Protect yourself against scams: guide

Worried man sitting in front of laptop

Protect yourself, friends and family against scams

Here’s some useful advice from an Age UK London workshop about six common scams. There's also a list of people who can help if you think you've been scammed, with contact details. We hope this guide will help you protect yourself, your family and friends against scammers and fraudsters.

1. Identity fraud

Your personal information - your name, address and bank details - is very valuable to criminals. To stay safe, follow these steps:

  • Shred or tear into small pieces anything with personal information on it before you throw it away or recycle.
  • Be very wary of unsolicited phone calls, letters or emails from your bank asking you to confirm your personal details, password or security numbers.
  • Don’t click on links sent in emails unless you’re sure you can trust the person who sent them.
  • Never reply to unsolicited texts, emails or letters. If you do, you may be put on a scammer’s ‘suckers list’ and targeted in the future.

2. Courier fraud

This is when a scammer persuades you on the phone to hand over your bank card to a courier or taxi driver. They often say they’re from your bank or the police. They may ask you to give them your card and PIN, set up a ‘safe’ account, or buy expensive goods like watches or mobile devices and hand these over to them.

Remember – this is a scam. Banks and the police never ask you to give them your card and PIN.

3. Lottery scams

Fraudsters contact you by post or email saying you’ve won a cash prize in an international lottery, sweepstake or prize draw; often Spanish, Canadian or Australian lotteries, but there are others. You’re told to keep your good luck a secret and to respond quickly to claim your ‘winnings’. But there’s no prize money. Often the winner's certificate looks so convincing that people are taken in.

You’ll be asked to pay admin fees such as taxes, legal costs, or banking fees. Each time the scammers will give you reasons why your winnings can’t be paid out - unless you make another payment to reach the 'next stage'.

Don't make any payments or give your bank details. Scammers can use them for identity fraud.

4. Investment fraud

Scammers tend to cold-call the over-55s offering high-yielding (but unregulated) investments like wine, land, carbon credits, gold or diamonds. These scammers often seem believable because they know a lot about you and build a ‘friendly’ relationship with you.

Remember – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Dating sites and chatrooms

Scammers exploit your emotions to befriend you, often making you believe that you’re in a relationship with them. They then try to con money out of you.

They're clever and convincing. Don’t let feelings of embarrassment stop you from reporting a scam. Remember, it’s often smart, confident people who get scammed.

If in doubt, always contact the police - see contacts below.

6. Computer software fraud

Scammers contact you to say there's a problem with your computer. They say they'll 'fix' the non-existent issue - for a fee. They'll get you to hand over remote access to your computer and provide your bank payment details. They then take large amounts of money out of your account. Fraudsters often pretend to be working for Microsoft.

The average loss is £600 and the average age of people scammed is 62 years old.

Remember - computer firms don't make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer and tend not to send out unsolicited emails about security updates.

Microsoft doesn't ask for credit card information to validate copies of Windows.

To report a scam or fraud contact:

Action Fraud

The UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre:
Phone: 0300 123 2040
www.actionfraud.police.uk

Metropolitan Police fraud alerts

Report a fraud to the Metropolitan Police.

To avoid being scammed and find out how to spot frauds, read The Little Book of Big Scams, an informative online guide by the Metropolitan Police.

Scamsmart

Scamsmart is a campaign set up by the Financial Conduct Authority to help prevent people being taken in by unsolicited investment offers.
Freephone: 0800 111 6768
www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart

Scamsmart also has a warning list where you can check investments you've been offered.

Other guides

Our sister consumer organisation, Which?, has useful information about scams and how to spot a scam.

The BBC has a Radio 5 Live special on scams.

​​Citizens Advice has useful information about scams on its website.