Scams are schemes to con you out of your money. They can arrive by post, phone call, text message or email or a scammer may turn up at your home.
Financial scams are ways of getting hold of your bank details to steal money from your account. Some financial scams persuade you to invest in bogus deals involving shares or other investments.
This page helps you recognise some of the most common financial scams so you can avoid getting caught out.
Advanced fee scams
Advanced fee scams trick you into paying money upfront with the promise of receiving goods, services, or money later on. But none of these things ever arrive.
Some examples are:
- offering you huge fees in exchange for 'helping' someone transfer money out of a country that’s in trouble
- asking you to pay upfront fees for loans or credit cards that you don’t receive
- a buyer sending a cheque for something you’re selling, for more than the agreed price. You’re then asked to return the difference in the price. The cheque bounces and you lose your money.
You receive an email that looks like it comes from a bank or credit card company asking for details of your account. These scams are designed to steal your money or personal identity.
You receive a phone call from someone you think is from a bank or building society, fraud investigation team or the police. They try to get financial information from you such as your credit or debit card details (including PIN), bank account details and your full name, date of birth or address.
This information is then used by the scammer to gain access to your finances or to get you to make payments into the scammer's account.
A scammer gets hold of your personal details and pretends to be you to get money, goods or services without your knowledge or agreement.
Fund transfer scams
You receive an email, letter or phone call asking you to receive a payment into your bank account. You’re asked to take this payment out in cash and send the money abroad using a money transfer service or similar method of transfer. In return, you’re promised commission. You may never receive the commission. Even if you do receive a small payment, you’re probably being used by criminals to launder money. You could be committing a serious criminal offence – as well as giving criminals details of your bank account.
Some sites look like the websites of banks or internet auction sites but are fake sites set up to steal your money or personal identity.
Scam ticket websites claim to be able to sell you tickets for popular events but, after you've paid, the tickets never arrive and your calls and emails aren't answered.
There are also copycat websites that look like the websites of well-known brands but which sell fake goods. These are often poor quality or even set up to steal your financial details.
You may be contacted out of the blue and asked to buy shares in a company you’ve never heard of. Or you could be invited to invest in gemstones or fine wines that are 'guaranteed' to rocket in price.
Share scams are often called boiler room scams because they are run from 'boiler rooms' where scammers cold-call investors. If you buy these shares you may find that the companies don't exist or that the shares are worthless. You should never buy shares from firms that aren't authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA). If you do buy shares from an unauthorised trader you won't be entitled to any compensation if things go wrong.
If you invest in something like gemstones or fine wines, you may find that you have bought something overpriced and difficult to sell on.
- The FCA can help you check whether a firm selling shares is authorised
- Get some tips to avoid online scams
- Get some tips to avoid other scams
Other useful information
- Action Fraud A-Z of scams at: www.actionfraud.police.uk
- Bank safe online at: www.banksafeonline.org.uk
- Financial Fraud Action UK at: www.financialfraudaction.org.uk
- For the latest on financial scams see the Financial Conduct Authority at: www.fca.org.uk
- Which? provides regular updates on current scams and how to avoid them