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How can I protect myself from being scammed?

A scam is when a person lies to get money. It can be well planned and involve many people.

Scammers may reach you by:

  • Email
  • Text
  • Phone call

Sometimes someone might show up at your door.

Either way, the consequences of scams can be long-lasting.

Many people have debt problems after a scam.

A scammer's job is to convince people. It can be to hard to tell what is real.

This page will help you learn:

  • How to recognise a scam – so you can tell when you’re at risk
  • What can happen if you get scammed
  • What steps to take if you think you are targeted
  • How to report a scam

How might a scammer try to take advantage of me?


It is a lot easier to take advantage of someone who trusts you.

Scammers will often focus on this first.

  • They may know your name
  • They may use a hidden number or one your phone recognises
  • They may say they are from a company you use
  • Their emails may look like what you get from your bank or other companies

They may:

  • Want personal information to access your online accounts
  • Try to make a long-term connection and build trust slowly


Many scammers try to push you into a quick decision.

  • They may say something is 'time-sensitive'
  • They may say there is a danger if you do not act
  • They may use information they already have about you

This is a common tactic to catch you off guard.


Scammers might make grand promises.

"Doing what I tell you to will help you in this way."

For example:

  • Invest now for nothing with a high payout guaranteed
  • We can offer you that bill cheaper than anywhere else
  • We can help you get in on the "ground floor"
  • We can give you something no one else has

Pension or investment scams are popular.

Cold calling about pension schemes was banned in 2019.

Beware any unexpected contact trying to sell you a pension or invest your pension funds.

Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

What are some common types of scams I should look out for?

Scams come in many forms, but examples of common ones include:

Companies pretending to be StepChange

Clients tell us they get messages or have phone calls from people saying they are us.

We call these 'clone firms'.


  • We only contact you in the way you told us to
  • Update your preferences if you change your mind
  • We never use WhatsApp or messaging apps
  • If you get one, it is almost certainly fake
  • Tell us if you receive anything strange
  • We will look into it

Use our contact page so you know it is us.

We will tell you if the contact was real.

Find out more about clone firms here.

Cold calls that seem to be from your bank

What is the risk?

You may give personal details to a scammer that lets them access your bank account.

Your other accounts may use the same details.

How do I stay safe?

Remember, your bank will NEVER ask you to:

  • Tell them your online banking password
  • Authorise a payment from your account
  • Move your money into another ‘safe’ account
  • Carry out a ‘test transaction’ on your account to ‘check that it is working’

What should I do if a scammer phones me?

End the call immediately.

Taking money like this is fraud, a serious criminal offence.

Make sure the line is completely cut off.

Some scammers can keep the line open even if you think you hung up.

This means that if you phone the bank right away on the same phone:

  • You may end up speaking to the scammers again
  • Even if it is a different voice

To make sure the connection is broken:

  • Phone a friend or parent from the same phone
  • You know a loved one's voice
  • This helps you know the scammer is disconnected

Get in touch with your bank and let them know what happened

Their fraud department can:

  • Raise an enquiry for you
  • Escalate to the police

Check your bank account after the call. Is any money missing? Tell the fraud team right away.

Email “phishing” scams

This is when you get an email from what looks like a trusted source like your bank.

What is the risk?

Scammers can use your personal information to get into your accounts.

The email usually:

  • Asks you to click on a link and
  • Login to your bank account

But you are actually giving your information to a fake website.

The email usually looks like it is from a real organisation.

It will use:

  • The company logo
  • The same design
  • Similar language

These can be very convincing.

How do I stay safe?

Spelling and grammar

Look for errors.

Real bank emails are checked by multiple people before sign off.

An email with spelling mistakes or bad English would not come from your bank.

The email address

Where did the email come from?

Click on the ‘from’ name at the top of the message.

Scam email addresses to be:

  • Filled with random numbers
  • Misspelled
  • Have a different name
  • Use a different domain than the real company
  • For example, someone claiming to write from HSBC might have an email address ending in HBBC.com


Look at the link before you click on it.

On a desktop computer:

  • Hover your mouse cursor over the link
  • Do not click
  • This could trigger another security risk, like a virus
  • Does the link point to the real company’s website?
  • Do not click if there is a strange website underneath
  • What to do and how to report an email scam

    Report phishing emails to Action Fraud.

    Contact your bank if money is taken from your account. The fraud team needs to know as soon as possible.

‘Push payment’ email scams

Criminals hack into email accounts and look for messages about:

  • Pending payments or
  • Money owed to the person they hacked

They will then email anyone who owes money posing as the people they hacked.

The email contains the hacker’s bank account details for payment.

