Online scams and beyond

Common scams

To help you familiarise yourself with different types of scams so you can spot them coming, we've listed the most common scams with tips on how to prevent them.

Mobile messaging scams involve a message being send to you, often via WhatsApp, by someone pretending to be your son or daughter claiming they have lost their phone. Once you have the number saved, the scammer will tell you they need money after their ‘incident’, hoping that you will hand over your financial details.

To avoid this scam, make sure you take time to think in these situations, remember that scammers prey on peoples kindness in these situations. You could verify it is the person by calling them directly, makes sure you are 100% sure the request is from someone you trust before you send any money over or your financial details.

You can turn on your WhatsApp two-step verification to protect your account and make sure you are happy with your privacy settings. If you realise it is a scam, make sure you report it to Action Fraud.

Scammers are exploiting pension reforms, by persuading people to release their retirement savings and transfer them into inappropriate or even non-existent investments. They often use the uncertainty created by the pandemic to trick these people out of all their life savings.

If you are contacted out of the blue about your pension then it is likely to be a scam, so make sure you are aware of free pension review offers. You can also check the FCA’s Financial Services Register to ensure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is authorised by the FCA. Be wary that some scammers may try to pretend to be a FCA registered firm, so make sure you are only using the details on the FCA Register.

There has been a significant increase in Romance fraud according to Action Fraud, due to the pandemic leading to people looking for love online. The scammer creates a fake profile on a dating sight to social media platform and targets individuals to try and gain their trust. They then ask the victim for money for investments, legal fees, or travel.

Requests for money early on my be red flags as well as reluctance to talking about their personal life. If you have concerns, talk to someone you trust for help. If you think you have been scammed, make sure you report it to your bank and to Action Fraud.


Action Fraud has also had an increase in the reporting of malicious calls and voicemails, to members of the public claiming to be from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Fraudsters are able to spoof genuine HMRC telephone numbers to deceive their victims over the phone. They often will tell the victim that due to their non-payment of tax or other duty, they are liable for prosecution or other legal proceedings to settle the balance. They may suggest that the victim can avoid this by making a payment via bank transfer, which then goes into the fraudsters bank account.

The fraudster uses fear to force the victim to pay them money. For example they may threaten immediate arrest or bailiffs to the victims address, and in some cases deportation. Often the period in which the alleged tax was due is distant ago enough that there is little to no paper work to verify the claims.

In genuine cases from HMRC, they will make direct contact via post before following up with a phone call at a later date.

Phishing emails can appear very convincing, but there are a few things you can look out for which may reveal an email to be not quite what it seems, including:

  • Spelling mistakes or grammatical errors
  • Being addressed to Sir or Madam rather than you directly
  • Unusual email addresses – if you check the address, it may appear legitimate at first, but look closer, it may not be as legitimate as it first appeared. Hovering over the address with the mouse can sometimes show a different email all together
  • They may offer something of value for free, for example lots of phishing emails currently claim to be from a local council offering money in line with the Government’s COVID-19 initiatives
  • There will often be a sense of urgency to create a sense of panic that you should respond immediately. You should never feel pressured to respond.


Useful resources:

Action Fraud

Action Fraud is one organisation who can help if you think you're a victim of fraud.

Contact Action Fraud


Cifas may also be able to help you if you think you're a victim of fraud.

Contact Cifas

Age UK

You can find more information on the Age UK website for regular updates on the latest scams.

Visit Age UK