Scammers keep coming up with new ways to con people out of their money. You can protect yourself by being aware of the most common scams, including scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or new rules around TV licenses.
Cost of living scams
Criminals are taking advantage of the ongoing cost of living crisis. They are making new scams to play on peoples’ money worries. Scammers have:
Sent text messages and emails pretending to be the government or an organisation like Ofgem. They have offered things like tax rebates, grants, and bill refunds.
Sold fake products meant to help you save energy. This includes giving misleading information about roof insulation.
Taken advantage of people needing more money, with financial scams. These include investment scams, courier fraud, banking scams, and illegal lending.
Sold fake goods at a cheaper price. They have used scam adverts on social media, put fake reviews online and made copycat websites that are hard to spot as scams.
Being wary of all cold-callers and ‘too good to be true’ deals. See below for general rules about protecting yourself from door-to-door scams. If you are wanting to make your home more energy efficient, especially as it starts to get colder, the Energy Saving Trusthas lots of information. If you live in Scotland, you can also visit Home Energy Scotland’s website for more information.
Always seeking independent financial advice before making a decision about your money. If you are looking for independent financial advice, always check that whoever is advising you is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (0800 111 6768, register.fca.org.uk). All financial advisors in the UK have to be registered here.
Trying to stay calm. You might be very worried about money because of the cost of living crisis. Scammers exploit this uncertainty and will try and pressure you into making snap decisions. Always take a step back and think about any financial decision you’re making. You should seek independent financial advice if it is a substantial financial decision. Remember, any legitimate organisation reaching out to you won’t put time pressures on you.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) scams
Scammers are using people’s worries and uncertainty about the pandemic, especially during lockdowns. They tend to target those who are alone, self-isolating, or struggling with money.
Pandemic-related scams include:
People claiming to be able to arrange a COVID booster for a fee. The NHS is the only organisation which has access to the vaccine, and will never ask for money
Sales of fake products like face masks, supplements, anti-virus kits and sanitisers, which may be harmful to you, or simply never arrive
Bogus healthcare workers, who try to get into your home by claiming to offer testing for COVID-19
People pretending to be a charity or mutual aid group. They might offer to do shopping for you or to clean your house
Emails asking for donations to the NHS.
Investment fraud can be complex and much harder to spot.
You might keep getting called by companies offering investments that promise high returns
The callers are often well-spoken and seem to know lots about finance
The offer may be time-limited, with a bonus if you sign up now
Their websites and brochures look good, with impressive testimonials
Companies house might list their company.
If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, you should:
hang up or close your door to them – real investment companies won’t contact you out of the blue
always get impartial, independent financial or legal advice before making any investments.
The Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart hub has more information about investment scams. They have a warning list, so you can check if companies that contact you are genuine.
You can also find an Independent Financial Adviser through SOLLA, the Society of Later Life Advisers.
If you’re over 55 – or younger in some cases – and you have a pension pot, you can now access some or all the money in that pot. Pension scammers may:
contact you out of the blue by phone, text, email or in person
offer you a free pension review or a one-off investment
offer investments, often overseas, that promise high returns.
It’s illegal for someone to cold call you about your pension. If someone contacts you in this way, it’s likely to be a scam.
If you lose your money in a pension scam, you won’t be able to get it back and you may still have to pay tax of up to 55%.
Scammers may contact you saying that they’re calling from your bank or the police. They then trick you into revealing your PIN and handing over your debit or credit card.
say a fraudulent payment has been seen on your card
ask you to call back using the number on the back of your card. They’ll keep the line open so when you call, you’re connected straight back to them
ask for your PIN number or ask you to key it into your phone.
The scammer then sends a courier or taxi to pick up your card. Once they have your card and PIN, they can spend your money.
If you get a call like this, you should:
wait for 20 minutes before you call your bank
if possible, use a different phone, or call somebody else in the meantime
never reveal your PIN to anyone. Your bank or the police will never ask you for your PIN, bank card, cheque book, or to withdraw money.
There are many different ways this scam might happen. For example, a scammer may say it’s an undercover operation, so you must not tell your bank or the police. They might ask you to transfer all your funds into a ‘safe account’. They might also ask you to buy an expensive item to help them identify counterfeit goods.
