Fraud scams

The following are typical financial scams which are prevalent within the UK. Familiarise yourself with these common types of fraud, learn how to avoid them, and know what to do if you think someone is trying to trick you.

Remote access/Tech support scams

Remote access usually occurs via a cold-call from a fraudster advising that your computer has been compromised by a malicious virus which could leave your sensitive details at risk of compromise.

The fraudsters aim is to gain the ability to control your computer by persuading you to give them access. They do this from a distance, so could be anywhere in the world.

You will receive a call out of the blue from a caller claiming to be from a technical support provider, a large telecommunications or computer company. The will inform you that your computer is experiencing problems, and they need to access remotely to fix the issue.

Usually, the fraudster will request that you purchase specialist software by providing your personal details and your bank or credit card details, or they may ask you to purchase gift cards such as Apple, Xbox etc in order to pay for support

What to look out for

  • Never provide your personal or financial details over the phone unless you have made the call and the phone number is recognised as a trusted source
  • Ensure your computer is protected with updated anti-virus software and a good firewall
  • Always make sure software is purchased from a source that you know or trust
  • If you receive a call the like those mentioned above, hang up straight away

 

You can find out more about tech support scams on the Microsoft website: Protect_yourself_from_tech_support_scams (Microsoft.com)

Push payment fraud

Push payment fraud is a scam where fraudsters convince you to transfer money to them.

The fraudsters may pose as a legitimate business or individual who is known to you, typically via email, to inform you that their bank account details have changed and to make a payment to the new account.

The fraudsters may have intercepted emails and therefore have information to make them appear convincing, such as information about who you are due to make payment to.

What to look out for

  • Be wary of unexpected emails from a business or individual letting you know that their payment details have changed
  • Don’t make any payments without checking via an independently verified source that the payment details you have are correct

Online shopping scams

You should always remain vigilant when you shop online. Fraudsters may advertise goods or services which don’t exist or aren’t theirs to sell. They'll also try to mimic existing websites in order to appear legitimate.

This risk is heightened around the holiday period as fraudsters take advantage of opportunities to advertise ‘must have’ goods at a lower price or claim to have stock which the leading high street or online retailers don’t have. It is really important to take a second to consider the transaction when dealing with a business you haven’t dealt with before and ask yourself:

  • Does it make sense for the goods to be advertised at that price?
  • Does it make sense that this business has stock when the leading retailers don’t?
  • Have you looked at reviews on recognised and reputable websites to understand previous customer experiences?

 

And if you’re planning on buying a ticket to a gig or sporting event, make sure you purchase from a reputable source, usually affiliated to the event itself.  If bought from an unauthorised seller, the tickets may be fraudulent and not actually exist.

What to look out for

Fake sellers will convince you to send the payment directly to their bank account instead of paying for the goods online. This is to ensure that the payment arrives to the fraudster directly and not via a payment provider who may stop the payment.

Never follow a link in an unexpected email. It’s always a good idea to check the spelling in the URL to make sure it’s legitimate. 

  • Research the seller, before proceeding with the transaction. Do some checks on the business to check they are genuine, and avoid those with poor ratings
  • Question the quality of the seller’s website against recognised and reputable retailers; does it look professional? Is it what you would expect to see?

Investment and cryptocurrency scams

Investment scams occur when you get a cold call from someone pretending to offer you the opportunity to invest in a variety of schemes or products that are either worthless or don’t even exist. Fraudsters will pose as salespeople offering opportunities in shares, plots of land, gold or wine.

When offering opportunities, fraudsters will sometimes use publicly available information to impersonate genuine companies and employees.

Fraudsters will apply pressure, saying the opportunity is only available for a limited period, downplaying the risks and suggesting you can sell if the investment is unsuccessful.

The introduction of cryptocurrencies has also given fraudsters the opportunity for further scams. Fraudulent firms can manipulate software to distort prices and investment returns. They may scam people into buying non-existent cypto assets. They are also known to suddenly close online accounts and refuse to transfer funds or ask for more money before the funds can be transferred.

Crypto asset fraudsters tend to advertise on social media – often using the images of celebrities or well-known individuals to promote cryptocurrency investments. The ads then link to professional-looking websites. Consumers are then persuaded to make investments with the firm using cryptocurrencies or traditional currencies. The firms operating the scams are usually based outside the UK but will claim to have a UK presence, often a prestigious City of London address.

