Financial scams

Learn how to avoid them

Familiarise yourself with some of the most common types of fraud – and know what to do if you think someone’s trying to trick you.

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. Familiarise yourself with some of the more common scams listed below. 

Please contact us straightaway if someone has taken money from your Barclays account, or if you’ve accidentally given your details to a fraudster. If you think you may have been a victim of fraud, report it immediately to Action Fraud, either by calling 0300 123 2040 or online.


Online shopping scams

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. 

You should always be vigilant when you shop online. One method alone isn’t guaranteed to keep fraudsters away, so it’s best to take a broad approach. With that in mind, here’s some information that could help.

How it could happen to you

  • Fraudsters will create a fake website that looks real
  • Fake sellers will convince you to send the payment directly to their bank account – but the goods you paid for never arrive

Stop and think: How do I know if the site I am paying on is safe?

Be cautious

Never follow a link in an unexpected email. It’s also a good idea to check the spelling in the URL to make sure it’s legitimate. As an example, barcleys-bank.co.uk is incorrect – the real URL is barclays.co.uk.

Research the seller

Before buying online, do some research on the seller to check they’re genuine, and avoid those with poor ratings.

See the goods

Finally, insist on seeing high-value items, like cars on online auction sites, before paying – and always use secure payment methods, such as PayPal or your credit card. These measures will help keep you digitally safe.

Remote access

Remote access is where fraudsters gain the ability to control your computer by persuading you to give them access. They do so from a distance – so they could be anywhere in the world.

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 or computer company
  • They tell you that your computer is experiencing technical problems, and they need to access it remotely to fix the problem
  • They ask you to buy software or sign up to a service to fix the computer
  • They ask for your personal details and your bank or credit card details
  • The caller is very persistent

Stop and think

If you get a call like this, hang up.

Never give your personal or payment details, or online account information, over the phone – unless you made the call, and the phone number came from a trusted source.

Make sure your computer is protected with updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Research first and only purchase software from a source that you know and trust.

Investment fraud

This is when fraudsters pose as salespeople and contact you offering investment opportunities like shares, plots of land, gold, carbon credits or wine. When offering investment opportunities, fraudsters sometimes use publicly available information to impersonate genuine Barclays companies and employees.

How it could happen to you

  • You receive a phone call unexpectedly from a sales person about an investment opportunity
  • They apply pressure, saying the offer or opportunity is available for a limited time
  • They downplay the risks of the investment, perhaps suggesting that you can sell something if the investment is unsuccessful
  • They promise tempting returns
  • They call repeatedly and keep you on the phone for long periods of time
  • They ask you not to tell anyone, as the deal is only being offered to you

Stop and think

Chances are, any offer you receive out of the blue is likely to be very risky or a scam. If you are considering an investment, do some research before you take the plunge, so you can check that the salespeople who’ve contacted you are who they say they are. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) warning list details firms and individuals that the FCA knows are operating without its authorisation. The list also provides information about the risks associated with particular investment opportunities. 


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 since April 2015, there are more opportunities for investment scammers to convince people to invest their pension pots in unregulated or bogus schemes.

How it could happen to you

  • You receive an unsolicited call or email about your pension
  • You’re encouraged to talk about your pension, and you’re offered a ‘free pension review'

Stop and think

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.

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.

Money mules

‘Money mules’ or ‘money transfer agents’ have stolen money transferred into their accounts, and then they move it on – typically sending it overseas.

How it could happen to you

  • Money-mule criminals could try to recruit you via email, job-search websites and adverts
  • They’ll offer you payment for moving the money elsewhere

Stop and think

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. 

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