(Updated December 01, 2018)
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to obtain personal details. There is no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam; all of us may be targeted by an elaborate scam at some point in time here in the United Kingdom.
Some common scams include the following:
- Romantic scams. This the most common type of scam. Fraudsters can be very convincing and creative. They often create a fictional persona via social media platforms and online dating websites. They spend a long time building a relationship before creating a realistic story about needing money that sounds believable. For example, they may claim they have been involved in a serious accident, held by UK customs officials demanding money, or need funds for a “life-or-death” emergency. You should be extremely wary of such requests, especially if you’ve never actually met this romantic interest in person.
- Financial scams. You may receive an email from a web-based email address (such as Yahoo or Hotmail) that asks you to verify your bank account. This is a hoax; scammers use this technique to obtain your personal information to make unauthorized transactions on your behalf.
- Identity theft. Whilst this isn’t quite as common, fraudsters tend to obtain personal information from government IDs and use a different picture to falsely pretend to be you – and open bank accounts or credit lines in your name.
Ultimately, the scenarios scammers use are entirely fictional. Remember, in the United Kingdom, border official’s officials do not ask travelers to pay large sums of money for entry into the United Kingdom. Hotel staff will not confiscate passports, and hospitals do not withhold emergency treatment for financial reasons!
Here are a simple few tips that can reduce the risk of you becoming a target:
- Question everything: the phone call, the email, links on social media, etc. More importantly, ask yourself: if someone is in extreme danger or requires assistance and they have the ability to contact you, they could just as easily contact the police, a family member, or the Embassy directly, right?
- Be alert: remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! The reason why scammers succeed is because they sound so convincing.
- Guard your personal information: do not disclose personal details online or over the phone. Fraudsters use a variety of tricks to get you to divulge account numbers and passwords. If you get an email claiming to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank, and the email address does not look official (and the email itself is riddled with typos), this is most likely a scam.
- If you have been targeted by a scammer, you should cease all contact with the individual(s) or “financial institutions” immediately. Whilst we understand that it is hard to believe that someone you trust has targeted you in this way, replying will only encourage more scam messages; it is common for fraudsters to pose as different fictional people or organizations, try different tactics to convince you of their legitimacy, or to sell contact details to other scammers.
If you think you have been targeted by a scam, or you know a friend or relative that has, do not attempt to confront the scammer or investigate them yourself. You should report the scam to:
- The Webmaster/website administrator, if you were contacted via a particular website;
- Your bank and/or any money transfer service you used, if you have sent money;
- Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting center, run by the National Fraud Authority in association with the City of London Police and/or
- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission if you are concerned about identity theft.