Fraud and scams
Fraudsters use trickery, lies and deceit to gain dishonest advantage over you. They might try to steal your property, belongings, or money.
There are many words used to describe fraud: scam, con, swindle, extortion, sham, double-cross, hoax, cheat, ploy, ruse, hoodwink, confidence trick.
There are many types of fraud, and it can be committed against individuals or businesses. The scale of fraud can vary from someone trying to scam you out of money by collecting for a fake charity, to major business fraud involving millions of pounds.
Some tricks that fraudsters use include:
- Using fake names and identification badges, perhaps pretending to be an official
- Tricking you into buying goods or services that are not for sale or don’t exist
- Providing a service that is of low quality but costs a lot of money
You may also be affected by:
How it can affect you
Fraud can cost businesses millions of pounds, however the impact of fraud on individuals is just as significant.
As well as having to cope with financial loss, being taken in by a fraudster can make you feel manipulated and humiliated. Some people get very distressed and anxious about what has happened, to the extent where their health and wellbeing is seriously at risk.
Offenders often target vulnerable people, such as older people or people with disabilities. The effects can be devastating, with some victims losing their confidence and independence.
Some victims feel guilty and embarrassed for having been taken in by the scam or fraud, as if it is somehow their fault. This can sometimes put them off from reporting it to police, friends or family.
Unfortunately, thousands of people get taken in by fraud every day because fraudsters are expert liars, able to trick, manipulate and mislead people. The criminal is entirely to blame. Not you. You are not alone and help is available.
Although fraud comes in many forms, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from the crime.
Don’t give any personal information (e.g. your name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people without checking who they are and why they need your details.
Many frauds start with a ‘phishing’ email where criminals ask you to email them personal information, passwords or bank details.
Trusted banks and financial institutions will never send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details. Do not trust such emails, even if they look genuine. You can always call your bank or other organisation (using your own contacts, not those on the email) to check whether the email is valid or not.
Destroy and preferably shred credit card receipts and post with your name and address on. Identity fraudsters don’t need much information in order to be able to clone your identity.
Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring to prevent computer crimes.
Sign up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code if you can. This involves you registering a password with your credit card company, and adds an additional layer of security to online transactions with signed-up retailers.
Be extremely wary of post, phone calls or emails offering you unbelievable deals out of the blue. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always question it.
You can sign up to receive the latest scam alerts from the Action Fraud and Trading Standards websites.
This is when someone pretends to be you to commit fraud and other crime. They might open bank accounts, apply for loans, and buy things – all using your name, bank details and money. You may not even know it has happened until long after your money has been stolen.
If you receive bills, invoices or receipts for things you haven’t bought, or if banks you don’t normally deal with contact you about outstanding debts, take action and contact the company concerned. Don’t ignore it. Your identity may have been stolen.
Can I get my money back?
Action Fraud is a crime reporting bureau that, where possible, provides intelligence to local police services to help them disrupt and investigate criminal activity. Action Fraud is not in a position to recover money, however your bank may be able to help.
If your Action Fraud report is sent on to a police service, they will consider whether money can be recovered from the criminals. This is something you can discuss with the investigating officer.
If this is not possible or there is no criminal investigation, there are methods of seeking recompense through the civil courts which you may wish to consider.
Citizens Advice offer advice on their website about bringing claims generally and also what your rights are in certain instances such as when buying a used car or in other consumer situations.
How to report it
In an emergency: dial 999
An emergency is when a crime is being committed or has just been witnessed, there is a risk of injury, or a risk of serious damage to property.
In a non-emergency: dial 101
Use this number to report a non-emergency incident or make a general enquiry.
Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Crimestoppers is a charity which is entirely independent of police and never share details with police of people who have got in touch.
Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to discuss your situation with one of their specialist fraud advisers. You can also use their online fraud reporting form.
Find help and support
If you have been a victim of crime, don’t suffer in silence. Even if you don’t want to report it to the police, tell a trusted friend or family member about it and use them for support. You can also search our directory to find help and support to help you cope and recover from what’s happened.
