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How to avoid scams and what to do if you’re a victim

3 minute read

Fraud and scams are often difficult to spot. We explain how to protect yourself and where to go for help if you’re a victim.

Who's it for? All investors

The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you could get back less than you invest. If you’re not sure about investing, seek professional independent advice.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to spot a scam.
  • How to protect yourself from falling victim to scams.
  • Who to contact if you’re a victim of a fraud or scam.

Falling victim to a fraud or scam can not only result in serious financial losses, but may also have huge emotional consequences, with those affected often feeling shocked, worried and ashamed.

It’s vital to remember that if you are a victim of this type of crime, you’re not alone and support is available, but it’s essential you report what’s happened as soon as possible.

Here, in the second of our two articles on frauds and scams, we look at how to spot a scam, ways to protect yourself, and where to go for help if you’re a victim.

How to spot a scam

Although fraud and scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, there warning signs to watch out for which might indicate someone is trying to steal your money.

Have you received an unsolicited call?

If you’re contacted out of the blue by someone promising you a tax refund or telling you there’s a problem with your internet connection or computer and that they need remote access to correct it, this will usually be a scam.

Have you been asked to keep something quiet?

Scammers want to avoid detection, so will often ask you to not to discuss any financial transaction they want you to make with friends or family.

Are there spelling mistakes in the emails or letters you’ve been sent?

Legitimate organisations will rarely make grammatical or spelling mistakes in the communications they send you, so if you spot lots of errors, this should be a red flag that you may not be dealing with a genuine business.

Are you being offered something that looks too good to be true?

If you’re contacted by someone offering you a bargain holiday or a prize from a competition you never entered, it’s likely to be a scam.

Are you being asked to pay for something in an unusual way?

If someone asks you to pay for a service or goods using an international money transfer service, or if they want payment in vouchers, this should ring warning bells.

How to protect yourself

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from scams. Follow these seven golden rules to help you stay safe:

  1. Never disclose your debit card personal identification number (PIN), your full telephone banking passcode or full online banking membership number/login details to anyone. Your bank won’t ever ask you for these details
  2. If in doubt that a company contacting you is genuine, use a telephone number from the official website, your statement or a bill. Always check the line is properly disconnected before calling back – call someone else first or use a different phone
  3. Don’t be forced into making any hasty decisions. Always take your time and remember that legitimate organisations shouldn’t push you into anything
  4. Steer clear of any investment promising unrealistic returns
  5. Always shred bills, bank statements and other documents containing your personal details before disposing of them
  6. Always verbally check that bank account details have genuinely changed, by calling the company’s telephone number from their official website
  7. Your bank and the police will never collect your bank card and PIN, or ask you to move money to a safe account, so never agree to do this.

Stay safe online

To protect yourself from online fraud, make sure you create strong passwords for all your accounts, and never use the same password twice. The strongest passwords usually contain a mix of numbers, letters and other symbols. Try a memorable phrase such as ‘I had my son James in 2005!’ and use each word’s initial letter, for example IhmsJi2005!

You should also be careful when using public WiFi – you should never use it for banking or shopping as fraudsters may be able to access your log-in details.

Be wary of any unsolicited emails asking for information about passwords or log-in details, even if they look entirely legitimate. Always contact the company who’s supposedly made the request to find out if it is from them and make sure you use their correct number rather than calling any number shown on the email.

Barclays has fraud monitoring systems in place, so occasionally you may be contacted to confirm a recent transaction, or any changes made to your account.

If we do call, we won’t ever ask for your passcodes, passwords, PIN, card details, PINsentry codes or sensitive account information.

What to do if you think you’re the victim of a fraud or scam

Notify your bank immediately if you have handed over your account details or if you have made a payment out of your account that you believe is a scam.

Report the fraud to Action Fraud, which is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, on 0300 123 2040, or you can report fraud online at Action Fraud.

You should let the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) know via its Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768, or you can report it online.

If you live in England or Wales and have been affected by this or any other type of crime and need support, you can call Victim Support’s Support line on 0808 1689111, or you can request support online.

If you live in Scotland, you can contact Victim Support Scotland on 0800 160 1985 or visit Victim Support Scotland. If you live in Northern Ireland and want to make an appointment to speak to someone from Victim Support NI, call 02890 243133 (Belfast) or 02871 370086 (Foyle) or go online at Victim Support NI.

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