Phone scams and cold calls

Phone scams are a common way for criminals to con people out of money using various tricks to get your personal or financial information.

Common types of phone scams

Over half of all scams start with a phone call. Find out some of the ways scammers try to trick you over the phone.

Bank and building society scams

These scams typically involve a fraudster, pretending to be from your bank, phoning you to say you’ve been a victim of fraud.

There are many variations on this scam.

They may ask you for personal and financial information to get access to your bank account or to commit identity theft.

Or they may tell you there is a corrupt member of staff in your bank and they need your help to identify them. They may also ask you to transfer all your funds into a ‘safe account’ because your account has been taken over.

What you should do

You should wait for 20 minutes before you call your bank on a trusted phone number to check it out. This is because scammers are able to keep phone lines open. Whilst you think you are making a new phone call, the line is still open to the scammer who pretends to be a different person from your bank or the police. If possible, use a different phone or call somebody else in the meantime.

Computer software scams

Scammers may call you claiming to be from a well-known software company, saying there is a problem with your computer and they need full remote access to your computer to fix it.

They may charge you a fee or use the unlimited access to your computer to commit identity theft or to gain access to your online banking account.

Investment and pension scams

Fraudsters call offering the chance to buy share sales, wine investments, land banking, carbon credits, rare metals, diamonds or other gemstones.

Another emerging scam involves false claims about pension liberation, also known as ‘pension loans’.

Many people have lost their entire life savings to investment scammers.

One such victim who was caught out by an investment telephone scam was 'Erika who was scammed out of £100,000. Watch Erika’s story and hear her advice about how to avoid falling victim to the same scams.

Tax owed

Some fraudsters will cold call and claim that they are from HMRC or the Court or immigration authorities, and that you will be arrested if you don’t pay a sum of tax.

Protecting yourself from telephone scams

There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of a scam by phone.

Reject cold calls. Sign up for a call blocking service. This might not stop all scam calls but it will stop cold-callers.

If you receive a phone call from someone you don’t know, always ask for the name of the person you are speaking to and who they work for. Check this information by calling the company’s office on a different phone line in case the caller is holding the line open.

Never give out your personal, full credit card or online account details unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.

Never assume that someone is who they say they are just because the number on your caller display matches that of the organisation you know. Scammers can clone telephone numbers of organisations they want to impersonate and make the number appear on your caller ID display.

It’s best not to respond to text messages or missed calls that come from numbers you don’t recognise or are not expecting.

Preventing and reporting scams

You can find advice on how to protect yourself and others from becoming a victim of a scam as well as information on how to report a fraud at the links below.

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