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Protect yourself from fraud and scams

Although we cannot eliminate the threat of frauds and scams, we can raise awareness of them. This page highlights some potential risks and tells you where to report any frauds or scams and find out more about them.

Report a fraud or scam

Action Fraud is the UK’s central point of contact for reporting fraud and internet crime, as well as a useful source of information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime.

Trading Standards’ eCrime Team investigate reports of scams involving social media, websites, emails, phones or texts.

Recent reports of fraud and scams

Check Action Fraud’s fraud news and Trading Standards’ latest scams page for information and advice about recent fraud and scams.

If you are thinking of applying for a loan, check the Citizens Advice Bureau's website  for advice on how to check if a lender is authorised.

Examples of fraud and scams

Theft of personal information

Personal information about you, including your date of birth, National Insurance number or bank details, is extremely valuable to fraudsters. With some or all of this information they may be able to access money or create a false identify in your name.

There are two main ways for a fraudster to get access to your information: either you give it to them – for instance by throwing bank statements straight into your bin – or they trick you into revealing it – perhaps by phoning, texting or emailing you and pretending to be someone else, and tempting you with a windfall or refund but saying they need you to confirm some personal details before they can go any further.

Do not put personal or financial information in your bin – the best way to dispose of this information is by shredding it.

Protect your signature – one common way fraudsters obtain it is by pretending to be a delivery person and asking you to sign for a leaflet. If you aren't expecting a delivery, be suspicious if asked to sign for anything. Ask for official identification, and just print your name without signing it. Keep an eye on your bank statements and report anything suspicious.

And never give personal or financial information to anyone who phones you, regardless of who they say they are. If they are genuine they will not object to you taking their details and phoning the organisation to check they are real – don’t call back on the number the caller gives you: look up the organisation, call their switchboard and ask for the named person.

Be wary of all unsolicited calls. The Telephone Preference Service can help you reduce the number of unsolicited sales and marketing calls you receive.

Email extortion

Be wary of emails claiming that your computer or device has been compromised with spyware, and demanding a payment to resolve the issue. Similar emails might claim that you have been viewing or storing illegal material on your computer.

The email will often include a name or password that you’ll identify with, to make it appear more legitimate. It might also ask you to follow a link to see the evidence for yourself. 

It is unlikely that your device had been compromised prior to reading the email, or that your account has been monitored. Messages like this are sent to many recipients knowing most will ignore it, and in the hope that a few will respond. Whatever form the email takes, it is malicious social engineering designed to scare you into paying a ransom.

Never open an attached document or follow a link in an email unless you are completely certain that you can trust it. The National Crime Agency advises that you should never pay a ransom.

False landlords

Reasonably priced property for rent is hard to find in Cambridge, and fraudsters can turn this to their advantage. They can advertise a property that they have temporary access to, claim it is theirs, and rent it to a prospective tenant who hands over a sizable deposit. When the new tenant returns a few days later to move in, the ‘landlord’ and the deposit have disappeared.

Remember that if a deal appears too good to be true, it probably is! Make sure you meet the landlord at the property, and ask them what their involvement is. Take as many contact details from them as possible and don’t be rushed into a snap decision that you might regret. A fraudster will try to create a sense of urgency, and that’s when mistakes can be made.

Money laundering

Fraudsters who have obtained money from illegal activity need to convert that money into funds that can be spent without questions being asked. This is called money laundering.

At its simplest level money laundering can be someone asking you to give them two £10 notes in exchange for a £20 note, although it normally needs to be done on a much larger scale. Your company could be susceptible to this if someone pays for a service or product and then asks for a full or partial refund very quickly.

Be careful if you exchange money, especially with strangers. Either tell them you don’t have any notes (remember that they may be deciding if you are worth robbing!) or if you must change a note, then inspect it carefully.

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