While fraud and scams are not new, advances in technology give criminals more ways to attempt to access your money. Getting to know the techniques they use can help you protect yourself and your money.
Fraud or scam?
In everyday use, the words fraud and scams are used interchangeably. However, we think it’s useful to use clear definitions.
Fraud happens to you, scams happen with you.
Examples of fraud would be having your card skimmed, identity theft and computer malware which steals your details. In these cases, you're not aware of what the criminals are doing and haven't given your authorisation.
Examples of scams would be where a criminal attempts to convince you to send them money, give away access to your bank details or launder money. Scams actively involve you as the account owner and work though engineering a situation to make you believe it’s genuine, so you give your authorisation.
Below we’ve listed some of the most common types of fraud and scams. Please also check our Latest fraud updates page for the latest techniques we see being used by criminals.
If you think you've responded to a scam or been a victim of fraud, call us anytime on 0800 9 123 123 and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
The Scam Sonnets
Poets Pam Ayres and Suli Breaks are helping us raise awareness of investment fraud and scams, which is when criminals trick people into investing their money for unrealistically high returns. Watch Pam’s poem Have you got some money? and Suli’s poem If it’s too good to be true to learn more. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
The Savage Short
We’ve teamed up with footballing legend, Robbie Savage to raise awareness of ‘safe account scams’. With this type of scam, fraudsters try to trick you into sending your money to them. Tackle the fraudsters and learn how to spot scams in The Savage Short
Remember the following advice so that if someone contacts you pretending to be someone they're not, you can spot them easily.
- Take time to think about what they are saying and hang up or end the conversation if you are unsure.
- Don’t feel under pressure to act straight away – talk to family and get a second opinion if you feel uncomfortable. No genuine organisation will mind you doing this.
- A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you unsolicited to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account.
- Don’t give out personal or financial details unless it's to use a service that you've signed up to, and you’re sure that the request for your information is directly related to that service.
- Never let somebody talk you into downloading software, or to log on to your computer or other devices, such as your mobile phone or a tablet, remotely during or after a cold call.
- Never agree to transfer or hand over money to anybody without independently double-checking the details are genuine.
If you do get a suspicious looking email or text, here's some important advice.
- Look very carefully at emails or texts that come out of the blue supposedly from a bank or another trusted organisation.
- An unsolicited text or email from your bank or other genuine organisation will never ask you to provide passwords, personal or financial information in a message.
- Be extremely wary of links and attachments and never enter your banking details after clicking on a link. An email link may take you to a fake website which imitates Santander.
- Watch out for language that says things such as ‘you must act’.
- If you get an email or text from somebody asking you to change some payment details don’t do it without checking it out thoroughly first.
- If in any doubt at all, don’t reply. Phone the organisation sending you the text or email on their official phone number which you can look up on their website.
If you're concerned or think you've responded to a scam email or text or given your details out to the wrong people, you should call us first on 0800 9 123 123 and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Remote access scams attempt to convince you to allow them access to your Online Banking. These are often cold calls from scammers who say that they're from telecommunication or computer companies or (for businesses in particular) an IT department or Technical Support.
The warning signs are:
- a cold-caller says they can fix your slow computer or refund you money
- an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from your IT department or Tech Support
- the caller asks you to give permission for them to remotely access your computer
- the caller asks for your banking or personal details.
These callers will ask you to log on to your Online Banking, to check it's not been impacted by the fault, and then attempt to remotely access the computer to 'help' you with the problem.
Giving anyone remote access allows them to release malicious software and gain access to personal data.
Email scams, or phishing, is one of the most popular ways for scammers to find victims. These days criminals will send out emails that can look very convincing. It might be that they pretend to be your bank or a utility company, or possibly pose as a builder or solicitor you use. They might also offer you too good-to-be-true investment opportunities or even pretend to be someone you know.
