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Protect your money

Learn to better protect yourself

It only takes a convincing phone call, clever letter or persuasive sales patter to let fraudsters get hold of your cash. Our guide will help alert you to their tricks.

Why you need to stay alert

It could be a slick phone call, official-looking letter, convincing email or authoritative text…

Fraudsters try to appear as legitimate as possible, so it’s important to be vigilant and stay alert to anything suspicious. Get up to speed with the frauds and scams listed below, and you’ll be better prepared if you find yourself a target. A fraud is a transaction on your account which you didn’t authorise and didn’t make yourself. A scam is where you make – or authorise - a payment from your account to somebody or something you believe is genuine. However, you have been duped instead.

Please contact us straightaway if someone has taken money from your Barclays account or if you’ve accidentally handed over your personal details, or transferred money, to a fraudster.

Types of frauds and scams to watch out for

These are among the most common tricks currently used by fraudsters but they constantly come up with new ways to contact you, so be vigilant

Online shopping scam

Fraudsters will advertise goods or services that don’t exist or aren’t theirs to sell – or they’ll try to mimic existing websites in order to appear genuine. Always be vigilant when you shop online. Taking just one precaution alone isn’t guaranteed to keep fraudsters away, so it’s best to take a broad approach and follow as many of our tips as you can.

How it could happen to you

  • An email, text or social post pops up touting a special offer or deal you like the look of, and you click on the link.
  • The webpage you land on looks authentic and appears to belong to a well-known brand or high-street chain you like, or seems genuine enough to belong to a new company you’re comfortable enough to try out for the first time.
  • Enticed by the offer, you type in your bank details and agree to pay what’s asked.
  • Your item or goods never arrive, a follow-up phone call is never answered and you can’t get hold of anyone at the firm. You’ve lost your money.

Stop, think and act

Be cautious with links
Never follow a link in an unexpected email, text or social media post. If you’re using a desktop or laptop, hover your mouse over the link to see if it is a genuine address. Carefully check the spelling in the URL to make sure it’s legitimate e.g. barcleys-bank.co.uk is incorrect – the real URL is barclays.co.uk. Even with major high-street brands, be sure to look carefully. Fake web pages can look like genuine sites, with clever twists such as .shop or .service inserted to make it look real. Where possible, go ‘the long way around’ to a website via a search engine rather than click a link.

Do extra research on companies when you’re buying for the first time
Check out the seller to be confident they’re genuine. Try a number of different product or service review websites to gauge opinion on their quality, and avoid those with poor ratings. Look for a phone number, address and social media account, and see if it publishes a returns policy. Be suspicious of poor grammar or spelling, or if you can’t find a single review of the company or its goods – most will have some sort of internet presence. Insist on viewing high-value items, such as cars or motorbikes advertised on online auction sites, before paying.

Put in payment details with great care
Use a computer, laptop or smartphone that’s protected with up-to-date security software. Always use secure ways to pay such as your credit card or PayPal, and only enter your card details on secure sites. The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’. However, this only indicates that the link between you and the website owner is secure, and not that the site itself is authentic. Check the address for any subtle misspellings, additional words and characters, and other irregularities.
Don’t pay via a funds transfer from your bank account, and especially not to someone or a company you’ve never met or heard of.
Always log out after shopping and save the confirmation email as a record of your purchase. As a rule, don’t type in your card details on shared or public computers e.g. in a library.

Use extra security when prompted
As soon as you receive a Barclays Visa debit card, you’re automatically registered for Verified by Visa. We’ll occasionally ask you for some extra security info to verify your purchases when you check out online. This’ll protect your card from unauthorised use.

'Purchase'/auction scam

Fraudsters tempt you with ads for cheap goods – often mobile phones, designer clothes and accessories - that don’t exist or aren’t theirs to sell. They’ll often use fake photos or even display other people’s pictures as their own to try and convince you. You pay for the goods but they never arrive, and follow-up calls are never answered. Your money’s gone.

How it could happen to you

  • You search for a popular item online for the lowest price you can find, and fantastic bargain prices pop up on auction websites 
  • If you get in touch to ask the ‘seller’ why the price is so low, you may be given an excuse such as ‘it’s an unwanted gift’, ‘it was bought overseas’ or the original owner ‘bought two by mistake’ 
  • The seller then puts gentle pressure on you to pay by a bank transfer rather than by credit card or other secure payment service such as PayPal or Apple Pay. You may be encouraged to click out of the webpage to do this.
  • You might also be told you’ll get a special discount if you transfer money immediately. Or you could be tempted to act quickly by a suggestion the offer is ‘time-limited’ or that rival customers are looking at your item.
  • Enticed by the offer, you then type in your details and agree to pay the agreed sum by a bank transfer.
  • Your item or goods never arrive A follow-up phone call is never answered and you can’t get hold of the seller.

