Other fraudulent scams

As one of the most common criminal threats, fraudulent scams are designed to trick you into handing over your money or personal information under the guise of legitimacy.

Don’t be fooled

One of the best ways to combat online fraud is to be aware of how these scams operate. We’ve listed some of the most common scams, along with tips on how to avoid them.

You may also wish to explore our useful links to other fraud prevention and online security websites providing comprehensive guidance and advice.

Fraudsters may call you out of the blue claiming to be from a well known IT support company or software firm informing you that there is a problem with your computer that needs fixing, like a virus. The fraudster may already know your name and other personal information from public records such as the phone directory.

They may ask you for the username or password for your computer, or direct you to visit a website and install software that allows them access to your computer under the guise of helping you to fix the problem. This leaves your computer and personal information vulnerable to the following threats:

  • You may be tricked into installing malicious programs that could capture sensitive data such as passwords or usernames
  • They may request your credit or debit card details so they can charge you for false services they claim to have provided
  • They may take control of your computer remotely and change settings to leave your computer vulnerable to other common online threats
  • They may direct you to fraudulent websites that ask you to enter personal or financial information such as your bank account details

How can I protect myself?

If you receive this kind of unsolicited phone call, simply hang up. Remember the following at all times:

  • Legitimate IT and software companies do not contact customers in this way
  • Never give any personal information to an unsolicited caller
  • Never give control of your computer to an unverified third party

If you are still unsure contact the firm they claim to represent, using their publicly listed contact details, to establish if the call is genuine.

Fraudsters are now taking advantage of the popularity of online shopping by targeting unsuspecting consumers in the following ways:

Fake websites

Set up to impersonate a genuine business or falsely pretending to be a legitimate business in order to obtain personal information and defraud visitors. These types of phishing attempts are often combined with emails sent out pretending to be from legitimate businesses.

Online auction scams

Sellers tricking victims into paying for counterfeit goods, or sometimes no goods at all, using legitimate auction sites.

Ticket scams

Websites offering popular, hard-to-get tickets for concerts and sporting events that are in fact counterfeit or do not exist.

How can I protect myself?

There are some simple steps you can take before making purchases online to help reduce the risks:

  • Check the online reviews and customer feedback of sellers to find out if they are reputable
  • Learn how to keep your online information and computer protected. See our guidance on how to protect yourself online for basic precautions.
  • Check the online business details yourself. All UK companies should have a physical address and telephone number listed on their website; this data can be checked on the public register of UK companies through the Companies House website.
  • Make sure that the checkout webpage of online businesses is secure by looking out for the padlock symbol/the letters ‘https’ in the address bar
  • Follow the security advice provided by any auction websites you use
  • Always keep a record or your online purchases and monitor your bank and credit card statements for any unusual or unexpected transactions; contact your bank or card issuer if you are suspicious.

Visit the government's Get Safe Online website for more detailed advice and for guidance on how to check a webpage is secure.

Visit our boiler room and share scams page for a more detailed guide to this threat and for advice on how to deal with it.

Also called a ‘419’ scam, an advance fee fraud is when fraudsters ask you for an advance or upfront payment in return for promised goods, services, financial reward or employment that will never materialise.

You could be contacted by email, phone, fax or post with scammers often posing as members of genuine organisations and government agencies in order to create the illusion of legitimacy.

Fraudsters will often ask you for payment via Money Transfer as a preferred way of obtaining the funds as quickly as possible.

Different types of advance fee fraud include:

Share purchase scams

Following an offer to buy shares from you at inflated prices, a payment is requested to secure the deal. You will be told that this will be reimbursed if the deal does not go ahead, however once paid the share deal will not take place and your payment will not be returned.

Overpayment scams

A payment is made to the victim for goods or services using a fraudulent payment method (e.g. stolen credit card details). The payment is made for a higher amount than the actual value and the difference is reimbursed to the fraudster before the victim discovers that the initial payment is fraudulent.

Lottery or cash prize scams

A release fee is requested to claim a fictitious prize that will never arrive.

Online dating scams

After gaining the victim’s trust over the internet, money is requested for a variety of emotive reasons.

Loan scams

Following the victim’s reply to an advert for a fast loan, a fee is requested to cover the loan’s insurance, set up the loan or cover the first month's repayment. The loan will never be received.

Inheritance scams

Legal fees are requested in order to split the inheritance of an unrelated individual who shares the victim's family name. The deceased individual and their inheritance will not exist.

How can I protect myself?

Stay on your guard when approached by individuals in this way. Ask yourself the following:

  • Have I asked or applied for this?
  • Is the request unsolicited?
  • Am I being guaranteed something if I give money?
  • Am I being pressured to respond quickly?
  • Have I been told not to discuss this with anybody else?
  • Is this the normal way to do business or carry out a relationship?
  • Is their spelling or grammar as expected for someone of their position or stated background?

Do not respond to the request and cease contact if you have any suspicion over the validity of the communication. Fraudsters will share or sell on your details to other fraudsters and you may be targeted again.

If the person who has contacted you claims to be from a legitimate company or other organisation then contact the firm using their publicly listed contact details to establish if the request is genuine. See our page on how to check if an email is genuine to learn more on verifying emails.

If you do send funds by money or wire transfer, make sure that it is to someone who you have met and trust.

Remember, if the promise seems too good to be true then it probably is!