Here are a few tell-tale signs to help you spot a phishing email:
- the sender’s email address doesn’t match the website address of the organisation it says it’s from
- the email is impersonal and doesn’t address you by your name e.g. it just says Dear Sir/Madam
- there’s a sense of urgency, asking you to act immediately
- there’s a request for personal information
- there’s a website link which may seem like the proper company address, but on close inspection is slightly different from the real address
- there are spelling or grammatical mistakes.
Just as with email scams, sometimes it can be very difficult to know if a text message from your bank is real or not.
Criminals will sometimes use a tactic called ‘number spoofing’ where they make it look as if their text is from your bank (or other organisation) – they can even make them appear in the same thread alongside genuine messages.
This is used as another way to hook you in to a conversation and trick you to take action to reveal information or send money.
Invoice scams send an invoice or bill requesting payment or request changing your payment details.
Often appearing as being sent from legitimate suppliers, they attempt to either convince you to make a payment or change the existing payment details of genuine suppliers so you pay into the criminal's account.
The contact email address given may only include a minor amendment, giving the impression it's correct. Or you may receive an email directly from an individual that you have dealt with previously, this email account may have been hacked so look out for unusual grammar or requests to change your usual payment details.
If the request comes in postal form on headed paper, look out for minor discrepancies such as a change in font or a change in the usual payment details.
This is where criminals persuade customers to hand over their credit and debit cards or to transfer funds from their account. This scam usually involves a call purporting to be from Santander, the police or another financial institution.
The caller may:
- suggest you call the number on the back of your card or 999 for verification (the scammer does not hang up and stays on the line while doing this)
- want to arrange to have your debit and credit cards collected by a courier
- ask you to key in your PIN using your telephone keypad
- advise that another account has been set up to keep your money safe and urge you to transfer your money to the new account immediately
- insist that it is necessary for you to act urgently to protect your funds
- ask you to withdraw and handover cash along with your card as needed for forensic evidence
- ask that you do NOT discuss the reason for withdrawal with branch staff.
There are an increasing number of 'free trial' offers on the internet, for products such as Acai berries, slimming products, teeth whitening or a free credit report and score. Unfortunately these offers are not always as good a deal as they appear to be and there are often hidden costs in the terms and conditions.
Some of these 'free trial' offers are outright scams, others are simply misleading and rely on you not reading the additional terms and conditions.
The warning signs are:
- you may be offered a product trial where you only have to pay a small fee for shipping and handling
- you need to enter your card details but there appears to be no reason for doing so
- the deal probably seems too good to be true
Telephone number spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies how their phone number appears on the Caller ID to disguise their identity. Criminals are increasingly targeting consumers over the phone; posing as bank staff, police officers and other officials or companies in a position of trust. They try to persuade their victim their accounts are at risk and they must move their money to a new account.
If you question the caller about giving out personal details or moving your money, they ask you to check the caller ID of the phone number they’re calling from, which they have masked, or ‘spoofed’ to look like your bank’s phone genuine number.
Be wary of all contact made out of the blue and always follow our top tips to help protect yourself.
Changes to the pension laws in 2015 gave people the opportunity to take money out of their pension once they reach 55 years old. The unwanted side effect of these pension freedoms is that criminals now targeting the over-55s to withdraw their pension and place it into other 'adventurous schemes'.
The warning signs are:
- unsolicited approaches about releasing money from your pension before you're 55 (you cannot release money if you’re younger than 55)
- unsolicited approaches about investing money from your pension under the new rules
- being asked for personal details such as phone number or financial information
- being offered 'cash back' or a 'savings advance' from your pension
- being promised high returns on investments or joining up bonuses
- being asked to move money quickly (sometimes offering an express courier service for documents to be signed).
Advance fee scams contact people by email, letter, or phone asking for help moving money from one country to another with the promise you'll receive a commission for doing so. They ask for an admin fee from you to start the process, which you never get back.
These often involve countries such as Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast, Iraq, or South Africa.
The warning signs are:
- a badly-written email or letter
- asked for an upfront fee to help release the larger amount of money.
People persuaded to unwittingly launder money are known as 'money mules'. Criminals look to dupe people into laundering money on their behalf by offering what looks like a legitimate job often advertised on the internet or in the newspapers.