Stop, think and act

Be very wary of any item price that simply looks too good to be true – it usually is. Whenever you bid or buy goods on an online auction, be extra vigilant and stay on the website – don’t click off to a different page, whatever a seller may try to convince you to do. Double-check the seller’s record on the auction site, and look at what other buyers have previously said about the vendor’s sales history too. Always examine any item photos on display very carefully: you can try and verify their origin and authenticity by typing ‘reverse image search’ on your favourite web browser and checking websites that seek to verify if pictures are original or not.

Romance scam

You join a dating website in the hope of finding a partner and meet somebody online who seems very keen on a relationship with you. However, this person starts to exploit your feelings and asks to ‘borrow’ sums of money from you that are never repaid. Months later, you realise you’ve been duped by a scammer only interested in your wallet, and nothing more.

How it could happen to you:

  • You join an online dating company and quickly receive flattering attention from an admirer.
  • Their interest in you grows rapidly and he or she suggests you both move away from the dating website and get in touch via text, phone calls, social media or instant messaging instead.
  • Using charm and persuasion, they ask a lot of personal questions about you to get an idea of what you like and do. They then use this info to find out more about you, and appear more convincing.
  • When you ask to meet up in person, there’s often a very good excuse to prevent it – a business problem which thwarts the date, a family emergency or last-minute overseas trip. 
  • Soon, one of their ‘no show’ excuses is linked to financial difficulty which triggers a request for help. 
  • They start opening up about their money problems, hoping you’ll offer to help out. Typically, you’ll be asked to help to pay for a seriously unwell family member, to keep a business afloat or to help with a redundancy. 
  • Your ‘partner’ exploits your feelings, telling you of their desperation to meet up ‘once this financial problem has gone away’ and how emotional they are. The requests for money keep on coming until you realise you’ve been conned.

Stop, think and act

Always stay in touch via the dating website rather than agree to keep in contact by phone, text or social media instead. Do as much online research about the person who’s approaching you as you can – are they on social media and is their identity the same? Are you able to confirm where they say they work or live? Is their photo the same across social media accounts? You can try to double-check a person’s photo origin and authenticity by typing ‘reverse image search’ on your favourite web browser and checking websites that seek to verify if pictures are original or not. Always ask for advice from family and friends about your online relationship – if your new partner asks you to keep your liaison a secret, it’s a warning sign to watch out for. Don’t give out your bank and account information to anyone – the minute a so-called ‘partner’ asks you for cash, it’s time to face the truth.

'Remote access' scam

A persuasive phone caller takes remote control of your computer after claiming they’ve spotted a problem with it. They convince you to stay on the line while they ‘try to fix the situation’. Instead, they trick you into revealing financial details and steal money from you. It’s also known as a ‘computer takeover’ scam.

How it could happen to you

  • You receive a phone call out of the blue – the caller claims to be from a technical support service provider, a large telecommunications firm or computer company
  • They tell you that your computer is experiencing technical problems or your broadband is unusually slow, or there’s a risk of being hit by a rogue computer virus.
  • To fix it, they insist it’s very important to get remote access to your computer immediately. The caller will be very persistent and persuasive.
  • Often they’ll warn that if you delay, you risk causing damage to your hardware or face a financial blow
  • After convincing you to stay on the line, you’ll be told you need to buy software or sign up to a service to fix the problem.
  • They then ask for your personal details and your bank or credit card details.

Stop, think and act

If you get a call like this, hang up immediately. No genuine company will call you out of the blue, requesting remote access to your computer. Never give your personal or payment details, or online account information, over the phone – unless you made the call or the phone number came from a trusted source.

Make sure your computer is protected with updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a robust firewall. Always do your research first and only buy software from a source that you know and trust.

'Email hack' scam

An email appears to arrive from a firm you’ve hired – a solicitor, conveyancer, builder or supplier, say – and tells you about a change to its own bank account details. However, the fraudster has intercepted or ‘hacked’ your email trail and created a bogus message. When you come to pay, your money goes into the fraudster’s account instead. It’s also known as an ‘invoice scam’.

How it could happen to you

  • You receive what looks like a genuine email from a firm you’re currently dealing with – for example, your solicitor or conveyancer if you’re buying a home, or a known supply firm or repair company if you’re a small business.
  • It alerts you to a change to its own bank account details. It will explain that there’s been a small update to its financial details so when you pay for its services, be sure to pay into the ‘new account’.
  • The email is not a complete surprise since you’re a customer about to pay for goods or services, so its message won’t seem unusual or out of character.
  • When you pay into the new account, your cash is actually sent to the fraudster’s account – from where it’s usually quickly moved on, making it difficult to get back.
  • You only realise the fraud when the firm you thought you had paid calls you to ask where the money is.

