stop and think
Scammers will try to get you to move money quickly by pretending that your money is at risk or that you are about to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
They create a sense of “urgency, power and scarcity” to put pressure on victims, says Paul Maskal, director of fraud and cybercrime prevention at UK Finance. Their schemes often work “because we are distracted, for example while running school or at work”.
The FCA has an anti-fraud campaign called Take Five, which advises consumers to stop and think before handing over any money or personal details.
If you feel you are under pressure to make quick decisions, take a minute to assess the situation – just pausing for a few minutes can help you identify the fraud.
Taking the time to re-read a message can help you spot a potential scam: Fraudulent text may be misspelled, while an email may be from a slightly different address than a legitimate person or company.
Your bank will never call you to ask you to transfer money to a new account, so resist any pressure from the caller to do so.
If the high ROI advertised on social media sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is always time to look into a company before you trust them with any of your money. Get Safe Online has a verification tool to help you find out if a page is likely to be legitimate. You can also search the Financial Conduct Authority’s electronic registry of regulated investment firms.
The latest trend has been scammers pretending to be family members on WhatsApp and asking to borrow money. If you get a message like this, instead of transferring money, you can check if it’s authentic by taking the time to contact the actual family member via another channel.
Don’t click on links in texts or emails, even if the message appears to come from a company or person you trust. Unfortunately, there are always new scams to be aware of as scammers regularly update their tactics to deceive victims.
Scammers often cling to current affairs, which is why parcel scams and fake test-and-tracing texts from the NHS are on the rise in the pandemic. Maskall says there has been an increase in scams linked to the cost of living crisis, for example, those pretending to be the local council are reaching out to give you a £150 tax credit.
You should ignore any messages sent to you via text message or email asking you to click on a link, even if it’s not a scam you’re aware of, until you’re sure it’s legitimate.
HM Revenue & Customs, your bank, or other financial institution may call you occasionally, but this is unusual and should ring alarm bells.
Scammers can bypass caller ID, so even if you get a call from a number you know it can’t necessarily be trusted. Spoofing also allows them to control text message threads with your bank.
If you are not expecting a call and cannot be 100% sure of who you are speaking to, immediately hang up and find the official phone number to call them back.
Likewise, if someone asks you for money via text or email, or tells you that their payment details have changed, even if it’s someone you know, you should call them at a trusted number before making a payment.
Check your security settings
Most scams happen at least in part online, so it makes sense to tighten your security settings.
If hackers gain access to your emails or social media profiles, they can obtain personal information to help them convince you that the scam is legitimate. These methods are used by billing fraudsters, who hack emails to intercept messages to a trusted party, such as a lawyer or originator. They can then take over the email thread and imitate the writing style to convince someone to transfer a large amount of money to a new bank account.
Make sure you have strong passwords on your email and social media accounts, and don’t use the same word on more than one account, to avoid them getting hacked. Use a password manager if you have trouble remembering passwords.
If you decide that the person you are dealing with is legitimate, you should still be careful before handing over any money or personal information. You can, for example, transfer £1 first before calling the intended recipient to check if it’s been credited to their account.
Many banks will alert you if the account details you’re sending money to don’t match the information on file, which can help you avoid losing money. This is called Payee Confirmation and is designed to stop fraud and errors.
“Banks give warnings, don’t just click on them,” says Patrick Hurley, senior ombudsman and case manager at the Financial Ombudsman Service.
If you use a credit or debit card when shopping online, you can ask your card provider for a refund if you find that you have been scammed. Credit card users may be able to make a claim under the Consumer Credit Act for purchases between £100,000 and £30,000.
When you shop in an online marketplace – for example eBay – use the official payment method provided by the platform to make sure you are covered in case something goes wrong. Do not be persuaded to pay with a bank transfer.
We have a plan
Know what to do if you end up falling for a scam – the faster you act, the more likely you are to get your money back.
Contact your bank immediately as they may be able to prevent the funds from leaving your account if the payment has not yet been made. Banks can try to get your money back from the fraudulent account before the fraudster transfers it.
Most of the major British banks including HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and Nationwide are registered in the Conditional Payment Model (CRM) code, which provides rules for when consumers must get their money back if they are the victim of authorized payment fraud scams. If your bank is not registered, it will have its own rules about compensating customers who have been scammed out of their money.
If your bank does not refund your money, even after you have followed the complaints procedure, contact the financial ombudsman, who will investigate the problem and decide whether or not you should get a refund.
According to Hurley, four out of five cases that have escalated to the watchdog are determined in the interest of the consumer.