferring money to them by pretending to be a company you’re already using. They may claim they’re from your bank’s fraud team, telling you your account’s been compromised and helping you to move the money into a new ‘safe’ account
There are a number of ways criminals can use credit cards for fraudulent activity, these include:
Fraudsters often use convincing-looking emails (phishing) and SMS text messages (smishing) that appear to be from legitimate sources to trick you into clicking a link or calling a number to verify your details
This is a type of cybercrime that uses bogus phone calls made over the internet to steal your personal information and account details. Callers might convince you that they’re calling from a trusted source like your bank or internet provider
Scammers can make adverts or posts appear genuine by using official brand logos and made up T&Cs. They often appear as special offers or contests, tricking you into entering your personal and financial information
These attempt to con people out of their life savings. Cold-calling is often used, backed up by convincing websites and marketing materials with testimonials to persuade you to invest your money. So always seek regulated financial advice before investing in any products
Online dating can be used by scammers to gain people’s trust and trick them into handing over money or personal details, often using an emotional or hard luck story
Fraudsters create fake websites that look similar to well-known brands or are intentionally designed to look like government websites - for example, one that helps you renew your passport - to convince you to make a payment.
You may be tricked into clicking on a link or attachment or installing a program. When this happens, a virus installs itself on your computer and uses malicious code to do things like scan for personal information or capture keystrokes without you knowing
Fraudsters can be very good at getting hold of your details or money, but these warning signs can help you spot fraud early and prevent or minimise the damage:
Check bank and card statements regularly for any purchases you didn’t make or don’t know about. Report anything amiss to your bank
It’s best to put the phone down or delete the messages and contact the bank or provider directly
This could be a guarantor fee or a processing fee, or you may be asked to pay follow-up fees before you’ll be given a loan
Like being asked to use iTunes vouchers or paying through a Western Union international money transfer
Tell-tale signs of fake emails and websites are spelling or grammar mistakes or an unusual style of writing
If this happens report it to your card company straight away, ideally using your mobile while you’re still in front of the machine
It’s a warning sign if you start getting unexpected calls from debt collectors or from companies about things you didn’t buy
Look out for messaging that exploits fear or uses a sense of urgency or pressurising tactics - for example, claiming you’re going to lose all your data or money unless you use their software
If there isn’t one next to the website’s url this means the site isn’t encrypted so your activity and payments could be intercepted
If money’s been taken from your bank account or card, or your personal details have been stolen, there are a few things you should do.
The first step is to contact your bank or card provider so they can cancel any cards and put a freeze on your account.
The bank or lender will usually refund the money you’ve had stolen - unless they find you were careless with your card or bank details.
If a scammer has hacked into your accounts, you should change your passwords immediately, update your security software and scan your computer. Then let your bank know your financial information may have been stolen.
Report the scam to the police through Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or by using the website.
Simple things can make a big difference in preventing someone from accessing your money and details:
If you want more advice about financial fraud or have been scammed, there are organisations that can help.
Any lender that you’re thinking of borrowing money from can be checked against the FCA’s financial register - always do this before you make any payments or provide any details.
You can report a scam or an attempted scam to ActionFraud, the fraud and cybercrime reporting centre for the UK. It gathers and passes on information to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
For help and advice about scams, you can visit the Citizens Advice website or speak to one of its Scams Action advisers by calling 0808 250 5050.
If you’ve visited a website you think is suspicious, you can report it through the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) website and they’ll investigate. And you can report scam texts and mobile calls by copying the number and texting it for free to 7726.