Information on scams

Scams are when criminals use lies and deceit to fool you into parting with your cash. You usually get nothing in return and lose your money. Scams are getting more sophisticated and difficult to spot so it's important to know what to look for.

Spotting a scam

There are some signs that should set alarm bells ringing whenever you see them.

Always be wary of the following situations:

  • something which is sounding too good to be true normally is
  • if you are contacted unexpectedly by a company or person you have never heard of, by post, email, phone, text or on the doorstep
  • if you have been asked for personal or bank information
  • if you aren't given long to make a decision or you feel pressured into making one immediately
  • if you're asked to pay anything up-front and if the only contact details are a mobile number and a PO box address

In short, if in doubt, apply the S.C.A.M test:

  • S - seems to good to be true 
  • C - contacted out of the blue 
  • A - asked for personal details
  • M - money is requested

Latest fraud news and alerts are available from:

Listen to the mp3 audio file about individuals personal experiences at the hands of scammers:


Watch Erika's story of how she was scammed out of around £100,000.

Common scams

The nature and complexity of scams is continuously changing and is increasingly facilitated by cyber technology.

Some of the most common types of scam are listed below to help you recognise them, specific information about online scams is available at:

Boiler rooms

Also called Investment Scams, these are scams where fraudsters will contact you unexpectedly, usually by 'cold calls' via telephone, and place pressure on you to buy shares. The shares will be bogus and are likely to refer to:

  • gold
  • wine
  • land
  • forestry
  • carbon credits
  • renewable energy

You might be offered secret stock tips to make the process seem more believable or sent fake share certificates to try to make the transaction seem legitimate. The fraudsters will then disappear with your money.

Face-to-face fraud

There are many legitimate door-to-door sales people, but some may not have good intentions. You can be pressured into buying something that you don't want or that isn't worth the money you pay for it.

Fraud by bogus tradespeople can take a variety of forms including:

  • fake charity collections
  • selling you unfair or unsuitable contracts
  • home maintenance or improvements that you are overcharged for or are badly done
  • potential thieves who are checking out your valuables once inside your home

Rogue traders

Bogus tradesmen, door-to-door sales or doorstep fraud involves fraudsters trying to scam you after knocking at your door.

Pension scams

Pension fraudsters will tell you that they know a way that you can get access to some of your pension money before retirement. While you can make arrangements to withdraw money from your pension early if you’re 55 or over, it’s likely to be a scam if you see claims that:

  • you can get cash before the age of 55
  • you can get more cash than under your current scheme
  • you can have more than 25 per cent of the pension value “released”

The fraudsters might charge you a fee and any attempts to get money from your pension could leave you with a large tax bill.

Pension scams are on the increase. For advice on protecting yourself against pension scams visit:

Prize draws, sweepstakes and lottery scams

You could get a letter or email telling you that you have won a lottery, sweepstake or other prize draw and offering you a large prize. The scam can then take different forms. You might be asked to:

  • send a small amount of money as a processing fee or legal fee in order to claim a non-existent prize
  • prove your identity with a passport, which is then used by the criminals to steal your identity
  • give your bank account details so they can pay the money in but this information is then used to clear out your account
  • ring a special phone number to claim it - the call will be to a premium rate number, take a long time and cost you more than the value of the prize

More information is available on the Action Fraud website.

Property fraud

If someone offers you an opportunity to get rich quick by becoming involved in a property scheme then there are a variety of ways in which they could be trying to defraud you.

You might be offered a way to buy into a development that is not yet built. The people offering will try to tempt you by making claims about the profits that you'll make. In the case of a fraud, it will later turn out that the land is either farmland or derelict and will never get planning permission or is unsuitable for development. There will be no profit and you will lose your money. This type of fraud is also sometimes called ‘landbanking’

Alternatively, a fraudster might steal the title deeds to a property, pretend to be the owner and then try to borrow money against the property

Find out more about the different kinds of property fraud:

Further information is available on landbanking:

Vehicle fraud

There are a number of scams around buying and selling cars. You may be sold a stolen vehicle or a cloned car where the details of the car have been changed to match a legitimate vehicle. You could pay for a car that is never delivered to you or take delivery of a car that isn't the vehicle that you paid for.

Financial scams

Information on a range of scams involving financial services such as investments, banks and pensions is available below:

Remember: Scams are fraud - fraud is a crime - report the crime!

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