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Friday, 5 October 2012

Financial scams - how to protect yourself

Criminals regularly invent new scams to try and make money from you illegally; each year around 28 million UK consumers are targeted and £1 billion is lost. While the methods may change, the ways to protect yourself remain the same - staying alert and taking some simple precautions.

What is a scam?

A scam is an illegal scheme to make money by deception. Scams come in different forms, including letters, emails, telephone calls and text messages.

Many scams rely on you handing over or being tricked out of information that you usually keep secret. To protect yourself, always be wary about giving personal information to anyone you don't know (or haven't checked out), or to a firm or person you're unsure of.

Check the latest information about scams

Several organisations provide information about current scams and give advice on what to do if you suspect you may be a victim. These are:

The Financial Services Authority 

The Financial Services Authority website provides information about financial scams and what to look out for.

Some common scams include:

  • 'phishing' (pronounced 'fishing') - you receive an email that looks as if it comes from a bank or credit card company asking you to submit personal details of your account; these are used to steal money from your account or to steal your identity
  • 'share scams' - a stranger rings you out of the blue and tries to sell you shares in companies you've probably never even heard of
  • 'fund transfer scams' - an advert or email asks you to receive a payment into your bank or building society account, take it out as cash, and send it abroad in return for receiving a commission
  • 'advanced fee scams' - you get a letter, email or phone call offering you a large sum of money if you can help someone transfer millions of pounds out of their country; you're asked to send details of your bank account and an administration fee to initiate the transaction
  • 'identity fraud' - someone impersonates you without your knowledge or consent, or uses your personal information in order to obtain money, goods or services
  • fake websites - eg masquerading as banks or internet auction sites

Office of Fair Trading (OFT)

The OFT offers a comprehensive list of types of scam (investment and general) and tips on how to recognise a scam.

Citizens Advice consumer service

The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free, confidential and impartial advice for consumers. It offers a range of information on detecting and avoiding scams and rip-offs.

Card Watch

Card Watch is a body that works with the police, retailers and organisations, such as Crimestoppers, to help fight plastic card fraud. Their website has information about scams targeting card users.

How to report a scam

If you think you're a target or victim of a scam, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for advice on 08454 04 05 06 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday)

If you're the target or victim of an investment scam, contact the Financial Services Authority's consumer helpline on 0845 606 1234 (typetalk 18001 0845 606 1234). Lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.

Additional links

Protect your identity

Identity theft information website

How to protect yourself from identity theft, and what to do if it happens to you

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