Stop and think

If any firm or service company you’re using tells you it’s changing its bank details for payments, always confirm it directly with a member of staff. You can do this by telephone using their normal number or by visiting them in person if it’s possible. Fraudsters can often intercept email exchanges and alter them to appear genuine, so don’t use the contact details you see in such an email – double-check on the company’s official website or documents.

If you’re paying a firm for the first time, you can first transfer a small sum – and then confirm with the company, again using known contact details, that it’s arrived.

Investment scam

‘It really is a great opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance – what do you have to lose?!’ A lot of money is the answer. Fraudsters posing as sales staff get in touch to offer ‘opportunities’ to invest our cash in everything from shares, gold and plots of land, to more exotic offers such as carbon credits or vineyards. The investment is fake, though, and leaves you out of pocket. Sometimes the conmen use publicly available information to impersonate genuine Barclays companies and staff.

How it could happen to you

  • You receive an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be a member of a sales team, to talk about an investment opportunity that’s just right for you
  • Very tempting returns are offered – often double-digit in size – and much is made of poor interest rates and low returns available elsewhere
  • They may have found your details from shareholder registers and, in a bid to lower your guard, praise you as somebody who understands risk and who has been selected for this ‘exclusive’ chance.
  • Pressure is put on you, with suggestions the opportunity is only available for a limited time
  • Any concerns you have about downsides are brushed off, or the caller perhaps suggests you can sell your stake if the investment is unsuccessful
  • If you say you’re not interested, they’ll keep on calling back and become adept at talking to you for long periods of time to wear you down

Stop, think and act

Any so-called ‘investment opportunity’ you receive out of the blue is likely to be very risky or a fraud. Many conmen do background checks on targets - for example, they may look for those who have recently retired, sold a business or come into a large inheritance – and tailor their pitches to match the profile.

If – separately - you are considering an investment, do plenty of research before you take the plunge. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) warning list details firms and individuals that it knows are operating without its authorisation – so you can check if any salespeople you’ve spoken to are genuine or not. The list also provides information about the risks associated with particular investment opportunities. The Financial Conduct Authority also has a register you can check. This allows you to see if a company you’re thinking of doing business with is actually authorised to provide regulated financial services. This can help you avoid being caught out by unscrupulous operators.

Pension scam

You’re promised a unique investment opportunity for your retirement savings or receive an unsolicited offer to help release cash from your pension funds early. Yet both are bogus and can leave you with huge losses. The over-55s now have greater access to their pension since Government reforms in April 2015, but this has also encouraged huge attention from fraudsters so there is an extra need to be vigilant.

How it could happen to you

  • You receive an unexpected email, text, social message or phone call about your pension.
  • It usually offers a free pension ‘review’ to explore all your investment options or suggests a new way to boost the returns on your retirement savings.
  • In many cases, the offer is exotic or promises huge returns – for example, a 10% return every year if you invest in overseas hotels and green energy schemes.
  • You agree to transfer the cash but the benefits never appear. The bogus adviser either disappears with your money or puts it into a high-risk scheme that loses your money.
  • Alternatively, promises of early access to your pension cash leave you with a cash sum but then land you with a huge tax bill and other charges.

Stop, think and act

Ignore offers of a ‘free pension review’ and don’t listen to calls out of the blue to discuss your pension, simply hang up.

If you ever want or need to change your pension plans, always do your own research first and consider impartial guidance. Look at talking to a number of independent financial advisers, and make sure they’re registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Never ever be rushed into any type of agreement to transfer your pension, or part of it, into a new or separate scheme.

Anything or anyone claiming you can cash in your pension before the age of 55 is likely to be a scam, and early pension release may cost you most of the money in your pension fund.

The 'money mule' scam

You’re persuaded to let an individual or firm temporarily place a large sum of cash in your bank account – for a ‘reward’ fee. However, as a ‘money mule’ or ‘money transfer agent’, you’ll be complicit in financial crime even if you didn’t know what you were doing.

How it could happen to you

  • You may be tempted by job offers to make ‘easy money’ on job-search and social media websites, or via email or text.
  • Whatever the job, it will – crucially – also involve you being offered a payment in exchange for receiving money temporarily into your bank account.
  • You could then be asked to withdraw this cash to hand over to somebody in person, or transfer it on – usually overseas.
  • However, allowing your bank account to be used in this way makes you a money mule and could land you with a criminal record – and the consequences of being caught are serious. Your bank account can be closed and you’ll have problems opening a new account elsewhere, as well as difficulties obtaining credit in the future such as a student loan, phone contract or mortgage.