If you need advice about fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to discuss your situation with one of their specialist fraud advisers. You can also use their online fraud reporting form.
The CyberAware campaign, led by the Home Office, aims to educate small businesses and consumers on how to avoid falling victim to sophisticated cyber criminals.
“The National Crime Agency (NCA) tackles serious organised crime across the UK, including cybercrime.
Get Safe Online provides factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety.
The Think Jessica campaign was started by Jessica’s daughter Marilyn Baldwin in 2007 after five years of struggling to find help for her mother. Her aim was to educate others about the powerful phycology criminals use to trap their targets and make them understand how this is strong enough to turn them against their loved ones and those trying to help them.
Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering people to take a stand against scams.
The National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team have access to call blocking units which can be obtained for victims.
Frequently asked questions
How can I get some advice on fraud or cybercrime?
How can I report fraud?
You should report fraud to Action Fraud using the online reporting tool on their website. You can also call the Action Fraud helpline, but the website may be quicker.
- Action Fraud Helpline 0300 123 2040
- Action Fraud
Since making a report to Action Fraud I haven’t heard anything, what can I do now?
Action Fraud should send you a letter or email within 28 days of you reporting a crime to them. This will update you on what has happened to your report. If you have just given them information, but have not been a victim of a crime yourself, they will not send you a letter.
If you have not received an update but believe you should have, then please contact Action Fraud.
Someone is using my identity, why are Action Fraud not doing anything?
The misuse of someone’s identity is a complex area. A fraud is only committed when a person uses your details to make a gain, for example to open bank accounts, credit accounts or loans in your name without your knowledge or permission.
In these circumstances, it is the company that has supplied the loan or account that has been defrauded and therefore they must be recorded as the victim of the crime and not yourself. This can be frustrating, however police services across England and Wales are governed by a set of rules that state this. These rules called ‘ The Counting Rules’ are set by the government which determine when and how to record crimes.
Action Fraud will record all of the information about how and where your details have been used in an information report rather than a crime report, which may be used to support other investigations.
If you have discovered accounts opened in your name, get a copy of your credit report to see if and how you have been affected. You can contact any one of the three credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit problems caused by identity related fraud.
If you do find evidence that someone is committing fraud, report it to Action Fraud.
Credit reference agencies can give you advice regarding your credit rating:
I don’t agree with the decision not to investigate my crime can I appeal against it?
Action Fraud is the public reporting centre for the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). The NFIB makes sure that all fraud reports are reviewed using a consistent criteria and then dealt with in the most appropriate way.
If you have more information that you believe may change the outcome of the NFIB’s assessment you should add this to the report you have given to Action Fraud.
You can do this by logging on to the Action Fraud website with your reference number (all fraud reports to Action Fraud are given a NRFC reference number when the report is made) and password. If you no longer have these details, you will need to make another report to Action Fraud.
This will not guarantee a change in the outcome but the information will be assessed again.
If you are still not satisfied with the way your report has been dealt with you can contact Action Fraud who may be able to provide further information on what has happened to your report. You can also make a complaint.
I have provided details for the suspect why is Action Fraud not taking any action?
Action Fraud uses a consistent criteria to assess reports, and will take action to disrupt fraudulent activity or develop information for local police services to follow up where possible.
Criminals, however, often use fake details when committing fraud, so although you may feel you have provided clear suspect details, investigators may identify these as fake through further checks and therefore will not be able to use them to identify a suspect.
It is not usually possible for Action Fraud to take action if the suspect or suspect account is overseas because Action Fraud only has powers to act in England and Wales. This can happen in the case of international bank accounts or websites that are hosted by companies based overseas.
Why has my report been sent to a police force that is not local to me?
If your report has been sent to a police force that is not your local force, this can be frustrating. Where reports are sent is based on where the crime is likely to have been committed or where the suspect may be located.