Realising you’ve potentially fallen for a scam is terrifying, but you need to act quickly to try and protect your finances. You need to contact several, including your bank or financial services provider and the police.
Calmly follow our guide to give yourself the best possible protection if you fall for a scam.
If you spot any of the following red flags, you may be a victim of fraud:
Entries that you don’t recognise or can’t explain on your credit report.
Unusual transactions on your bank or credit card statement, including missing cash or money you don’t remember spending.
Benefit applications reveal that someone is already claiming them in your name.
Bills and invoices for purchases you do not recognise.
Credit applications are rejected despite you having a good credit history.
Post that you have been expecting has not arrived.
An unsolicited call has prompted you to give away any banking details or personal information.
A text or email contained a link that you followed before entering your banking details or other personal info.
Of course, there may be an explanation behind suspicious transactions and events. For example, you could see a £50 payment to your local supermarket when you know you spent £20. But what about the £30 cashback that you got?
Nonetheless, regularly checking statements is one of the most important steps in spotting fraud and gives you the chance to act quickly. And if you spot any of the red flags listed above, contact the appropriate organisations and authorities.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
Replace your cards: If they have been compromised – for example, if your card details have been stolen and there is a risk that fraudsters could spend your money.
Step up security on your account: To stop future unauthorised transactions.
Refund any money that has been taken: They are obliged to do this by the Payment Service Regulations 2009 and The Lending Code.
Provide useful information on how to spot fraud and scams.
Look for anything suspicious and get it rectified before it causes issues with your credit score. You’ll need to check with all three credit reference agencies as different products use different ones. These are:
If there is an issue, speak to the company involved directly or submit a query with the credit reference agencies.
This will put a flag against your name on the National Fraud Database, meaning that companies will carry out extra checks before they approve applications for financial products in your name. Cifas membership costs £20 for two years.
All fraud and scams must be reported to the police via Action Fraud. The service is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime, run by the City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
You can call them on 0300 123 2040 or submit a report on their website.
There are many types of fraud, and scammers are constantly evolving their methods. Being aware of the latest red flags can help you stay safe.
The most common types of scam are:
Vishing occurs by telephone. Typically communication follows this pattern:
Fraudsters phone you and pretend to be from your broadband provider
They tell you that they need to fix issues with your internet connection
Next, they ask you to give them remote access to your computer by downloading software
Once that’s done, they ask you to log into your online banking so that they can give you a refund as a goodwill gesture
They then start moving money out of your account.
Phishing usually starts with you receiving an online message. For example:
Fraudsters contact you by email, text or social media
They pose as a reputable company or someone you know
They ask you to click a link and enter your personal details into a form
They later use this information for their own gain
Suppose you have clicked on a suspicious link or given fraudsters remote access to your computer. In that case, you may have a virus on your computer that enables the crooks to monitor your online activity and record sensitive data, such as passwords and emails.
If this happens, get your device professionally cleaned by a local PC store to remove harmful software and to ensure the device is safe to use. Ensure your anti-virus is up to date and that you have the latest versions of all your software to protect your devices.
Your bank or service providers will never contact you by phone or email and ask you to provide:
Your personal details
Debit or credit card numbers
Remote access to your computer
Your online banking card reader codes
Fraudsters are known to use technology that allows them to display a genuine company’s phone number on your screen, which can trick you into thinking the call is genuine.
If you have concerns, hang up immediately. Call the company they claimed to be from five minutes later, using an independently verified phone number, such as the one on your bank statement or the back of your card. You can then ask if the call was genuine and find out what steps you need to take next.
Never call a number that the person on the phone has given you to call back on. Always call the number published on cards and official websites and documents.
Here are all our other top tips to protect yourself from scammers:
Only use reputable websites and only enter your personal details on secure websites signified by checking for:
‘https://’ at the start of the URL
A padlock or key symbol in the address bar
Ensure that the computers you use have up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software installed. This will help prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal information while you are online.
If you move house:
Get your post redirected to your new address
Notify your bank and other businesses you have dealings with
Always shred old bills, bank statements or personal correspondence. A ‘cross-cut’ shredder does a better job of destroying your information than a ‘strip’ one
When taking cash out from an ATM you should always:
Look for signs of tampering: Check if the machine looks different to other ones you have used in the past. Also, look out for anything unusual stuck on the front.
Use your other hand as a shield: When you type your PIN number into a cash machine.
Never let anyone disappear with your cards regardless of where you are or what you are paying for – most establishments now have portable card machines.
Paying by credit card means you are protected under Section 75 legal rules. These can help you recover money spent on a credit card if you fall for a scam.
Although many insurance policies don’t pay out if you fall for fraud, you could get cover for:
To reduce the likelihood of fraud occurring in the future:
Cancel any lost or stolen credit cards as soon as they go missing
Keep passwords and PIN numbers secret. Memorise them, and never write them down. Use different passwords for each account and avoid using personal information like dates of birth or names.
Check your statements Keep a close eye out for unauthorised transactions and notify your bank immediately if you notice anything suspicious