Life & Culture

Beware of phishers and other conmen

 What to do about phishing, smishing and vishing


Confused middle aged 60s woman in glasses looking at computer screen, stressed of getting message with bad news. Unhappy mature lady feeling nervous about bad laptop work or poor internet connection.

Scammers are busy exploiting the cost of living crisis with one in five people falling victim to financial fraud according to new research from Paragon Bank.

More than 3.5 million scams were reported to police in England and Wales in the year to March 2023, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. It was also revealed that scams asking victims to pay upfront for a good or service are on the increase as consumers move to more online spending.

Scams come in a number of guises

l Phishing, whereby scammers impersonate an official organisation in order to trick you into giving them sensitive information such as login details or downloading malware via email. Smishing is the same, but using a text message rather than email.

l Vishing uses information already obtained about you to solicit more details via a cold call, either live or a prerecorded message.

l Advance fee theft. Scammers ask foe upfront fee in return for cheap loan or to receive a package.

l Marketplace fraud entails paying upfront for a service that then never materialises.

l Identity theft is when fraudsters steal your personal details and pretend to be you to buy goods and services from your account or take out new loans in your name.

But while the scams are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to detect, there are some key ways you can protect yourself.

Remember that if it sound too good to be true then it probably is. That goes for higher than normal investment returns, to the last reasonably priced tickets to the concert you want to attend.

 Pay using you credit card for goods and services over £100 wherever possible. This gives you cover under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act which makes the card company jointly liable if things go wrong with your purchase. For smaller amounts (Mastercard is a minimum £10) you can try and claim under the Chargeback scheme, covering debit as well as credit cards, but this a voluntary scheme supported by lenders not statutory.

Remember your bank, service providers, HMRC or other reputable organisation will never ask you to reveal your bank or other personal details on a phone call. If you think you have stumbled across a scam report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. You can also call 159, Stop Scams UK’s number which will transfer you directly to your bank and break any phone link with the scammers (visit for a list of banks and organisations signed up to the scheme). The same advice applies to any emails and texts from any organisation with which you have a financial relationship.

If you think you have fallen victim to a scam stop all contact with the scammers and contact your bank. Explain the situation and ask for your money to be refunded. Citizens Advice ( has helpful advice on how to spot a scam and what to do if you fall victim.

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