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Fraud and Scams

Fraudsters have found ways to steal money from victims through a whole host of ways that include online as well as offline, and use a variety of different ways to communicate to potential victims.

They may include:

  • phoning people at their homes or at their work, or phoning/texting mobile phones,
  • scam emails and phishing emails,
  • using fake profiles on dating websites and other websites, or setting up fake Facebook or social media profiles
  • setting up fake websites
  • posting letters to homes claiming they owe a debt,
  • posing as a charity and knocking on doors to ask for donations,
  • posing as telecommunication companies, web-service companies, utilities companies, banks or other financial institutions such as building societies or Paypal

You can find out more information about fraud on the Action Fraud website.

Fraudsters use increasingly sophisticated means to take advantage of their victims. They target those they perceive to be vulnerable – including those who are elderly and those who live on their own.

You shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you have been scammed. Fraudsters are incredibly clever and innovative, and often rely on other people’s natural goodwill and trust to commit their crimes. There is no shame in being deceived, but if it happens to you please report it so that you can get help and so others don’t fall victim to the same scam in future.

Remember our top tips:

•  If something seems to good to be true, it probably is
•  Banks, police and HMRC will never ask for personal details, bank details, or for you to withdraw money from your account
•  Never tell anyone your PIN, and never enter it into a telephone
•  Do not feel pressurised into making a quick decision. A genuine organisation won’t mind giving you time to stop and think
•  If in doubt, call someone you know personally for advice
•  Never click on links included in emails from unknown senders
•  Report any suspicions to Action Fraud, or ring 101
•  Keep a look out for loved ones. If they receive a lot of post, if their phone is often ringing, if they are secretive about their finances, report your suspicions

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, even if it was unsuccessful, please report it. If you do not, the fraudster will learn from the experience and may be successful next time.

Action Fraud

Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre. They can provide information about fraud and financially-motivated internet crime. If you have been scammed, ripped-off or conned, you can report it to Action Fraud. Report online to Action Fraud or call on 0300 123 2040.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice can help you solve your legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice. For more information visit their website or call the helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Crimestoppers

If you have any information on any crime and you would prefer not to speak to police, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org

Types of fraud include:

Fake Police Officer Fraud

There is a growing scam in which criminals pose as police officers and ask their victims to take part in a fake undercover operation.

Fraudsters are contacting members of the public, usually by phone, purporting to be from the police, or in some cases the fraud team within their bank. The criminal claims they are investigating a fraud at a local bank branch where staff are suspected of being complicit, including issuing fake bank notes, and asks their target to help in the operation.

As part of the scam, the individual is requested to visit the branch and withdraw a substantial sum, often thousands of pounds, of the supposedly counterfeit cash to hand over to the ‘police’ for ‘analysis’. The victim is assured that the money will be deposited back into their account after the operation is complete. However, once the money is passed over the fraudster disappears with the cash.

The criminal instructs their victim not to discuss the case with anyone in the branch, giving them plausible explanations as to why they are withdrawing the money. As a result, despite being questioned by the bank staff, the victim takes out the cash, convinced that the staff are part of a fraud.

In another version of the scam, the criminal convinces the victim to transfer money to a so-called ‘safe account’ to protect their funds from the ‘corrupt’ bank staff. However, the account is in fact controlled by the criminal.

Police and banks will never ask members of the public to become part of an anti-fraud operation or to transfer money to a ‘safe account’ for fraud reasons.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

HMRC and iTunes Gift Card Fraud

Victims are being contacted in a variety of methods by fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC and are told they owe an outstanding debt.

Fraudsters often ask for payment in iTunes gift cards or voucher codes because they can be easily redeemed and easily sold on. The scammers don’t need the physical card to redeem the value and instead get victims to read out the serial code on the back over the phone.

Fraudsters are contacting victims in three ways:

Voicemails: Fraudsters are leaving victims automated voicemails saying that they owe HMRC unpaid taxes. When victims call back on the number provided, they are told that there is a warrant out in their name and if they don’t pay, the police will arrest them.

Spoofed calls: Fraudsters are cold calling victims using a spoofed 0300 200 3300 number and convincing them that they owe unpaid tax to HMRC.

Text messages: Fraudsters are sending text messages that require victims to urgently call back on the number provided. When victims call back, they are told that there is a case being built against them for an outstanding debt and they must pay immediately.

One victim reported purchasing over 15 iTunes gift card vouchers from Argos at £100 pounds each and handing them over to fraudsters on the phone after receiving an automated voice message. Another victim handed gift card voucher codes worth £15,000 after receiving a cold call.

How you can protect yourself:

  • HMRC will never use texts to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ever ask for payment in this way.
  • Telephone numbers and text messages can easily be spoofed. You should never trust the number you see on your telephone’s display.
  • If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Doorstep Fraud

Bogus tradesmen, door-to-door sales or doorstep fraud involves fraudsters trying to scam you after knocking at your door.

Legitimate doorstep selling involves someone selling you goods or services in your home or on your doorstep. Many honest businesses use this technique – but so do fraudsters.

Buying on your doorstep can be convenient. However, a salesman who uses clever tactics can pressurise you into buying something you actually don’t want or something that’s poor value for money.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Pension Fraud

Pension scammers promise to convert pension funds into cash before retirement, or in some cases they may suggest people can take more than 25% of their pension pot as cash. Pension fraudsters promise to convert pension benefits into cash before age 55.