Fake computer support calls
Someone may call claiming to be from an electronics company, like Microsoft, Apple, or a local service. They’ll tell you there’s a problem with your computer, and offer to fix it for a fee. They may also ask to take control of your computer. If you give them access, they’ll try to find out personal information, like your passwords and account details.
Microsoft, Apple and similar firms will never call you. If you receive a call like this, hang up.
Post and email scams
Lotteries / prize draws
You might get a letter or email telling you that you’ve won a cash prize. You will also be told that you will have to pay an administration fee and/or call a premium rate number to get this money. You might also be asked for your full bank details, to ‘release’ the money to you. This is called Advance fee fraud.
you can’t win money or a prize in a competition you haven’t entered
you can’t be picked at random if you don’t have an entry
never send money to someone you don’t know and trust.
As this is a scam, there is no prize even if you reply to it. If you reply, it’s also likely that the scammers will add you to a list of people to contact again. This means you’ll get more of this type of mail. To protect yourself, ignore any letters or emails like this.
Psychics and clairvoyants
Letters from psychics or clairvoyants might offer to reveal something to you if you pay them. Sometimes criminals use these scams to set up lottery scams by giving you lucky numbers. The letters they send might also be sinister or threatening.
You may be invited to invest in a business with high returns and low risk. You pay to join and get rewards for recruiting other investors. You may get some small payments at first to persuade you to invest more, but usually the investment is worthless or doesn’t exist.
These can look like:
Phishing emails - These try to trick you into telling someone your bank details. They may direct you to copycat websites that look like your bank’s website.
Stranded traveller emails - These will be sent from a friend whose email account has probably been hacked. It will tell you they’ve been robbed abroad. The scammer will then ask you to send them money.
Advance fee emails - The sender will tell you they have something valuable, and will offer a reward if you help them move it. To do this, you’ll have to make a payment or provide your bank details.
Inheritance emails - A scammer will contact you and say someone has left you money in a will. You will have to send an administration fee to get the money.
Emails offering miracle cures and medications from online pharmacies.
delete all messages without reading them if they’re from somebody you don’t know
if you do read them, don’t open any attachments, as they may contain a computer virus
ignore spam/junk email – don’t reply or click on any links, even to unsubscribe.
Report anything you suspect could be a scam to Action Fraud. You can also forward emails to the company’s reporting email address which you’ll find on their website. Or forward suspicious emails to email@example.com.
These are people who try to get into your home to steal from you or to get your personal details. They may work in pairs and could pretend to be:
strangers who say they need to use your phone because of an emergency
employees of companies you’ve heard of, like gas or electricity meter readers. They may have fake uniforms and ID
someone doing market research.
be suspicious – never let anyone you don’t know and trust into your home
always check ID – you can call the company if you’re unsure. Don’t call the number on the caller’s ID as it may belong to another scammer. You should look in the phone book or on the company’s website
set up a utilities password so you can check the caller is genuine – contact your supplier for details
contact the Charity Commission to check that a charity is real. You could also contact the charity to confirm that they’re making collections in your area
put up a ‘no cold callers’ sign. If you have one up, people who are genuine will not knock on your door. This way, you know to be suspicious of anyone who does knock on your door
call the police if you’re suspicious or feel threatened.
A trader may call to sell you something, or say you need work done, often urgently. They may put pressure on you to make a quick decision and not take no for an answer. If you agree, you could spend a lot of money, have no consumer rights and end up with poor quality work.
You should be wary of any doorstep traders. Always take your time before deciding to buy something or have work done. You could also:
put up a ‘no cold callers’ sign – it can be a criminal offence for doorstep callers to ignore it
get recommendations from family or friends if you need work done
look for a reputable trader on the Trustmark website.
Scammers can use dating websites, social networks and chat rooms to get personal details or money from people. Be careful about the information you give out and trust your instincts.
Be wary of someone who:
asks a lot of questions but doesn’t reveal much about themselves
rushes to steer you away from the site where you met, and communicate by email, text or phone instead
tells you a hard luck story and/or asks you to send them money
asks you to keep the relationship secret.
Never send money or give personal information or bank details to a person you’ve never met in person.
Fraud recovery fraud
If you fall victim to a scam, you may be contacted by a company offering to help you recover your money for a fee. This is another scam. You won’t get your money back and may end up losing more.