Last month the UK's Citizens Advice service launched their Scams Awareness Campaign. This annual campaign is all about helping people recognise a scam, report it to the relevant organisations and talk about their experiences to help raise public awareness.
We're proud to have taken part in the campaign by using our social media and marketing channels to raise general scam awareness to our customers and the general public.
Some facts about scams
- The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that people lose £10 billion a year due to online fraud.
- The Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW) estimates that there were 4.4 million fraud offences in the last 12 months.
- In the initial three months of the first lockdown, over a third of British adults (36%) had been the target of a scam.
- Certain groups of people were at an increased risk of being contacted by a scammer, often those who could least afford it:
- Of those people with a disability or long term illness, 45% said they had been targeted.
- Half (50%) of those people who had an increased risk of coronavirus or who were shielding had been contacted.
- Over half (54%) of those people who have lost personal income due to the virus had also been contacted.
- 64% of people said they were worried someone they know will be scammed, and 90% reported they felt wary of scammers taking advantage of the situation.
- Research in Dec 2020 by the Communications Consumer Panel found that younger age groups (16-34 year olds) were the most susceptible to being scammed and accounted for over half (52%) of all the scams experienced.
- One in five (20%) of those aged 16-34 had been scammed in the past two years, compared with one in twenty-five (4%) of those aged 55+.
- The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) suggests that only 1 in 6 of incidents of fraud either come to the attention of the police or are reported by the victim to Action Fraud.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in scammers targeting people with finance-related schemes. Some scams to look out for include:
- Adverts offering "Get Rich Quick" schemes.
- Phone calls, texts or emails pretending to be from your bank, asking you to move your money or to provide your personal details.
- Scam emails or automated calls pretending to be from the government or an official company.
- An offer of a pensions review out of the blue.
When making financial decisions, there are some things people can do to minimise the risk of being scammed:
- Don't give any money or bank details to somebody you don't know or have only met online. Be wary of unexpected contact.
- Be cautious of investment opportunities, particularly if they seem too good to be true. Seek professional financial advice before you make any decisions.
- Perform research on whom you are dealing with. Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – if they're not registered, then it's probably a scam.
- Use the FCA Warning List to check the risks of a potential investment.
- Be very careful if the person or organisation is from outside the UK, and if you can't check the person or organisation is authorised with a regulator in that country, don't transfer any money.
General scam prevention advice
Spotting a scam
Scams can, and do affect anyone. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- It seems too good to be true – like an email saying you've won a competition you don't remember entering.
- Someone you don't know contacts you unexpectedly.
- You're being asked to respond quickly, so you don't get time to think about it or talk to family and friends.
- You've been asked to pay for something in an unusual way or urgently – for example by bank transfer or gift vouchers.
- You've been asked to give away personal information.
If someone thinks they might have been scammed, they should seek advice immediately. They can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for help with what to do next, and report scams or suspected scams to Action Fraud.
How to protect yourself from scams
There are some simple steps people can take to help protect themselves from scams:
- Don't be rushed into making any quick decisions. It's okay to take your time.
- Never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don't know, trust or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it's most likely a scam.
- Before you buy anything, check the company or website you're using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company's details on Companies House, and take a look at their terms and conditions.
- Pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong.
- Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website and say all the right things. Take your time to work out if this is a real organisation. Ask them for ID or contact the organisation on a number you know and trust.
- Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
- Keep your online accounts secure. Use a strong password for email accounts that you don't use anywhere else. Choosing three random words is a good way to create a strong and easy to remember password. You can also add in numbers and symbols.
- If you're not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source.
What to do if someone has been scammed
If someone has been scammed, there are 3 steps they need to take:
1. Protect themselves from further risks
There are things they can do to stop things from getting worse. They should contact their bank immediately to let them know what's happened. They should also change any relevant log-in details and check for viruses if they were scammed on a computer.
2. Check if they can get their money back
If they've lost money because of a scam, there might be ways they can get it back. Again, make sure they tell their bank what happened straight away. If they've paid for something by card, bank transfer, Direct Debit or PayPal, then depending on the circumstances, they might be able to help them get their money back.
3. Report the scam
Reporting scams helps authorities stop the criminals responsible and protects others from being scammed. Anyone who has been scammed should:
- Call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133, or on 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. They will pass on details of the scam to Trading Standards and can offer further advice.
- Report the scam to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud. They'll also give them a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you've been scammed.
It's also important for us to all talk about our experiences with family and friends. By letting them know what's happened they can be prepared, and together we can put a stop to scams.
Where to go for more help
If someone has been scammed, or thinks they've been scammed, they can contact the consumer service by calling 0808 223 1133 (or 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh speaking advisor).
If they've been scammed online they can also get advice from a Scams Action adviser (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) on 0808 250 5050 or via webchat.
If you've received a suspicious SMS, you can forward the message to 7726 for free and Action Fraud will investigate.
You can also use the Citizens Advice services online scams helper to work out if something is a scam and see the next steps to take.
There's lot of advice in the consumer section of the Citizens Advice website, including how to:
Check if something might be a scam
Check if you can get your money back after a scam
What to do if you've been scammed
Report a scam
Get emotional support if you've been scammed
Get help with online scams
You can check recent scams on Action Fraud's website, and sign up for email alerts to find out about scams in your area.
You can also find out about common financial scams on the Financial Conduct Authority's website.