Criminals are believed to be fraudulently exploiting the pension liberation process in a number of ways. These include failing to advise members of the tax implications of receiving cash from their pension; failing to advise members 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.

Check the facts before you make an irreversible decision. A lifetime’s savings can be lost in a moment.

The Pensions Regulator’s five steps to avoid becoming a victim of a pension scam:

  • Cold called about your pension – just hang up!
  • Check the credentials of the company and any advisers – who should be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Ask for a statement showing how your pension will be paid at retirement, and question who will look after your money until then.
  • 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.

For more information about pension scams visit The Pensions Regulator website.

Before you sign anything, call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Mass Marketing Fraud

Mass marketing fraud is when you receive an uninvited contact by email, letter, phone or adverts, making false promises to con you out of money.

Mass marketing fraudsters try to lure victims with false promises of large cash prizes, goods or services in exchange for upfront fees, or what they call taxes or donations.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Investment Fraud

When you get a cold call from a broker pretending to offer you the opportunity to invest in a variety of schemes or products that are either worthless or don’t even exist.

It’s also known as share sale fraud, hedge fund fraud, land banking fraud or bond fraud. The majority of investment frauds are run out of offices known as boiler rooms.

It is when you are called by a professional-sounding broker who offers you investment opportunities that offer incredible potential for making profit. They usually offer to sell you shares or bonds, but may also offer other investments such as precious metals such as gold, silver or diamond, or wine, art or energy.

In reality, the fraudsters are cold calling as many people as possible to pay for bogus investments. Once the fraudsters have made you invest as much money as possible, they quickly disappear just before you’d expect to get the extra money you made from your investment.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Telephone Fraud

Phone fraud involves a variety of scams that either persuade you to buy phone-related products/services that turn out to be substandard or non-existent; or to make phone calls or texts to premium services by accident; or to unknowingly sign up to expensive subscription services.

These can include missed calls scams, recorded message scams, text message scams, ring tone scams and phone insurance scams.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Dating and Romance Fraud

When you think you’ve met the perfect partner through an online dating website or app, but the other person is using a fake profile to form a relationship with you. They’re using the site to gain your trust and ask you for money or enough personal information to steal your identity.

The majority of accounts on dating websites are genuine people looking for romance, but fraudsters may try to contact you by making fake profiles, getting in touch and building what feels like a loving relationship.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Identity Fraud

Identity fraud can be described as the use of that stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception.

Fraudsters can use your identity details to:

  • Open bank accounts.
  • Obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits.
  • Order goods in your name.
  • Take over your existing accounts.
  • Take out mobile phone contracts.
  • Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
  • Stealing an individual’s identity details does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud. But using that identity for any of the above activities does.

The first you know of it may be when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Banking and Card Fraud

Bank card and cheque fraud happens when criminals steal your cards or chequebook and gain access to funds in your account.

Criminals steal your bank cards or cheque book; or they obtain your card or account details, allowing them to take money from your account or run up credit in your name. You’ll usually notice this by seeing unfamiliar transactions on your statements, or suddenly finding that you’ve exceeded your overdraft limit or credit limit and your card is refused when you try to make a purchase.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Courier Fraud

When you’re called by someone pretending to be from your bank or building society and convinced to tell them your card details over the phone. They arrange for a courier to pick up your card to take it away for evidence or to have it destroyed.

In reality, the card is collected by the fraudsters to withdraw money from your account.

Read more on how to protect yourself from this type of fraud and what to do if you are a victim

Property Fraud

Property is usually the most valuable asset people own. It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be an attractive target for fraudsters. The type of frauds we usually see are where fraudsters first steal your identity and then sell or mortgage your property by pretending to be you. If it isn’t discovered promptly, you as the true property owner might find your property has been transferred or sold without your knowledge. Fixing the mess and getting any mortgage taken off your register can be distressing, time-consuming and costly.

How common is it?

Thankfully this type of property fraud is quite rare, but if you are the unlucky victim, it can have devastating effects. That is why prevention is much better than cure.

What can people do to protect themselves?

There are a few options:

  • Ensure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated. If your property isn’t registered then no compensation is payable. Find out about registering land
  • Once registered, make sure your contact details are up-to-date so you can be reached easily. You can have up to three addresses on the register including an email address or an address abroad. If your details are not up to date, you may not receive Land Registry’s letter or email if they try to contact you
  • Sign up for Land Registry’s award-winning free Property Alert service that helps owners to guard against property fraud. They will send you an email alert when there is certain activity on the monitored property e.g. if someone tries to take out a mortgage on it. If you receive an alert, you can judge whether the activity is suspicious and seek further advice – gov.uk/property-alert
  • Owners who feel their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their property. A restriction is intended to stop activity on your property, such as a transfer or a mortgage, unless a conveyancer or solicitor confirms the application was made by you. There is no fee for home owners to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property they wish to protect. Request a restriction

Who is most at risk from property fraud?

You’re more at risk if your property:

  • is rented out
  • is empty, such as if the owner is abroad or in a care home
  • is mortgage-free
  • isn’t registered with Land Registry

If you think you may be the victim of property fraud, you should:

For more information: www.gov.uk/propertyfraud

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