Law enforcement, government and private sector partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.
Scams can come in many different disguises, so it’s important to know the warning signs to look out for and what to do if you have or think you've been targeted.
Beware of Council Tax and Business Rate scams
Find out how to identify scams and what you can do to avoid them. Remember we don't send texts relating to Council Tax and benefits.
What is a scam?
Scams are one of the most common types of fraud. They can come in many forms but all are designed to trick you to get hold of your money.
- Start through contact you weren't expecting, such as an unexpected phone call, social media message, email or knock on the door.
- Offer exciting advantages to get you interested. They promise things like easy money, great bargains or inside knowledge.
- Eventually lead to a request for money or personal information. Scammers ask you to do things like enter details on a website, answer questions in a survey or pay upfront for what they've promised.
How can I report a scam?
You can report a scam as fraud or cyber crime to Action Fraud who are the UK's national reporting centre for fraud. They'll look into your report. You'll usually get a police crime reference number if you've fallen victim to a scam.
What should I report? You should report anything you think may be a scam, even if you've not fallen victim to it. You might be able to stop others from being scammed if you report anything suspicious.
How can I get my money back if I've been scammed?
If money has been taken from you fraudulently, there are steps you can take to try to get your money back.
If you paid by credit or debit card, contact your bank or building society to alert them. In certain circumstances, they may reimburse you for the money you lost.
Credit card and debit card protection explained
- If you paid for a fraudulent product through bank transfer, contact your bank or building society as they may be able to stop the transaction before it completes.
Report fraud or cyber crime to Action Fraud. They may investigate the crime and may be able to recover some of the funds.
Contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service if you've signed a contract. They'll be able to offer you advice and may be able to help you find out what legal actions you can take to get your money back.
- If you were scammed by a seller on a legitimate site, contact them directly. Some sites offer a money back guarantee if you fall victim to a fake seller on their site.
What are some common types of scam?
Some of the most common types of scam include:
Phishing - an email scam where you appear to get a message from a legitimate source, such as your bank, building society or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The email usually contains a link to a fake website which collects your personal information and credit or debit card details.
Investment scams and pension scams - you're encouraged to hand over money or part of your pension to invest in a company or a product which doesn't exist.
Pharming - fraudsters create a fake version of a website where you go to and put in your login details and personal information without realising.
Door to door scams - someone knocks on your door and fraudulently takes your money, such as by pretending to be a charity collector or salesperson.
Dating scams - using online dating websites, scammers communicate with you over a period of time. Once they're confident they've gained your trust, they'll tell you about a problem they have and ask you for financial help.
How can I reduce the risk of being scammed?
Here are some tips to help you reduce the risk of being scammed.
Register with the Corporate Telephone Preference Service - they operate a central opt-out register. It's illegal for companies to cold call you if you're registered. This service is free of charge and it will prevent legitimate marketing calls as well as calls from scammers.
- If you receive a suspicious or odd-looking email, don't open it. Delete it.
- Don't give your personal or financial information to anyone you're suspicious of.
- Don't be rushed into making a decision or buying something quickly and check the small print carefully before signing any documents. A trustworthy company will be happy to wait.
- Don't give information online or through social media that will help someone steal your identity.
- Make sure you're using a secure website for any online purchases or payments. If the website is secure, it will have a website address beginning with https and there will be a padlock symbol next to the web address.
- Make sure everything is in writing before agreeing to anything.
Are you too smart to be scammed?
In 2018, the government-backed campaign, Take Five to Stop Fraud, said only 9% of people who took their "Too Smart to Be Scammed" test scored full marks.
Are you too smart to be scammed? Take the test to find out.