How to avoid fraud and financial scams

Woman looking at laptop

You might think you’re clued up to the tricks used by scammers, but there are a few red flags you should always look out for. We asked the experts at Take Five, the anti-fraud campaign from FFA UK and the UK Government, to share their sage advice – plus Mumsnetters let us know about their experiences with financial fraud

Email scams

“I’ve been getting emails from people in my contact list stating that they need money. These scammers are very clever, and very convincing, particularly for older people who might not be so savvy.”

“If emails look strange, they usually are. I look at email addresses, the style of writing and language used, links included, what they are asking me to do, information I'm being asked to supply… If there is anything at all that makes me suspicious, I bin it.”

What to look out for…

  • When the sender’s address doesn’t match the website address of the organisation it says it’s from. Roll your mouse pointer over the sender’s name to reveal its true address.
  • If the email doesn’t use your proper name – using something like “Dear customer” instead.
  • Is there a sense of urgency, asking you to act immediately?
  • A prominent website link which may seem like the proper address, but with one character different.
  • A request for personal information.
  • Spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Where the entire text of the email is within an image rather than the usual text format and the image contains an embedded hyperlink to a bogus site. Again, roll your mouse pointer over the link to reveal its true destination.

Phone scams

“My elderly aunt was phoned by someone claiming to be from Microsoft. They said they needed to check the settings on her computer, as they'd been getting messages that she had a virus on her Microsoft software. They gave her a link to access and code to put in, then they said they'd need her bank card details, as the issue was so severe, it would take them ages to sort out. She gave them her bank details, they took £150 and put the phone down.”

“I have saved my in-laws from several scams, one of which involved selling their boat. They were 'accidentally' sent a cheque for much more than the asking price, then asked to cash it and refund it to the buyer. Huge red flags to me, but for some reason my in-laws just didn’t seem to realise.”

What to look out for…

  • The caller doesn’t give you time to think, tries to stop you speaking to a family member or friend, or is insistent and makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • The caller asks you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.
  • They phone to ask for your 4-digit card PIN or your online banking password. Even if they ask you to give it to them by tapping into the telephone keypad rather than saying the numbers out loud, this is a scam.
  • They ask you to withdraw money to hand over to them for safe-keeping.
  • They may say that you are a victim of fraud and offer to send a courier to your home to collect your cash, PIN, payment card or cheque book.

Text scams

“I get a lot of very convincing text messages that look as if they’re from my bank, asking me for personal information or to click on a link. I ring my bank on their trusted number to check if these messages are legitimate, and make sure I don’t click the link in the message.”

What to look out for…

  • A text asking you to provide sensitive personal or financial information, passwords, or to make transactions by following a link in the message.
  • A text asking you to call a certain number but that number is unknown to you. In this case, call your bank on a number that you trust to check that the number and message is authentic.
  • The sender uses an urgent tone, telling you to ‘act now’.