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.

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?


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?

Remote access 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.

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

Investment 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.

Fraudster 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.

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. 

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. Pension fraudsters promise to convert pension benefits into cash before the age of 55.

Fraudsters exploit the pension liberation process in a number of ways:

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


Fraudsters will approach you out of the blue over the phone, via text message or in person via ‘door to door’ selling. They will offer a free pension review, try to lure you in with so-called ‘one-off’ investment opportunities or upfront cash.

Pension Scams: what to look out for

  • 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.

Identify fraud

Identify 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


The first the genuine party typically becomes aware of identity fraud is when they receive bills or invoices for things they haven’t ordered, or when letters are received from debt collectors for debts that aren’t theirs.