What types of scams and fraud exist?
There are lots of different types of scams and fraud. While this isn’t a complete list, it contains some of the main types of fraud you might encounter and what to look out for.
Phishing is where you appear to get an email from a legitimate source, such as your bank, building society, or Amazon, asking you to log in to your account via a link. It usually says there is a problem with your account, or that you need to log in to check an order. However, this link takes you to a fake website which collects your information. If an email says there is a problem with your account, log into the account directly via the website or contact the company by another means to verify if the email is legitimate. You can also usually spot the fake by checking:
- Is it addressed to you by name, or by a title such as Dear Sir? Real companies tend to address you by name.
- Check the email address. If it’s legitimate, it will come from a recognisable email address that you can verify by going to the website in question. For example, email@example.com. Scammers will email from an unrecognisable email address, such as one with a random series of letters and numbers, or from a domain not associated with the company (for example, gmail.com).
- For more information and to report phishing scams, visit the National Cyber Security Centre.
Pharming is similar to phishing, but instead of being contacted directly, scammers target the website you’re accessing. You’ll be redirected to a fake version of the website you’re expecting, where scammers can capture your login information and personal details.
- Keep an eye on the web address of any links you click on after the website has loaded in your browser. If anything looks suspicious, immediately exit and try to find the same information by going to the website directly. A suspect web address might include a string of letters and numbers instead of what you’re expecting. It may also look similar to the website you were expecting but spelled slightly incorrectly.
Vishing is where scammers pretend to be your bank, building society, or even a government agency over the phone. They will try to get you to reveal personal information, such as passwords, or even try to get you to transfer money.
- These can be difficult to spot, but legitimate calls will never ask you to reveal personal information or reveal complete passwords. If a bank or other organisation asks you for your password, it will usually only be select characters (I.e., the first, second, and fifth characters of your password).
- If in doubt, hang up and call the company or organisation back directly. However, since scammers can hijack your phone line, wait a few minutes before calling back or use a different phone.
Smishing is similar to vishing, but scammers will contact you via text message claiming to be your bank. They will ask you to update personal details or tell you there is an issue with your account. The text may contain a link or a phone number, but these will be designed to get you to reveal your details.
- Check the phone number associated with the text message, or the number given to contact. Compare this with the number listed on your bank’s website or on your card.
- If in doubt, contact your bank directly (using the number on their website or on your card) and ask for verification that the text message is real.
- Investment and pension scams: usually involve unsolicited phone calls asking you to hand over money for an investment or product that doesn’t exist or placing money into a pension account.
- Treat unsolicited contact as suspicious. No legitimate company will contact you without being requested to do so. If you receive a call like this, it’s likely a scam.
- Check to see if the caller is regulated by checking the register on the FCA website. You can also check the FCA warning list and the Companies House website.
Advance-fee fraud is one of the more well-known types of scams, but it can still be dangerous. With this type of fraud, someone you don’t know, or someone trying to build a relationship with you, will tell you that a wealthy person needs help and you will be rewarded for helping, usually by sending money. Scammers will then ask for your bank details.
- Similar scams exist with wills and inheritance from a previously unknown or long-lost relative, but they operate the same way.
- Check if the email address matches the sender. Also, check if the email or message contains bad spelling or grammar. These are usually giveaways that the contact is not legitimate.
Loan fee scams
Loan fee scams usually occur when you’re seeking a loan. Scammers may contact you directly offering a loan, but requesting you send a fee before you can access the money.
- Never trust payments that ask you to send a fee to access a larger sum of money.
Safe account scams
Safe account scams involve a call from someone claiming to be your bank, saying your account has been compromised and they need to transfer all your money to a “safe account” that they can control.
- Banks will never ask you to transfer your money to another account. They can easily stop money from being taken from your account without the need to transfer to another account.
- When in doubt, hang up and call your bank back directly.
Authorised push payment fraud
Authorised push payment fraud usually occurs when you’re expecting to make a payment, such as when you’re in the process of buying a house or having construction work done. Scammers intercept the company’s email, and then contact you to ask for payment.
- This can be tricky to spot since you are already expecting to make a payment. Don’t assume all messages are genuine. Make sure you know who you are sending money to.
Computer software fraud
Computer software fraud occurs when scammers contact you claiming to be from a company such as Microsoft or Apple, and ask you to pay to fix or validate your computer software.
- It is extremely unlikely that a software company would contact you in this way. Never give out payment details, and contact your software provider if you’re unsure.
Door-to-door scammers show up unannounced claiming to be from a government agency, energy supplier, charity, or sometimes even builders saying they noticed a problem with your property.
- Even if they have ID, this can be easily faked and isn’t a guaranteed sign that a caller is legitimate.
- If you’re in doubt, you don’t need to engage with the caller. You can contact the company directly via your own means (such as by checking for contact information on the company’s website and asking them directly) and asking if they are working in your area. You can also contact the police on 101 to report any suspicious activity, or on 999 if you feel unsafe.
Ticket scams involve buying a ticket for an event or concert, but you receive a fake ticket or no ticket in return. This is common on third-party ticket websites, or reselling websites where the ticket isn’t guaranteed.
- Many concerts and ticketed events don’t allow reselling tickets, and even legitimately buying a ticket from somebody else doesn’t guarantee entry into the event.
- Never purchase tickets from a third-party seller.
- Check the website you’re buying from is a member of the Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers (STAR).