Learn how you can protect yourself against the different types of fraud

Being a victim of fraud is never a pleasant experience.

If you think that you have been a victim of fraud or attempted fraud you can report the incident and get advice on what to do next via ActionFraud - the UK's national fraud and internet crime centre. You can access ActionFraud online or by telephone 0300 123 2040

One of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim is to understand the different types of fraud and how to protect yourself against them.


Plastic card fraud

Card-not-present (CNP) fraud
This is when fraud is conducted in non face-to-face transactions either over the internet, by phone or by mail order. The crime most commonly involves criminals stealing your card details, for example from discarded receipts or by copying down your details during a transaction. The golden rule to protect yourself is never to share your PIN number - any business which asks for details of your PIN is unlikely to be a legitimate one.

Counterfeit card fraud (skimming)
This is when fraudsters make an illegal copy of your credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe and use it to create a fake card. Most of this fraud involves skimming, where the magnetic stripe data (on the back of the card) is electronically copied by a criminal using a handheld card-reading device or one that is fitted to a cash machine or a PIN pad. These fake cards are then used in countries that haven’t upgraded to chip and PIN.

Lost and stolen card fraud
When your card is physically stolen or lost, and then used by a criminal posing as you. If your card is lost or stolen report it to the card issuer immediately so that it can be cancelled.

Mail-non-receipt card fraud
When your new card – being sent to you by your card company – is stolen and then used by fraudsters. At particular risk for this type of fraud are properties with communal letterboxes, such as flats and student residence halls.

Identity theft on cards
Occurs when a criminal uses your fraudulently obtained personal information to open or access card accounts in your name. There are two types:

  • Application fraud – stolen or false documents are used to open an account in your name. Criminals steal documents such as your utility bills or bank statements to build up usable information. Alternatively they may use counterfeit documentation for identification purposes.
  • Account take-over – by obtaining key personal information criminals are able to take over the running of your account. By pretending to be you the criminal will try to deceive your bank or card company and arrange for payments to be taken from the account. The criminal may also instruct the bank to change various details of the account, such as the address, and then ask for new cards and chequebooks to be issued.

Cash machine fraud

Fraud carried out by using stolen or counterfeit cards at cash machines.

Cheque fraud

There are three main types of cheque fraud in the UK: counterfeit, forged and fraudulently altered cheques. The way the cheque clearing cycle in the UK works means that until the money from a cheque is definitely yours at the end of the 6th day after you have paid the cheque into your account, there is a risk that the money could be reclaimed if the cheque turns out to be forged, fraudulently altered or counterfeit. Fraudsters try to take advantage of consumers’ general lack of understanding about how the system works to commit fraud against them.

Investment fraud/Boiler room fraud

Investment (boiler room) fraud involves persuading consumers to invest in a fictitious investment after which the consumer's money disappears. Typical types of investment fraud include purchase of counterfeit shares, "investment accounts" paying unusually high rates of interest, prizes which you have to pay to claim and rewards offered for providing financial help for individuals in distress. The approach can be made via the post, phone, text and email.

Online banking fraud

Most online banking fraud focuses on obtaining a user’s details either by using a software virus like spyware or by tricking them into typing their password or PIN into a fake website – a technique known as “phishing”.

Phishing is the name given to the practice of sending emails at random, purporting to come from a genuine company operating on the internet, in an attempt to trick customers of that company into disclosing information at a bogus website run by fraudsters. Quite often these emails claim to be from your bank and state that it is necessary to ‘update’ or ‘verify’ your password and they urge you to click on a link in the email that takes you to a bogus website. Any information entered on the bogus website will be captured by the criminals for their own fraudulent purposes.

Telephone banking fraud

A variation is for criminals posing as bank or retailer employees to contact customers by telephone and ask them to "verify" transactions on their account by providing personal financial data inclusing their PIN number.

Protection when shopping online

Secure payment systems have been introduced by Visa and MasterCard for safer online purchases. Online shoppers should register with Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode whenever they are given the option of doing so. Cardholders simply need to register a private password with their card issuer for use
when shopping online at participating retailers. This password allows card issuers to confirm a cardholder’s identity for the retailers when a genuine customer is using their card online.