What is the risk?

There is no reason to suspect the email if:

  • You know you owe money
  • The email is from the right address

Your money is not protected unless you pay by:

This makes it hard to get the money back.

What should I do if this happens to me?

When anyone emails you bank details, it is worth calling them to confirm.

  • Look for the phone number on their website if you do not have it
  • Do not call one included in the email
  • Tell the person to update all their passwords if it was not them

Businesses should:

  • Check their security measures
  • Make sure they are strong
  • Look for weaknesses hackers can use

You should also tell Action Fraud so they can investigate.

Pretending to be a loved one on social media

What is the risk?

Scammers can target people on social media by:

  • Learning who their family and friends are, and
  • Setting up a fake accounts pretending to be loved ones
  • li>

They then use the fake account to contact a victim.

The often say:

  • They are in a bad situation
  • They need you to give them some money

They try to make you worry and then give you bank details to “help them”.

How do I stay safe?

Check this is really the person you think it is.

A scammer will not want to give you other contact details like a phone number.

  • Call your loved one if you have their number
  • Check their other social media profiles to see if recent updates fit with what they told you
  • Remember, the scam can be tailored to recent social media updates from your loved one

If it is clear someone tried to scam you, tell them so they can take steps to close the fake account.

It can be harder to see a scam when we are more vulnerable than usual . Times like:

What should I do if this happens to me?

When you make a payment in scams like this, you ‘agree’ to authorise the payment.

This makes getting the money back really hard.

Contact your bank’s fraud department for help and support.

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

Romance and dating scams

This is where scammers pretend to want a relationship with people they target on:

  • Social media
  • Dating sites

What is the risk?

The scammer gains trust by convincing you they like or love you.

They often:

  • Can be charming
  • Want to know ‘everything’ about you
  • Declare romantic feelings early on

It can be hard to spot these scams because:

  • We use dating websites to flirt
  • We hope to meet someone special
  • Attention feels nice

Big red flags:

  • They ask you to give or lend them money
  • They try to guilt you into giving them money
  • They promise to pay you back
  • They get rude, upset or aggressive if you say ‘no’

How do I stay safe?

Be careful anytime someone online asks you for money.

You can support them by telling them aboutemergency support to cover food costs or financial needs.

Contact the support team of the website or social media platform if:

  • The person keeps asking for money
  • The person makes you uncomfortable

Check the messages you sent. Have you told them anything personal like:

  • Where you were born?
  • Your mother’s maiden name?

These are often security questions for online accounts.

Update all your passwords if worried.

What should I do if this happens to me?

Get in touch with your bank if you already gave the scammer money.

It is painful to feel tricked into an online relationship.

You are not alone. Romance scammers con millions of pounds out of people in the UK each year.

File a report to Action Fraud.

How else can I prevent being scammed?

Being aware of scammers is a good first step.

You can also:

  • Avoid any unknown or unexpected contact
  • Things like:

  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Knocks on the door

  • Keep your computer’s virus protection software up to date
  • Software weaknesses gives scammers a window to access your personal data
  • Do not ignore software updates
  • These often include ‘patches’ that protect your computer against viruses
  • Use strong passwords on your online accounts
  • Never use the same password for different websites
  • Change your passwords regularly
  • Never write passwords down
  • Someone could use them to access your accounts
  • Check the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register of regulated companies to make sure the company you talk to is genuine
  • Not on the register? Likely a scammer
  • Use the government website to find out the company’s background
  • Check to see if the web address starts with HTTPS, not just HTTP
  • Check to see if the web address starts with HTTPS, not just HTTP
  • Safe addresses should have a padlock icon in the address bar
  • Remember, scammers can set up fake secure servers so that have a HTTPS and padlocked icon
  • Take a look at the URL when in doubt
  • Sign-up for a call blocking service to stop cold-callers contacting you
  • The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) can stop cold-callers
  • They cannot stop scammers, but if you sign up to stop cold-callers then you know anyone who gets through claiming to be a cold-caller is a scammer

I think I was scammed - how do I report a scammer?

Any time you think you may be scammed, make sure to:

1. Stop making payments to the person or company you think is scamming you

  • Contact your bank if the payment is a Direct Debit
  • Cancel it immediately

2. Report the scam

3. Check your credit file for any credit taken out in your name fraudulently

4. Check to see if you have a ‘Cifas’ marker on your credit file

  • A Cifas marker is a note put on your file by the bank if it believes that you were a victim of identity fraud
  • This warns other lenders
  • Request more information from Cifasif you have a marker on your file

5. Report to the FCA

  • Visit the FCA website
  • Fill in their reporting form