What to look out for 

Chances are, any offer you receive out of the blue is likely to be a scam with the offer sounding like it is ‘too good to be true’. The fraudster will call repeatedly and be aggressive in their approach to ‘selling’ you this opportunity.

If you are considering an investment, always ensure that you do some research before carrying out a transaction. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) warning list details firms and individuals that the FCA knows are operating without the correct level of authorisation. 

You can find out more about the most common investment scams, and how to protect yourself, on the FCA’s website:

https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/how-avoid-investment-scams

Pension scams

Pension scammers promise to convert pension funds into cash before retirement, or in some cases may suggest individuals can take more than 25% of their pension pot as cash. You could be offered a free pension review, then told you can take cash from your pension even though you’re under 55. This may be called a ‘loan’, ‘saving advance’ or ‘cashback’.

Your pension funds will be transferred from your legitimate pension scheme into one set up by the scam. This new scheme is often based abroad. You may be ‘loaned’ an amount (often around half of your pension) with the company involved taking a fee, often as much as 30%. This fee is often unclear and doesn’t include the tax, potentially as high as 55%, you will owe for accessing your pension early. Any money remaining in the scheme after fees and tax are paid will then be invested in high-risk products or projects like overseas property developments – or it’s sometimes simply stolen outright.

In addition, you could face a tax bill of up to 55%, plus other charges on any funds you withdraw – in addition to the risk that you could also lose all your money. You will have to pay tax even if:

  • you didn’t realise you had broken the tax rules
  • you offer to put the money back in your pension
  • you have paid fees or charges to the company involved
  • you have spent all the money


Fraudsters also exploit the pension liberation process by not disclosing tax implications or receiving cash from a pension, failing to advise of the full extent of fees to be paid in relation to any onward investment, and falsely representing anticipated levels of returns when investments are either non-existent or incapable of providing such a return.

What to look out for

Pension scammers will often approach you out of the blue by phone or text message, or in person by ‘door to door’ selling. They can also make contact by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar or exhibition. They’ll offer a free pension review, or try to lure you in with so-called ‘one-off’ investment opportunities or upfront cash.

  • If you are cold called about your pension – just hang up!
  • Check the credentials of the company and advisers; they should be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority
  • Speak to an adviser that is not associated with the deal you’ve been offered, for unbiased advice
  • Never be rushed into agreeing to a pension transfer

 

 

 

Money mules

Fraudsters may ask you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping a percentage of the cash for yourself. This is the definition of what it means to be a ‘money mule’ or ‘money transfer agent’.

You might ask how this could happen to you. You could be approached by a fraudster online or in person.  They might post what looks like a genuine job and then ask for your bank details.

People often become money mules unwittingly. They might think they’re giving out their bank details for a genuine reason, then end up involved in money mule fraud.

Money Mules: what to look out for

  • Be wary of job offers where all interactions and transactions will be done online, typically advertised as ‘earning money from the comfort of your own home’.
  • Be cautious of job adverts which advertise easy money with no experience required; if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
  • “Instent mony . Minimal hours.” – Be wary of job adverts that are written in poor English with spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Don’t provide your bank details to anyone unless you know and trust them – Research any job offer that makes you an offer and ensure their details are genuine.

Identity fraud

Identity theft happens when a fraudster has obtained enough information about someone’s identity (such as their name, date of birth, current or previous address) to commit identity fraud.

Fraudsters will utilise the information gained to obtain goods or services by deception, with the following examples:

  • Open bank accounts, or take over existing accounts
  • Obtain credit cards, loans or hire-purchase agreements
  • Order goods in your name
  • Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name

 

What to look out for

Unfortunately, you’ll typically only become aware of identity fraud when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when letters are received from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.

To protect yourself from identity fraud:

  • Be careful about how much of your personal information is available online. Deactivate unused social media accounts and review the privacy settings on the ones which you do use to ensure your information is secure online. Think about what you share on social media too, such as date of birth and family members’ or pets’ names you also use in your passwords and never post details or images of your driver’s licence, passport, NI number or other confidential items
  • Never reveal private information in response to an email, text, letter or phone call unless you’re certain that the request is authentic. Call to check, on the number you know to be correct
  • Install the latest software, app and operating system updates on your computer and mobile devices, or better still, set them to update automatically. Make sure all your passwords are strong, keep them safe and don’t use the same password for more than one account. Use a strong and separate password for your email accounts
  • Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots when doing anything confidential online
  • File sensitive documents securely, and shred those you no longer need