Phone scams – dealing with cold and nuisance calls | ͵͵


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Phone scams

Phone scams are a common way for criminals to con people out of their money. Find out some of the most common phone scams and what you can do to stay safe.

What is a cold call?

A cold call is a phone call out of the blue from a company or person you've never dealt with before, usually trying to sell you something. They aren't always scams, but they can be irritating.

What are some common types of phone scams?

It can be hard to tell the difference between a scam and cold calling. But, it's good to know some common scams so you can be prepared.

Bank scams

Watch out for calls supposedly from your bank about fraudulent use of your bank account or bank cards. Scammers might ask you for your PIN and tell you to give your bank card to a courier. Your bank would never do this.

Undercover police scams

These can be calls from someone claiming to be the 'undercover police', claiming that they're investigating a member of staff at your bank and asking for your card details. The police would never ask you to take part in an investigation like this.

Computer or mobile phone repair scams

The person may call and tell you that your device has a virus, and that you need to download software to fix it. This is actually spyware – an unwanted programme that runs on your device and can give scammers access to all your online information.

HMRC scams

You may get a call from someone claiming to be from HMRC saying there's an issue with your tax refund or an unpaid tax bill. They may leave a message and ask you to call back. HMRC would never contact you this way and would never ask you to reveal personal financial information such as your bank account details.

Council Tax scams

Calls claiming to be about correcting your Council Tax band or giving you a  Council Tax rebate. Your council would never call you about a rebate out of the blue.

Compensation calls

This is a call from a company asking about a car accident you’ve supposedly had claiming you may be entitled to compensation. Don’t engage in these calls. If you’ve had an accident, call your own insurance company on the phone number provided on your policy.

Texts with fake links

You might receive a text asking you to follow a link to fix a problem with one of your accounts or to track a parcel. These links will often take you to a fake website and get you to log in, which scammers can then use to access your information.

Telephone Preference Service scams

Watch out for calls asking you to pay to renew your membership of the Telephone Preference Service. The service is free and any calls asking you to pay for it are scams.

Pension or debt management offers

Be wary of cold calls or texts from strange numbers offering products or services, such as pension or debt management.

Sales and investment calls

These are unwanted or pushy sales calls, or investment opportunities that seem too good to be true.

Fake caller ID

Scammers can mimic an official telephone number, which can trick you into thinking the caller is from a legitimate organisation, such as a bank or utility company. 

Just because someone knows your basic details doesn't mean they're legitimate. These details could include your name, address, your mother's maiden name and even your Direct Debits.

How can I protect myself from scam calls?

There are things you can do to protect yourself from scams:

  • Say no: Ignore a caller that asks you for personal information, such as your PIN, or tells you that your computer has a virus. A genuine organisation will never ask you for these details over the phone, in an email or in writing.
  • Report any scams: Forward unwanted texts to 7726 for free so your mobile phone provider can flag potential scams.
  • Check the line: Be aware that scammers can keep your phone line open even after you’ve hung up. Use a different phone, call someone you know first to check the line is free, or wait at least 10 to 15 minutes between calls to make sure that any scammers have hung up.
  • Use an answerphone: You can use an answerphone on your landline or voicemail on your mobile to screen your calls.
  • Check your calls: Get a caller ID device to see who’s calling. But be aware that some scammers appear as a legitimate number, for example, your bank or utility company.
  • Try call blocking: Some phones have call-blocking features to stop unwanted calls. If yours doesn’t, you can use a separate call blocker. Some blockers come pre-programmed with known nuisance numbers and some allow you to add numbers to that list when you get a nuisance or scam call. You can buy call blockers from various retailers and some local authorities provide them.
  • Cut the cold calls: Join the free Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This should cut the number of cold calls you receive, though it won’t necessarily block all scammers. TPS has a service to stop cold calls to mobile phones too. Go to their website or text ‘TPS’ and your email address to 85095 to register.
  • Call the company: If you get a phone call from an organisation asking you for personal information, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number to check the call is legitimate.
  • Avoid links: If you’ve received a text asking you to follow a link, don’t click on it. If you’d like to check if the text is genuine, contact the company directly either using their official website or phone number and enquire about your account that way.

Who should I contact if I've received a scam call or text?

If you've received a scam call, there's support available:

  • : Contact Action Fraud to report a scam or get more advice on scams and fraud.
  • Your bank: If you receive a call about your bank account or credit card that concerns you, you can speak to your bank by calling the centralised number 159 or by calling the number on the back of your bank card.
  • : Contact TPS to register with its service. There's a free call blocker to stop scam and nuisance calls available to those who are identified as most vulnerable by a doctor, Trading Standards officials or local councils.

There are also ways to report scam texts and WhatsApp users:

  • Texts: Forward any unwanted texts to 7726 for free so your mobile phone provider can flag potential scams.
  • WhatsApp: Report a scam WhatsApp user by opening the chat with the user you want to report, tapping on their name and then tapping 'report contact'. 

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Last updated: Apr 08 2024

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