Protecting people against scams is more important than ever. Many people are in difficult circumstances due to poor health, lack of employment, debt, or isolation. Scammers are taking advantage of this, so it is important people have the knowledge and tools to protect themselves.
What is a scam
A scam is a fraud, often carried out by organised groups to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation.
Spotting a scam
Anyone can be a victim of a scam. Some of the main warning signs of scams to look out for are:
- It seems too good to be true – like an email saying you’ve won a competition you don’t remember entering.
- Someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly. They may tell you they are from your bank or police to trick you into trusting them.
- You’re being urged to respond quickly so you don’t get time to think about it or talk to family and friends.
- You’ve been asked to pay for something urgently or in an unusual way – for example by bank transfer or gift vouchers.
- You’ve been asked to give away personal information.
If someone thinks they might have been scammed, they should get advice immediately. They can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline (0808 223 1133) for help and report it to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).
If seeking advice on the telephone, the line should be tested to make sure the scammer is no longer there. Scammers often stay on the line and will pretend to be the bank or police.
Advice on how to protect yourself from scams
There are some simple steps people can take to protect themselves from scams:
- Don’t be rushed into making any decisions. It’s okay to take your time.
- Never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don’t know, trust or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it’s most likely a scam.
- Before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company’s details on Companies House, and take a look at their terms and conditions.
- Pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong.
- Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website and say all the right things. Take your time to work out if this is a real organisation. Contact the organisation on a number you know and trust. Don’t fall for a fake ID.
- Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
- Keep your online accounts secure. Use a strong password for email accounts that you don’t use anywhere else.
- If you’re not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source.
- Use the Which Trusted Trader website
What to do if someone has been scammed
If someone has been scammed, there are 3 steps they need to take:
- Protect themselves from further risks
They should contact their bank immediately to let them know what’s happened. They should also change the compromised log-in details, and check for viruses if they were scammed on a computer.
- Check if they can get their money back
If they’ve lost money because of a scam, there might be ways to get it back. They should tell their bank what happened straight away. If they’ve paid for something by card, bank transfer, Direct Debit or PayPal, then they might get help to recover their money.
- Report the scam
Reporting scams helps to stop responsible criminals and protects others from being scammed. Anyone who’s been scammed should:
- Call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133.
- Report the scam to Action Fraud. They’ll assign a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you’ve been scammed.
It’s also important to talk about our experiences with family and friends. Sharing our experience can help others to be more alert to scams.
Where to go for more help
There’s a lot of advice in the consumer section of the Citizens Advice website, including how to:
- Check if something might be a scam
- Check if you can get your money back after a scam
- What to do if you’ve been scammed
- Report a scam
- Get emotional support if you’ve been scammed
- Get help with online scams
- You can check recent scams on Action Fraud’s website and sign up for email alerts to find out about scams in your area at www.actionfraud.police.uk/news.
- You can also find out about common financial scams on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website at www.fca.org.uk/consumers/protect-yourself-scams.
Further advice is available on Consumer advice pages on the HCC website.
Hertfordshire Trading Standards
Nationally Trading Standards protect consumers and businesses. The Hertfordshire Team will contact scam victims and listen to them. Where possible Trading Standards Officers will intervene to obtain refunds, stop payments and protect victims for the future. In some cases, the team will also investigate and prosecute criminal offences. There is a small stock of call blocking devices available that can be lent to vulnerable victims to help prevent future landline telephone scams.
Trading Standards work jointly with Which? Trusted Traders to help find reputable traders who are competent and charge fairly. Every endorsed trader has met the agreed standards.
Further advice on services from Hertfordshire Trading Standards is available at their website: Scams are crimes | Hertfordshire County Council
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