The job involves receiving money into your account and withdrawing those funds and sending the money on, while retaining a proportion of the funds as your commission.
Please be aware that:
- the money you are asked to transfer is normally stolen or the proceeds of crime
- handling the proceeds of crime could result in criminal prosecution
- your accounts could be frozen and potentially closed
- wages retained by you as part of the transfer will be recovered from your account, and you may be liable for the full value of the funds you received
- details of your involvement may be shared with other banks, making the opening of another bank account difficult.
This is where someone is persuaded to bank a cheque on behalf of someone else.
This can be a new acquaintance, or friend of a friend, asks to bank a cheque, withdraw the funds and pay them. A variation is when selling an item online, the buyer sends a cheque for a greater amount and asks you to forward or transfer back the excess amount.
Although different scenarios the outcome is the same. The cheque normally bounces and the customer suffers the loss.
Investment scams are evolving and are now more common than ever. Criminals use intense, high pressured sales techniques to convince you to invest in worthless or non-existent shares.
Investment scam criminals will usually get in touch after you’ve shown interest in their fake firm on social media or through a google search, but they can also cold call people out of the blue. The criminal appears professional and may offer investments in commodities including cryptocurrencies, carbon credits, property, land, gold, or wine. The investment offer is supposed to provide the investor an excellent return in a short time frame.
Fraudsters are very clever and convincing. There are warning signs to look for that can help you to spot a possible investment fraud:
- An unsolicited email, private message or cold call offering any form of investment. Cold calling to sell you shares or investments is illegal.
- ‘Limited time only’ offers that don’t give you enough time to consider the investment.
- A pushy and persistent sales technique.
- Company names which sound familiar or have a slight variation to a legitimate company that is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (‘clone’ companies).
- A company that encourages keeping your investment secret to ensure maximum returns.
The FCA has created ScamSmart, an online tool to help consumers identify if their investment is a scam or not. Answer 4 questions with drop downs for multiple choice and get a clear picture on the potential investment and the potential risks.
ScamSmart aims to help you understand whether the company you’re planning to invest with is regulated by the FCA and whether there’s a potential it’s a cloned/spoofed company. Remember, you must carry out your own due diligence checks on the company (like checking the telephone numbers you’ve been given match those registered to the company and you contact them directly using the genuine number to confirm the details).
How to protect yourself from investment and cryptocurrency scams
- Make the right checks – firms providing regulated financial services must be authorised by the FCA. You can check whether they are authorised on the FCA’s register
- Avoid clones (fake companies that look genuine) - use the contact details on the FCA Register, not the contact details you’ve found on an online advert, or that the firm gives you when they make contact.
- Don’t assume it’s real – professional-looking websites, adverts or social media posts don’t always mean that an investment opportunity is genuine. Criminals can use the names of well-known brands or individuals to make their scams appear legitimate.
- Stay in control – avoid uninvited investment offers whether made on social media or over the phone. If you’re thinking about making an investment, thoroughly research the company first and consider getting independent advice.
- Never download software or apps that allow someone remote access to any of your devices, including your computer, laptop, tablet or phone.
- Don’t allow anyone to set up a cryptocurrency wallet, upload ID documents or manage investments on your behalf remotely.
Visit the FCA website to learn more about how to avoid investment scams and protect yourself.
Cold-calling to sell shares or investments is illegal. Dealing with an investment criminal will almost certainly result in you losing your money. Remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
These scams trick online shoppers into thinking they’re dealing with a legitimate contact or company when it’s actually a scammer. Fraudsters can advertise on genuine selling sites, or even create fake websites that look real. Scammers use buying scams or selling scams.
These scams can happen when you find an item online that you want to purchase. Once payment has been made, the seller disappears, leaving you with either no goods at all, or goods that are less valuable or significantly different to those advertised.
These scams can happen when selling items online. You may send the goods as agreed and never receive payment, or you may be tricked into returning an overpayment. The fraudster may send you a cheque for a greater value than the value of the item being sold. They ask for the extra money to be transferred back or sent on to a third party, for example a ‘shipping agent’.