Tips for keeping safe from fraud

  • Never share your PIN number - any business whcih asks for details of your PIN is unlikely to be a legitimate one.
  • Don’t let your cards or your card details out of your sight when making a transaction.
  • Destroy – preferably shred – any documents or receipts that contain personal financial information when you dispose of them.
  • Never write down or disclose PINs, login details or passwords in response to unsolicited emails or phone calls claiming to be from your bank or the police.
  • When entering your PIN in a shop or a cash machine try to use your spare hand to shield the number from prying eyes or hidden cameras.
  • Only divulge your card details in a telephone transaction when you have instigated the call and are familiar with the company.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed.
  • If you have registered your card for online protection via Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode ensure your password is kept safe and secure.
  • Access Internet banking or shopping sites by typing the address into your web browser. Never go to a website from a link in an email and then enter personal details.
  • Shop at secure websites by ensuring that the security icon (locked padlock or unbroken key symbol) is showing in the bottom of your browser window.
  • Don’t accept a cheque or banker’s draft from someone unless you know and trust them. Be especially wary when accepting a high-value cheque.
  • Check receipts and chequebook stubs against statements carefully. If you find an unfamiliar transaction, contact your bank or card company immediately.
  • Store your statements, receipts, chequebook and documents that contain information relating to your financial affairs safely and destroy or preferably shred them when you dispose of them.
  • If you are asked to part with money for an investment opportunity or to claim a prize or reward that looks too good to be true the likelihood is that it isn't true. Look carefully and take advice before you invest your money.

If you discover that your card has been lost, compromised or stolen or that you have been the victim of a fraud tell your card company, bank or building society immediately. For more information please visit Financial Fraud Action UK

Property ownership fraud

Your property is probably your most valuable asset. As such, it can be an attractive target for fraudsters, which is why you need to do what you can to protect your ownership.

Fraudsters often target properties where there is no mortgage or the owner lives elsewhere. They may attempt to acquire the title by using a forged transfer or impersonating the owner.

One way to help stop them is to ensure the contact details that the Land Registry hold for you are up to date. When they receive an application regarding your property, they may write to you about it. If your contact details are not up to date, you may not receive their letter or email.

You can provide the Land Registry with three different addresses, including an email address and an address abroad. There is no charge for this service.

Owners who are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage can quickly alert Land Registry and speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next, by calling their Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030. The line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

The Land Registry's website provides guidance on how to protect your home - Land Registry's Property Fraud page

Vehicle fraud

The process of buying or selling a vehicle is usually straightforward, but both buyers and sellers can leave themselves open to fraud or other crimes. The advice below is to help you avoid being a victim of crime.

When buying a car:

  • You should check to make sure that the vehicle you are buying is the property of the seller and has not been stolen. This is particularly important for second-hand vehicles. When buying privately it’s wise to research the seller as well as the vehicle.
  • Check that the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches that on the documents.
  • Do not buy if the seller cannot produce the vehicle registration document and other documentation (e.g. the MOT or, for a new vehicle, the purchasing correspondence). Confirm the service history with the garages shown, if possible. Check that the MOT certificate is valid at  www.gov.uk/check-mot-status (you will need the Test Number from the MOT certificate to do this).
  • Consider having the vehicle professionally examined before you buy, either through a motoring association, private company or garage.
  • There are different ways you can pay for a vehicle - to find out about the various options log on to www.financingyourcar.org.uk
  • The Internet can be a source of bargains and is increasingly popular and useful. However it is also used by criminals to sell vehicles that are stolen or do not exist. Most sites do provide safeguards for buyers and sellers. Understand the rules of the site and how it works.

For a consumer guide to buying and selling a car visit Metropolitan Police vehicle buying and selling advice

Useful Links

Comparitech have produced a useful guide to over 70 scams and how to avoid them -   http://compari.tech/avoid-scams


Simon Rex