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Partner briefing

Thank you for taking part in the Scams Awareness Campaign 2020, which will take place from 15 - 28 June. This annual campaign is all about creating a network of confident, #scamaware consumers who are able to recognise a scam, report it to the appropriate agency and talk about their experiences to help raise public awareness of scams.

Empowering the public to protect themselves and others from scams is more important than ever this year due to the current coronavirus crisis. That's why we'll be focusing on raising awareness of COVID-19 related scams.

The campaign has gone from strength to strength thanks to your vital work. Over the past five years the number of organisations taking part has more than doubled, and the campaign has consistently increased calls to the Consumer Service and reports to Action Fraud. Together we have managed to raise a huge amount of awareness of scams across the country.

This briefing provides information about this year’s campaign and how you can get involved, as well as offering support, useful information and contact details to help make this year’s campaign a success.

You can find more materials to help you campaign in your communities on our resources page.

Why campaign on scams?

Spam emails, ‘suspicious activity’ alerts from your bank, news stories about data breaches – unfortunately, scams and fraud seem to have become part of our daily lives. The data underlines this. A recent Citizens Advice report found that almost three quarters of people surveyed had been targeted by a scam in the previous two years. The National Audit Office (NAO) has estimated that individuals in the UK lose £10 billion a year due to fraud.

Coronavirus Scams

Empowering the public to protect themselves and others from scams is more important than ever this year due to the current coronavirus crisis. 

Scammers seek to exploit vulnerability, and coronavirus has put more people into difficult situations, with many facing issues with employment, debt, housing and health. The overall heightened anxiety caused by the pandemic is also making everyone more vulnerable and more likely to fall victim to a scam.

There are also increased opportunities for scammers to take advantage of people. Due to social distancing measures there are currently more people online and using technology, more people at home during the day, and more people applying for government support schemes as they are unable to work.

Our data shows that scammers have been exploiting these circumstances, with scams including:

  • adverts of face masks or medical equipment at high prices

  • emails or texts pretending to be from the government

  • emails offering life insurance against coronavirus

  • people knocking at your door and asking for money for fake charities

As a result, this year’s Scams Awareness campaign will be focusing on the scams that have emerged as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak. 

What do we want to achieve?

Through the Scams Awareness campaign we want to:

  • Equip consumers with the skills needed to recognise scams

Scams come in many forms and are increasingly complex and sophisticated. We want to arm people with the knowledge they need to recognise scams, and if they think they are being targeted to stop and seek advice on what to do next.

  • Empower people to take action and report scams using the appropriate channels

If someone thinks they’ve been scammed, there are steps they can take to protect themselves from things getting worse. If they take action immediately, they might even be able to recover some of the money they lost.

With data suggesting that as few as 1 in 7 fraud incidents are reported by the victim, either to the police or Action Fraud, it makes it hard for enforcement to effectively tackle scams across the country.

While there is a recognition that police resources are stretched, the National Crime Agency have recently announced that they are prioritising and reviewing fraud reports to Action Fraud. The more people that report scams to them, the stronger action they can take.

  • Encourage people to talk about their experiences and help others

Anyone can be vulnerable to scams, and yet we still don’t talk enough about them. Those impacted by scams often still feel a sense of shame about falling victim to them. This stigma can contribute to under-reporting, and stifles conversations around protecting yourself and others.

We want to get rid of the stigma around scams and encourage people to talk about their experiences and work together to stop scams. 

Safely campaigning during the COVID-19 outbreak

In response to the current social distancing measures, we have shifted the focus away from face-to-face campaigning. It's important that all campaigners adhere to government social distancing measures and take the necessary precautions to only spread our messages - not the virus. The safety of you and the people we are trying to reach is the biggest priority.

Instead, this year’s campaign will be predominantly digital. To reflect this shift, we have provided more electronic resources to increase the digital capacity of the scams awareness campaign.

Reaching the digitally excluded

As we are all susceptible to falling victim to scams, particularly throughout this pandemic. we want the campaign to reach as many people as possible. Avoiding face-to-face campaigning this year will make it more difficult to get through to those who are digitally excluded. It is really important that we reach these groups as they are often some of the most vulnerable.   

In the next section, we have provided suggestions for how to get involved. While many of these can be done digitally, we’ve also included campaign activities that target people who are digitally excluded and might be more difficult to reach through the electronic campaign resources.

If you would like guidance and advice on how to safely carry out any activities you are planning please email campaigns@citizensadvice.org.uk.