Stop, think and act

Don’t allow your bank account to be used to move money for others. Remember, handling money that’s been obtained fraudulently is a crime – even if you don’t know where the money came from. Be especially wary of unsolicited offers of easy money. Research any company offering such job opportunities and make sure their contact details are genuine. Try to stick to reputable job ad websites used and recommended by your peers, and be especially cautious of job offers from overseas as it will be harder for you to find out if they are legitimate.

The cash machine fraud

Fraudsters continue to find new twists to this con trick but the outcome is still the same: distracted at an ATM, you lose sight of your card and your bank account is emptied before you realise.

How it could happen to you

  • You insert your card into a cash machine and tap in your account PIN. In the queue behind, a fraudster is ‘shoulder surfing’ you to see your four-digit number. 
  • A ‘passerby’ distracts you by pointing to a dropped wallet or £10 note on the floor and asking if it’s yours. 
  • As you look away from the screen, an accomplice leans in to swipe your cash or card. If they take your card, they can now use it with the PIN they’ve seen to take money from your account elsewhere.  
  • In another scenario, your card appears to get stuck and a passerby emerges to offer ‘help’. They suggest you try your PIN again – which you do – and watch to see which four numbers you type. 
  • When your card still won’t come out, they suggest you go into the branch to ask for help. In your absence, they then eject your card and take it to use elsewhere.

Stop, think and act

Before you put your card in, always look closely at the slot on the cash machine – if it looks like it’s been tampered with, don’t use it and let the bank know. You never know who’s behind you at a cash machine, so make sure you always shield your PIN from prying eyes. Never let anyone distract you – if you hear an ‘excuse me’ or ‘Is this yours?’ stay focused on your withdrawal at the machine and only respond when you’re finished. And if your card won’t come out of the machine, call your bank (or card issuer) helpline immediately to report it while you’re still standing by the machine. Don’t walk off, accept help from a stranger or pop into the ATM branch to talk to staff – this can allow a fraudster to move in and steal your card. 

Identity fraud

Fraudsters steal enough bits of personal information about you in order to impersonate you. They then take out loans and credit cards in your name, or withdraw cash from your bank account.

How it could happen to you

  • Thieves want as many details about you as possible: your name, date of birth, gender, residential address, if you’re married or not, an email address and – their ultimate prize – your bank account details.
  • To do this, they try to steal or intercept your post; cold-call you to trick you into handing over personal details; hack into your computer or social media; email you in the hope of convincing you to divulge info; or if you’ve previously disclosed details to a fraudster, your information could be sold on the black market.
  • Once they have enough personal details to pass themselves off as you, they can apply for credit cards and loans, buy smartphones or other expensive goods, and even withdraw cash – all in your name.
  • You only discover the crime when companies start calling you asking for goods payment, or debts to be repaid. Or you try to take out credit for your own genuine purposes, and discover your rating has been badly damaged by the fraudsters. This means you can’t access the deal you want.

Stop, think and act

Check your bank balance regularly for any unusual items or spending – and call your bank to query any you don’t recognise. Keep a close eye on your credit rating and watch out for unexpected activity on it. If you start to get post from a company you don’t recognise, find out who sent it and why. Be suspicious about any phone calls, texts, emails or social posts out of the blue which claim to be from your bank, an organisation or other company, and which ask for personal info. If you’re unsure, get in touch with the sender using their main phone number found in a directory or online. Never call the number in a text, email, message or on an answerphone.

Our quick tips to get you started

’Safe account’ scam

A genuine bank or the police would never ask you to transfer money to a ‘safe account’ – ignore anyone who asks you to do this, whether it’s by phone, email or any other method.

Protect your PIN

Never give out your PINsentry codes1, Mobile PINsentry codes, passcodes or Online Banking passwords1 and other full passwords to anyone.

Take care of cards

Shopping or out for a night? Never let your card out of sight. Regularly check your card’s expiry date and call us if a new card hasn’t arrived on time.

Strong passwords

Mix numbers, letters and other symbols. Try a memorable phrase such as ‘I started Baker Secondary School in 2000!’ and use each word’s initial letter i.e. IsBSSi2000!

Scams protection update

We are proud to have signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model, a voluntary code effective from 28 May 2019. The code aims to offer you better protection from Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams.

An APP scam is a payment made by you, through Faster Payments or CHAPS, where you intend to transfer funds to somebody, but are instead deceived into transferring the funds to someone else; or you transfer funds for what you believe is a genuine purpose, and this turns out to be fraudulent.  

We are continuing to increase the protection we offer you, to combat the prevalence of scams and reduce their impact. We will do everything we can to protect you. However, it is also important for you to protect yourself – our guides will show you the steps you can take.

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