20 September 2016

Is it a scam?

An email has just popped in to your inbox. Or perhaps someone has just knocked on your door with an offer that seems too good to be true – you just have to give a few bank details, and act now to make sure you don’t miss out!

Should you do what they ask? Well, if it looks too good to be true, then yes, it probably is a scam.

From cold callers at your door to emails or phone calls, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that there are some people out there who are simply trying to get hold of your hard earned money with a trick or a lie. So how can you identify and, more importantly, avoid these scams?

What might a scam look like?

A scam could come in a number of different formats. It could be an email or a telephone call. Perhaps it’s someone who has come to your front door. They could be really nice, or they might be a bit pushy. It might be someone who says they’re from a utility company or charity but cannot produce any identification, or someone pretending to be ill to try and get inside your home.

It could also be a letter: a lottery win for a lottery that you never entered. Or a request to move your money to a different bank account because of a supposed security risk.

What do you do if you’re not 100% sure it’s legitimate?

It’s all too easy to mistake a scam for a legitimate communication or offer. So if there’s any doubt in your mind at all, don’t respond to it, and instead speak to someone you trust. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Don’t be rushed or pushed into a decision.
  • Never give out your PIN. There is some information that you should never share, such as the PIN for your bank card. The bank or police will never ask you for your PIN. If someone calls and tells you they need to know your PIN – stop. Don’t give it to them.
  • If you receive a spam letter – just throw it away.
  • Don’t reply to spam letters or emails – if you do, they’ll know that your details are correct and your information may be shared further.
  • Don’t open an email attachment if you don’t know the sender and are not 100% sure it is safe. Don’t click on links in emails that say they go to your bank, utility company or HMRC.
  • Don’t click on links in emails that say they go to your bank, utility company or HMRC.
  • If someone arrives at your doorstep, you don’t have to let them in. Ask for an identity card and make sure it’s genuine. If you’re not sure, call the company that they say they’re from, using a telephone number from your phone book, a bill or the internet – not the information they give you. Don’t worry about keeping them waiting – if they’re a genuine caller, they won’t mind at all.
  • You can ask your local council for a ‘no cold callers’ sign, and place it somewhere that people outside can see.
  • If someone offers a way to get hold of your pension income before age 55, always get advice from an independent financial adviser before taking any action.
  • If you don’t have an adviser already, you can find one at View - Unbiased 

Useful links

There's more information available about other simple ways to stay safe and avoid being scammed. We’ve included some details here that you may find useful:

To report a scam - Action Fraud – 0300 123 2040 

For free advice and help - Citizens Advice Consumer Service – 03454 04 05 06 Citizens Advice Bureau - Scams   Citizens Advice Bureau - Scams

Free advice and tips on using the internet from the government-backed website: Get safe online 

Information and guidance about managing your money – 0800 138 7777 Money Advice Service 

A list of qualified, independent financial advisers in your area – 0330 100 0755 View - Unbiased 

Advice on scams and other matters that may be of interest: View - Age UK website