Financial scams and how to avoid them

Phone calls, letters, emails and texts from scammers can seem legitimate and convincing so it’s important to be vigilant and keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

Become familiar with some of the more common scams listed below. If you think you may have been a victim of a scam, report it immediately to Action Fraud, either by calling 0300 123 2040 or online at . Contact us straightaway if someone has taken money from your account or you think you’ve accidentally given your details to a fraudster.

Take a look at our fraud smart tips or visit the FCA and the Citizens Advice Bureau for further help and support. The Little Book of Big Scams 3.85 MB also contains lots of useful information and advice.

Email scams

‘Phishing’ is where fraudsters send you emails with links to bogus sites or they may ask you to fill in an online form to capture your security information. Other emails trick you into downloading malicious software (malware) that helps fraudsters get hold of your details and your money. The emails look like they are from legitimate organisations and give a plausible story to try to trick you into clicking a link, downloading something or opening an attachment.

Some emails try to trick you into opening attachments which install something known as ‘ransomware’ on your computer. It encrypts all of your files, including music and photos, and the scammer then asks for a ‘ransom’ to release them. Protect your computer and devices with the most up-to-date security software such as our free Kaspersky Internet Security software and be wary of opening attachments or links in emails you’re not expecting or are unsure about. Keep your important files backed up off your network and never pay ransom money to criminals.

Emails from Barclays
We may contact you by email from time to time with useful advice and information about products and services, but we will…

  • Never email you a link that takes you straight to the Online Banking log-in page
  • Never email you asking you to verify your account details
  • Never email (or call) to ask you for card details, PINs, PINsentry codes or passwords
  • Never email you asking you to confirm a recent transaction

If you've received a suspicious email that claims to be from us, please forward it to and then delete the email immediately.

Scam phone calls

‘Vishing’ is similar to phishing but involves a phone call from a fraudster, who will come up with a plausible story to try to get you to divulge your information. For example, the fraudster may say they’re from a satellite TV provider, phone or utility company and offer you a refund. To process the refund, they'll ask you to input your debit card into your PINsentry card reader and give your authorisation codes. They'll then use the codes to make fraudulent Online Banking payments from your account. Never share your PIN, PINsentry codes or passwords with anyone who contacts you.

Fraudsters also call pretending they’re the bank or the Police and tell you there’s a problem with your debit or credit card. They may ask you to key your card PIN into the phone and tell you they are sending a courier to collect your card. Alternatively, they may ask you to withdraw funds or buy high value items and hand them to a courier to help in an investigation, or even try to convince you to transfer funds to a new ‘safe’ account. Banks and the Police will never ask you to hand over your PIN, cards or cash, or buy high value items or transfer funds to a new account. If someone calls asking you to do this, end the call. Always check the call is properly disconnected before calling the bank or Police to report it – wait 5 minutes or use a different phone.

Investment scams

This is when scammers pose as salespeople and contact you offering investment opportunities like shares, plots of land, gold, carbon credits or wine. The caller will often tell you that the opportunity will be missed if not acted upon quickly. Despite the promise of a high return, the investment turns out to be worthless. If anyone offers you an investment opportunity out of the blue, do some research before you take the plunge. Get independent advice – call the Financial Conduct Authority consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768 for guidance. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Advance fee scams

This type of scam involves the promise of a large sum of money or other opportunities, like a lottery win, inheritance claim or prize draw. You’ll be asked to pay an upfront fee which the scammer will take, but you’ll see nothing in return. Treat any such offers with suspicion. Genuine organisations dealing with the lottery winnings, prize draws or inheritance payments never ask for a fee before paying out your money.

Software scam

A caller will claim to be from a computer company or the technical department of a bank and tell you your computer has a virus. They’ll convince you to install some special software which will allow them to access your passwords and account details. Sometimes they try to charge you for the software or for their ‘help’. Legitimate computer companies and banks will never call you out of the blue to say that your computer needs repairing. If you do get such a call, don’t follow their instructions to go to a website and don’t type anything into your computer or install software. Take a look at our software scams video  for more information.

Pension scams

Pension scams typically involve promises of pension investment opportunities or unsolicited offers to help you release cash from your pension early.

With over 55s getting greater access to their retirement savings from April 2015, there are more opportunities for investment scammers to convince people to invest their pension pots in unregulated or bogus schemes. 

Anything claiming you can cash in your pension before the age of 55 is also likely to be a scam, and early pension release may cost you most of the money in your pension fund. Ignore offers of a ‘free pension review’ and calls out of the blue to discuss your pension. Never be rushed into agreeing to a pension transfer or investment decision, and always speak to a financial adviser who is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority .

Online shopping scams

Scammers will advertise goods/services that don’t exist or aren’t theirs to sell. They convince you to send the payment directly to their bank but the goods never arrive. Before buying online do some research into the seller to check that they’re genuine and avoid those with poor ratings. Insist on seeing high-value items, like cars on online auction sites, before paying and always use secure payment methods, such as PayPal or credit card. See our Card fraud page for more tips about shopping online.

Money mules

‘Money mules’ or ‘Money Transfer Agents’ receive funds into their accounts and then move the money on, typically sending it overseas. The funds are money fraudsters have stolen from other people. The criminals recruit innocent people via email, job-search websites, adverts etc and offer a fee for moving the money elsewhere. Remember handling money that’s been obtained fraudulently is a crime, even if you don’t know where the money came from. Don’t allow your bank account to be used to move money for others.

Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, Barclays will not be able to recover the funds for you if you have paid money away to a scam. However, we do take all cases seriously and our staff will be happy to take the details of your case. The information will be used to support our continued efforts to combat fraud and help protect you and others from falling victim to such scams.

Think you’ve been a victim of fraud? Call us:

Online Banking helpdesk: 0345 600 2323 1 (+44 247 684 2063 outside the UK or from a mobile).
General fraud concerns: 0345 734 5345 2
Debit card fraud: 0800 3891 652 1 (+44 160 452 9410 outside the UK or from a mobile).
Lost or stolen debit card: 0345 945 4545 1 (+44 192 858 4421 outside the UK or from a mobile).
Barclaycard fraud: 0844 811 9111 2

If you've received a suspicious email that claims to be from us, please forward it to and then delete the email immediately.

Recognition of our efforts to keep you and your money safe

Managing your money online or on your smartphone is easy and convenient. And it’s so safe that we have received the following security certifications and awards:

  • Kitemark for Secure Digital Transactions – awarded to our Mobile Banking and Barclays Pingit apps by the British Standards Institute (BSI). Both apps have been independently tested to ensure they protect your financial and personal data
  • ISO/IEC 27001:2013 Certification – Awarded to our Online Banking service, and our Mobile Banking and Barclays Pingit apps. The certification follows independent assessment against an international standard of the work we've done to keep your account access and payments safe and secure
  • Cyber Essentials Scheme – a government-backed programme that recognises good security practices in business

We offer free security software and our Online and Mobile Banking Guarantee protects you from losses (as long as you've used the services correctly).

Important information
1. Lines are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. To maintain a quality service, we may monitor or record phone calls. Call charges
2. Lines are open 7am-11pm, 7 days a week. To maintain a quality service, we may monitor or record phone calls. Call charges
3. All of the external sites you can reach through the Barclays website are here to help you. However, we must tell you that we accept no responsibility or liability for the content, accuracy or availability of any external site you may encounter.