How can you spot them?
These fraudsters are very clever and convincing, but there are sometimes warning signs that could help you identify them in the future.
- An item that is advertised as priced under the recommended selling value – does it sound too good to be true?
- The seller makes extra effort in communication to push the sale through.
- The buyer sends you more money than they need to pay for the item, asking you to return the difference.
- A seller you don’t know and trust asks you to use ‘PayPal Friends & Family’ service to pay for goods by bank transfer.
How can you protect yourself?
Even if there are no warning signs, we’d recommend considering the following:
- If buying from a reputable buying site such as eBay or Gumtree, stick to the advice and process they’ve provided. Never communicate outside the site.
- Avoid paying in cash, or by direct money transfer where you can pay with secure payment methods, such as PayPal or your credit card.
- If you’re buying a large item such as a car, make sure you see it in person before making any payment.
- Be wary of accepting payment for goods by cheque.
- Never send personal or financial details by email.
SIM swapping happens when fraudsters ask their victims' mobile phone operator to issue a new SIM card so that they can access mobile banking messages. The victim’s SIM card is deactivated and the messages are instead received on the fraudster’s device. Fraudsters often obtain the details required about the victim’s mobile phone through phishing (see above).
Santander has developed award-winning SIM swapping detection technology, but customers should be aware of any issues with their mobile phone which could be related to SIM swapping.
The warning signs are:
- receiving an unexpected text message advising that your SIM is transferring
- losing network connection for an unusual length of time in a place where you would normally have a connection
- your phone showing the message ‘invalid SIM’ or ‘no SIM’.
If you think any of the above has happened with your phone please contact your mobile phone service provider immediately using the number displayed on their website.
How to protect yourself:
- set a secure password with all phone service providers
- dispose of your phone bills securely
- keep your phone switched on at all times – this way you’ll notice if it’s not working.
Identity theft affects over 100,000 people every year. With a few personal details, a criminal can open new bank accounts, get new credit cards, claim benefits and apply for official documents like a driving licence - all in your name, and all traceable to you.
The warning signs are:
- 'lost' mail, for example your bank statements or credit card bills suddenly stop arriving
- your rubbish bags have been tampered with
- you start getting bills you don't recognise
- strange Direct Debits or payments appear on your account.
How to protect yourself:
- shred sensitive information - never simply throw it away or recycle it
- delete suspicious emails from organisations requesting personal information – remember, we'll never ask for such information by email
- think twice before giving out personal information
- if you move house, redirect your mail
- use online bank statements instead of printed, posted ones.
Contactless payments are relatively new, and a quick and convenient way to pay especially if remembering a PIN or using a fiddly number pad is a problem.
Contactless card fraud can occur if your card is stolen or temporarily taken away from you, allowing criminals to tap it at payment terminals or skim the card details.
Banks have controls in place to limit this but to keep yourself safe just make sure you keep hold of your card all the time. And if you do lose your card or have it stolen, report it to your bank as soon as possible.
And don’t believe some reports in the media about ‘in pocket’ contactless machines that mean fraudsters can steal your money by just walking close to you, it’s nonsense!
Using a cashpoint is easy, convenient and almost always safe. But sometimes criminals tamper with cash machines to steal your card information, or PIN.
Here are a few things to look out for when you use a cashpoint.
- A device might be placed over the card slot which scans your card details, or a fake keypad may have been placed over the top of the real one. Look out for parts of the cashpoint machine that appear a different colour or material to the rest.
- Tiny cameras the size of a pinhead can be drilled into cash machines which photograph you and your card while you take cash out. Look out for damage or possibly stickers that could be trying to cover up damage where holes have been drilled.
- Someone could simply be looking over your shoulder while you’re taking out cash to try and see your PIN. Then they find a way to take your card by distracting you.
Keeping yourself safe at the cashpoint:
- if the cash machine looks like it has been tampered with, don't use it
- when entering your PIN, cover it with your hand
- look out for anybody standing too close or trying to distract you.