Impersonation scams

When someone pretends to be the police, a bank, a friend or business, to convince you to send them money. 

How it could happen to you

  • You receive an email, text message or call that looks or sounds like it’s from someone you know or deal with – scammers impersonate other people and companies by making calls or text messages that look like they’re coming from a genuine number
  • They might say that they need money urgently, you’ve got an outstanding bill to pay or that your internet isn’t working. If you’ve been contacted unexpectedly, always treat it as suspicious
  • Scammers will try to rush or panic you. They might say there’s been fraud on your account and you need to move the money to protect yourself – this is a sure sign of a scam
  • Scammers can change their caller ID or email address, or label their text message with a company name. This disguises their real identity and makes it look like it's from someone you know, and is known as ‘number spoofing’
  • If you receive unexpected messages or calls, especially ones asking for money, end the call. Use a trusted source like the company's website to find their genuine number, and then call them back

How to protect yourself

  • Think twice before opening links in text messages and emails, especially ones that ask you to give personal information or make a payment
  • Never give remote access to your computer or device to someone who has called you unexpectedly
  • Remember – an official company or organisation would never ask you to pay for something by buying items like vouchers, jewellery or gold
  • Nobody trustworthy will ever ask you to transfer your money to a ‘safe account’ or say that ‘your money is at risk’. If this happens, it’s a scam

What does it look like? 

We've written some stories that show what impersonation scams might look like. They describe common tactics we know scammers use, based on insights from our fraud and scams team.

Types of scams to watch out for

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

Impersonation scams

When someone pretends to be the police, a bank, a friend or business, to convince you to send them money. 

Investment scams

When you’re invited to invest in things that are worthless, or don’t exist.

Purchase scams

When fake or non-existent items are advertised for sale.

Advance fee scams

When fake companies ask for an upfront fee and then don’t provide the service you’ve paid for.

Invoice scams

When account details on an invoice are changed, or emails are intercepted, so the money is wrongly paid into the scammer’s account.

Romance scams

When someone pretends to be interested in a romantic relationship with you. They gain your trust and then ask for money.

Pension scams

A scammer says they can make you money, and convinces you take a lump sum out of your pension – then steals it.

Doorstop scams

A rogue trader knocks on your door and pretends your house needs work – then overcharges you for it and often doesn't finish the job.

Bereavement scams

A scammer contacts you after someone has died, and says you owe money to pay off a debt or access a payout.  

Phishing, smishing, and vishing

You receive an email, text message, or call claiming to be from a well-known company or organisation such as a bank or the police.

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