Scams & Fraud Awareness

Fraudsters and scammers are becoming ever more sophisticated in how they operate. As the world and technology evolve, the techniques used by criminals do too. At Equals, we do everything we can to try and help prevent this. However, it’s important that you’re vigilant and alert, to protect yourself and your money.

Here, we’ll explore different types of common frauds and scams, and ways you can help keep yourself safe.

If you think you've been a victim of a fraud or a scam, contact us straight away.

What is fraud?

Fraud is a criminal act to deceive you and take your cash – it’s a transaction that you didn’t make or authorise.

What is a scam?

A scam is where you’re tricked into making or authorising a payment to a criminal’s account. Scammers impersonate banks, retailers and official organisations using emails, phone calls and texts that look and sound genuine.

Spotlight - scams

Authorised push payment scams

What criminals do:

  • Pretend to be from somewhere official, for example, your bank, the Government or HMRC.
  • They contact you via email, text message, telephone call or social media to suggest your bank account has a problem.They state that they’ve set up a safe account for you to transfer funds into.

How can you stay safe?

  • Be suspicious of contact which is ‘out of the blue’ and contact from positions of ‘authority’.
  • Verify the details of the contact through an independent source. You may want to check their credentials online.
  • Genuine authorities including your bank, the HMRC or Police will never ask you to reveal your details, PIN or password. Watch out for threatening behaviour.
  • Never transfer money unless you are 100% sure you know the person you are transferring to.
  • If you think you are a ‘victim’ contact us straightaway.

 

Investment scams

Investing in stocks and shares or any other commodity can be a successful way of making money. Watch out for scammers trying to persuade you to invest in products that often do not exist.

What criminals do:

  • Offer you unbelievably high rates of return, completely against the market average.
  • Initial investments may offer small yields and incentives to invest more. Once the investment is big enough, ‘cashing out’ becomes impossible and contact is lost.
  • They may use knowledge of previous investments to look trustworthy.
  • The website may be well-presented, with Companies House registration. This does not guarantee authenticity.
  • You may be pressured to invest quickly. Terms like ‘once in a lifetime’ may be used.

How can you stay safe?

  • ‘Get rich quick’ schemes are often too good to be true.
  • Independently check who cold callers are.
  • Research the investment you are being offered and speak to Trading Standards if unsure.
  • Check the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register to see if the firm or individual you are dealing with is authorised. There is also a warning list.
  • Take the FCA ScamSmart test.

Other examples of scams:

  • Fake marketplace: The scammer advertises a product on some form of online marketplace. The victim purchases the item, for it never to arrive, or for a totally different (usually lower value) item to arrive instead.
  • Fake job offers: Fraudsters pose as employers offering attractive job opportunities to job seekers. They may ask for upfront payments for training or background checks and disappear once they receive the money.
  • Cryptocurrency: ‘Too good to be true’ cryptocurrency promotions. Leveraging the popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin by sharing ‘get rich quick’ opportunities.
  • Love/Romance scams: Scammers have been known to pose as potential love interests in order to win people’s trust. Watch out for people requesting money that you haven’t met in person.
  • Unnecessary/Unrequired services: Scammers will often try and target customers to subscribe to a certain service or product they are offering. This can vary from vitamins and supplements to appliance repair cover or security cover. Services are often hard to cancel or use.

 

How to stay safe from fraud

Fraudulent emails

What to look out for:

  • Threatening or urgent-sounding ‘act now’ suggestions.
  • Inaccuracies and spelling mistakes.
  • Unexpected emails that claim to come from a financial institution.
  • Urgent requests and threats.
  • Claims that your account has been compromised.
  • Requests to “Open an attachment” or “Click a link”.

What you can do to stay safe:

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails. Listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop and question it.
  • Never reveal your bank details or other personal information if requested by email.
  • Check links in emails are legitimate by ‘hovering’ your mouse over the link to view the web address (URL) without clicking. If it is different to what you were expecting, do not click.
  • Consider having different email addresses for different purposes; one for your bank to use, another for family and friends and perhaps a different address for online newsletters.

Fraudulent phone calls

What to look out for:

  • ‘Smishing’ – when fraudsters use text messages instead to trick you into giving up personal details.
  • ‘Phishing’ - Similar to ‘smishing’ however, the fraudster attempts to gather information by sending emails from “trusted sources”.
  • ‘Vishing’ – sometimes fraudsters try to trick you into divulging personal and confidential information, including bank account details, over the phone.

Smishing Guide

Phishing Guide

Vishing Guide

What you can do to stay safe:

  • Criminals who have called your landline can stay on the line for up to 5 minutes, even after you have hung up. Wait at least 10 minutes after hanging up. Then, to ensure that the fraudsters have disconnected, call someone you know before using the phone again or use a different line to report the incident to the Bank.
  • Sometimes fraudsters make phone calls claiming to be from a reputable IT organisation to offer assistance. Never allow a cold-caller to take remote access of your computer.
  • Never respond to suspicious text messages or click on links contained or sent by text from contacts you don’t recognise. These links may lead to malicious content.

Please note, that we, the police, or any other genuine organisation will never ask for your help in investigating crime. If you are contacted with a similar request, please end the call immediately and call us to inform us of the suspicious call.

 

Being safe online

Online banking

The internet has made banking much more accessible and convenient. With online or mobile payments being used every day, there are precautions you need to take to ensure that you enjoy the safest banking experience possible:

  • Never reveal your online login information to anyone.
  • Shoulder surfing – make sure you are not being observed. When entering passwords or PINs into online accounts in a public place, shield your screen and ensure no one is overlooking you or trying to distract you.
  • Monitor your accounts on a regular basis. Check for suspicious transactions. If you do find anything suspicious, report it.
  • Always log out completely from online banking. Select the log out button rather than just closing the website or app.

Use secure websites (https). When entering login details or personal information, be sure the web page you are viewing offers encryption of your data by checking:

  • The web address (URL) has changed from ‘http’ to ‘https’.
  • That a closed padlock icon is present.
  • Your browser address window may be green.

Password safety

  • Never give your password out to anyone. A strong password following the guidance below will help to keep your password ‘hard to crack’.
  • More than 8 characters. The more complex the better.
  • Make it Unique. Try using a specific password only oncefor one platform.
  • Replace letters with numbers and symbols. B@tm@nB3g1ns (Batman Begins) is an example.
  • Vary it. Random words made up of a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Memorable. Make sure it’s easy to remember. Making it personal doesn’t have to make it easily crack-able!

Protecting your computer, tablet or phone:

  • Use antivirus programmes and update them regularly.
  • Only download apps/software from trusted sources like the Play Store (Google) or the App Store (Apple).
  • Make sure your device is wiped of data before being sold on
  • You can wipe your device of data remotely if you suspect you have lost it/had it stolen.
  • Look out for signs that your device is infected with a virus/malware. Does it run slower than usual, bring up unusual pop ups, have unusual error messages, or does your toolbar look different?

Reporting fraud

If you suspect you have been a victim or fraud or a scam, contact us as soon as possible.

Note that, if we need to contact you about a potential fraud on your account, we will do this through a secure channel, such as the phone, SMS, or email.

Further resources:

Take Five - TakeFive - To Stop Fraud | To Stop Fraud (takefive-stopfraud.org.uk)

FCA ScamSmart – ScamSmart - Avoid investment and pension scams | FCA

Fraud Focus - Fraud Focus newsletter - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Little Book of Scams - The Little Book of Big Scams – 5th Edition (met.police.uk)