Phone scams are on the rise with criminals targeting households across the UK to try and defraud people out of their money.

Typically fraudsters try to cold call members of the public pretending to be from a trusted organisation – like your bank, the police, a utility provider or a computer company.

While the criminals’ tactics can vary, the aim is the same. They want to get your personal or financial information, encourage you to hand over your cards or cash, or trick into transferring money into accounts they control.

Don’t fall for their tricks.

Read on to find out about the scams and what you can do to stay safe.

How the scams work

One of the most common methods we see involves a fraudster posing as your bank or the police. They claim there’s been fraud on your bank account and you need to act quickly to protect your money.

Their solution is for you to transfer your money to a so-called ‘safe account’. But the account is actually controlled by the fraudster and when you move the money, they steal it.

In a twist on this scam, the criminal asks you to assist in a police investigation of supposedly corrupt staff in a bank or foreign money exchange, who they claim are issuing fake currency.

You’re then asked to visit the branch and withdraw a large amount of cash and take it home, where it is collected by a fraudster posing as a policeman or a courier.

To make their call appear genuine, fraudsters often use a tactic called ‘number spoofing’. This enables them to alter the phone number from which they are calling so that it matches your bank’s number. Then they ask you to check your handset display in an attempt to convince you it’s a real call.

Other common phone scams include:

  • being told that your computer has a virus or that your internet connection is running slow. The fraudster then takes control of your computer to ‘fix’ the problem, but instead actually installs software which steals your data. They may also watch you as you’re asked to log into your online banking account.
  • claiming that you’re due a refund or compensation for poor service, such as for your internet connection. They get your bank details, but then say they have accidentally sent thousands of pounds, rather than hundreds, an error which will cost them their job. They then ask for the difference to be refunded via a wire transfer.

How to stay safe

Fraudsters can sound extremely professional and will do all they can to convince you that their call is genuine.

But there are some simple steps you can take to keep safe.

It’s really important to be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, especially when they ask for your personal or financial details.

Remember – your bank or the police will never:

  • Ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say it is in your name.
  • Phone you to ask for your 4-digit card PIN or your online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad.
  • Ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping.
  • Send someone to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book if you are a victim of fraud.
  • Ask you to purchase goods using your card and then hand them over for safe-keeping.

If you are given any of these instructions, it is a fraudulent approach.

Hang up the phone, wait five minutes, then call your bank or card issuer on a number you trust – such as the one on their website or on the back of your bank card.

Your bank will also never ask you to check the number showing on your phone’s display matches their registered phone number.

Criminals may already have some information about you, for example your name and address. So don’t assume that a call is genuine just because they have these details or because they claim to represent a legitimate organisation you use or a person that you know.

Never feel pressurised into making a quick response; scammers will sometimes try to hurry you into taking action. A genuine organisation will always give you the time you need to make an informed decision.

If you’re ever at all suspicious about a call, then just hang up the phone.

The UK banks, building societies and card issuers, with the support of the police, have published a Joint Declaration which clearly explains those requests they will NEVERask of you on the phone.

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You can also download the declaration here.

Neighbourhood Watch Week

National Neighbourhood & Home Watch Week is an annual awareness-raising campaign, held during the week of the longest day, to promote Neighbourhood Watch and Home Watch to the general public alongside topical crime prevention information.

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Neighbourhood Watch has 173,000 volunteers who talk to their neighbours about the rising danger of scams as criminals increasingly focus on scams that avoid face-to-face contact.

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Hang Up On Fraud

Neighbourhood Watch’s volunteers help to warn those in their community of the dangers of phone scams and give people advice on how to protect themselves and telling people to “hang up on fraud”.

Click on the image to the left to download the Hang Up On Fraud (Neighbourhood Watch branded) leaflet.