Fraud Awareness Week - Common scams to look out for

This week is Fraud Awareness Week, when organisations try to shine a light on some of the most common scams that people are falling victim to right now, across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.


The techniques criminals are using evolve every year, as they attempt to steal money from your bank account.

There are two common scams that have become more widely used this year, a time when more of us are making purchases online because of physical restrictions related to coronavirus.

Purchase Scams

The first, and by far one of the most common, are purchase scams. These tend to start with adverts placed on many of the ‘marketplace’ sites where it is free to list - like Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, DoneDeal, Depop and Shpock, to name a few. Wherever they appear, they all share one common theme, the victim is asked to pay for goods without ever having seen them in person.

Victims have reported losing between £10 and £15,000 on these purchases, and the average amount of money lost is around £500. While this may not seem like a big number, it actually shows that criminals often go after smaller amounts, but more often. If you do want to send money, for example as a deposit for a purchase, you should consider using a secure service, such as PayPal, ensuring you use the ‘goods or services’ option. This will protect your transfer. A bank transfer however, is immediate, and is exactly like handing over cash.

The scams can be connected to a range of items varying in size and price - technology (computers, games consoles, mobile phones, headphones), furniture, cars, boats, motorhomes, caravans and everything in between.

Our overarching advice is to never pay for goods or services from someone you do not know or without having seen the goods you wish to buy (in person).

Impersonation scams

The next most common scam to be aware of is impersonation scams. These often take the form of a customer getting contacted by a criminal pretending to be someone else and we see them so, so often.

And no-one is immune to them. Just last week, our Head of Financial Crime Prevention, Chris got two phone calls from someone pretending to be from BT – have a listen to the calls (Visit part 1and Visit part 2) and see how they try to convince him they are genuine.

The criminal may be pretending to be the bank, the police, HMRC, DVLA, a telephone or broadband provider or a popular online service such as Amazon or PayPal – and is often a well-known company. The goal of the criminal is to convince you to hand over money or information, perhaps making a transfer money to an account which they provide details for, or to share with them details such as your user IDs, passcodes, or unique codes which you might receive by text message.

They will often apply pressure – they want you to worry and act immediately, they might even threaten you with legal proceedings, a fine or arrest if you don’t react quickly. It’s important not to be rushed, to hang up if you feel uncertain and call back the organisation on a trusted number to confirm the caller is genuine. It is a good idea do this from another line if you can or call someone you know before making the call to ensure the criminal is not still on the line.

Even if the caller claims to be from a ‘trusted’ organisation, don’t share personal or sensitive information. Legitimate organisations will never ask you for PINs, passwords or codes which might have been received by text message.

We’ll never mind you calling us, or hanging up and calling us back, on a number you know to be correct to check our call is genuine.