How to get involved

There are lots of ways you can take part in this year’s scams awareness campaign. We’ve pulled together a page of suggested activities. No matter how much time you have to spend raising awareness - whether that’s 2 minutes or 2 weeks - there’s an option for you.

It’s worth talking to potential partners, such as Trading Standards, police and crime commissioners’ offices, and local authorities about the evidence of scams locally and how best to prioritise activities.

Good partnership work with local organisations and community groups in your area will be central to a successful campaign and ongoing scam-fighting activities throughout the year.

We understand that carrying out campaign activities that involve the digitally excluded will be more difficult this year; anything you can do to help raise awareness of scams in your area is greatly appreciated.

Get in touch

Whatever you do for the Scams Awareness campaign 2020, please let us know about it, so we can highlight and co-ordinate your efforts. It will also help us to evaluate the campaign for future years.

If you are tweeting remember to use #scamaware. Please also email us pictures and updates about your events directly to campaigns@citizensadvice.org.uk.

If you are part of the Citizens Advice service you can let us know about your activities by sending a Local Action Reporting Form.

For any queries about this resource or the Scams Awareness campaign please contact campaigns@citizensadvice.org.uk

Quick scams facts and advice

What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Other names for a scam include fraud, hoax, con, swindle and cheat.

Facts about scams

  • The National Audit Office (NAO) estimated  that individuals lose £10 billion a year due to online fraud.

  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated there were 3.8 million incidents of fraud for the year ending June 2019.

  • Citizens Advice research [ 0.89 mb] from 2017 found that:

    • Almost three-quarters (72%) of people have been targeted by scammers in the last 2 years, either via mail, phone calls, text messages, emails, online, and face-to-face.

    • Over a third (37%) of people have been targeted 5 times or more.

    • Almost half (45%) of people have taken no action to protect themselves against scams in the last 12 months, and two-thirds (65%) have taken no action to help protect friends or family.

    • 7 out of 10 (68%) of people targeted by a scam do not tell anyone about it.

  • The CSEW suggests that only 1 in 7 of incidents of fraud either come to the attention of the police or are reported by the victim to Action Fraud.

Scams advice

There are four important things that people can do if they suspect they’re the target of a scam:

  1. If payment or banking details are involved in the scam the person’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company. If the scam is a pension transfer, they need to contact the provider immediately, along with the Pensions Advisory Service.

  2. Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133, or on 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. You can also get advice and information online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/sa20. The Citizens Advice consumer service can also report problems to Trading Standards for you. Trading Standards are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.

  1. Report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime.

  2. Tell family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams and find out how to protect themselves.

Useful links and resources

There are lots of other resources, content and advice that you can use to help you campaign, some of which are listed below. You can also take a look at our Partner Hub, where we’re signposting people to resources, training and materials from partners and other relevant organisations.

Resources to help teach consumers about scams

  • Citizens Advice scams advice pages. Citizens Advice offers free advice and helps people to find a way forward. You can also contact the consumer service for free consumer advice, including advice on scams at 0808 223 1133 (or 0808 223 1144 to contact a Welsh-speaking adviser).

  • Friends Against Scams. Run by the National Trading Standards scams team, the campaign aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities and businesses to ’Take a Stand Against Scams’.

  • The Pensions Regulator has handy downloads for consumers to help them spot pension scams.

  • The Money Advice Service offers free and impartial money advice, including advice about scams.

  • The Financial Conduct Authority has a register of authorised financial firms at www.fca.org.uk/register and a list of firms which have been implicated in scams. The FCA website also has advice to help investors avoid falling victim to scammers and a Scam Smart game showing examples of investment scams. 

  • www.cyberaware.gov.uk is a website launched by the government aimed at helping the public and small businesses to spot and avoid fraud, by raising awareness and promoting digital security for online users.
  • Get Safe Online are an organisation aimed at informing consumers to protect themselves from online scams with factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety.

  • Led by UK Finance and backed by the government, Take Five is a national awareness campaign providing advice and tips for consumers on how to protect themselves from financial fraud.

Help for people who have been scammed

  • Think Jessica is a charity that raises awareness of scams that target elderly and vulnerable people in their own homes, including by telephone, the postal system and on the doorstep. 

  •  Victim Support gives free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family, friends and anyone else affected across England and Wales. Call 0808 1689 111.

  • Age UK has local branches around the UK providing help and support for older people. Call the national line for free on 0800 678 1602.