"Scammers will exploit any vulnerabilities that they can to steal money or personal information from somebody else. These activities have a devastating impact have upon individuals and wider communities. I want to ensure that everyone is well-informed on how to protect themselves and others from such opportunistic criminals who seek to profit from scams and associated activities."
Thank you to Citizens Advice for compiling information, which has helped to shape this webpage.
Spotting a scam
It’s important to always keep an eye out for scams. They can and do affect anyone. Here are some of the main warning signs of scams to look out for:
- It seems too good to be true – like an email saying you’ve won a competition you don’t remember entering.
- Someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly.
- You’re being urged to respond quickly so you don’t get time to think about it or talk to family and friends.
- You've been asked to pay for something urgently or in an unusual way – for example by bank transfer or gift vouchers.
- You’ve been asked to give away personal information.
If someone thinks they might be being scammed, they should get advice immediately. They can contact Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline for help with what to do next, and report scams or suspected scams to Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.
How to protect yourself from scams
There are some simple steps people can take to help protect themselves from scams:
- Don’t be rushed into making any quick decisions. It’s okay to take your time.
- Never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don’t know, trust, or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it’s most likely a scam.
- Before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company’s details on Companies House, and take a look at their terms and conditions.
- Pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong.
- Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website, and say all the right things. Take your time to work out if this is a real organisation. Ask them for ID or contact the organisation on a number you know and trust.
- Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust.
- Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
- Keep your online accounts secure:
- Use a strong password for email accounts that you don't use anywhere else. Choosing three random words is a good way to create a strong and easy to remember password. You can also add in numbers and symbols. If you’re worried about remembering lots of different passwords you can use a password manager.
- Some websites let you add a second step when you log in to your account - this is known as ‘two-factor authentication’. This makes it harder for scammers to access your accounts.
- If you’re not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source.
What to do if someone has been scammed
If someone has been scammed, there are 3 steps they need to take:
- Protect themselves from further risks There are things they can do to stop things getting worse. They should contact their bank immediately to let them know what’s happened. They should also change any relevant log-in details, and check for viruses if they were scammed on a computer.
- Check if they can get their money back If they’ve lost money because of a scam, there might be ways they can get it back. Again, make sure they tell their bank what happened straight away. If they’ve paid for something by card, bank transfer, Direct Debit or PayPal, then depending on the circumstances they might be able to help them get their money back.
- Report the scam Reporting scams helps authorities stop the criminals responsible, and protects others from being scammed. Anyone who’s been scammed should:
- Call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133, or on 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. We’ll pass on details of the scam to Trading Standards, and can offer further advice
- Report the scam to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud. They'll also give them a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you've been scammed
It’s also important for us to all talk about our experiences with family and friends. By letting them know what’s happened they can be prepared, and together we can put a stop to scams.
Where to go for more help
- If someone has been scammed, or thinks they’ve been scammed, they can contact the consumer service by calling 0808 223 1133 (or 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh speaking advisor). If they’ve been scammed online they can also get advice from a Scams Action adviser (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) on 0808 250 5050 or via webchat. There’s lot of advice on the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsadvice, including how to: