Telephone scams are a common way for criminals to scam people out of their money.

Common telephone scams

Computer fix scams

A fraudster will phone, pretending to represent your broadband provider or a tech company such as Apple or Microsoft. They will say that your computer is infected with a virus and will ask you to download 'anti-virus software'. You may be charged for this, or the caller may attempt to infect your computer with spyware that can steal user names and passwords.

Bank scams

Criminal gangs pretend to represent your bank's security team. They claim there is a problem with your card or account and ask you to transfer your savings to a 'safe account' controlled by the fraudster. Your bank will never ask you to do this. The fraudster may try to arrange for a courier to collect your bank cards and PINs. Never divulge your PIN to anyone handover your bank cards.

HMRC scams

You may receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the HMRC or another government department. The caller may claim that you owe tax. Some people have been threatened that they will be arrested, fined or they face court action. The scammers sometimes ask for payments using vouchers and gift cards. Other calls may claim that you are owed a tax refund and request your bank account details in order to pay the non existent money into your account.

Pension and investment scams

Fraudster may attempt sell unsuspecting consumers bogus investments, offering unrealistically high returns. These may include unregulated investments in:

  • land banking
  • property
  • heavy earth metals
  • fine wines
  • art
  • bonds

Fraudsters may offer shares in businesses that have little or no value. Some people have been conned by bogus 'financial advisors' in to moving their pensions to unregulated investments, after which the money is lost.

High pressure sales

Some businesses may try to persuade you to buy things you don't need or want and use high pressure selling in order to do this. These people are experts at selling and often use pre prepared scripts. They may want to make an appointment to visit you in your home or convince you to sign up for a monthly product subscription straight away. Goods that are often sold this way include:

  • double glazing
  • mobility aids (including specialist beds and chairs)
  • security alarm systems
  • health supplements

Top tips

It can be hard to tell a genuine business on the phone from a fraudster. Do not engage the caller in conversation. Put the phone immediately.

Never provide any personal or financial information to a cold caller.

If you want to check whether a phone call from a business was genuine, phone them back on a publicly listed phone number. Wait at least 10 minutes for the line to clear before you make the call. Some fraudsters will try and stay on the line.

Many of us have caller ID activated on our phone line. This enables us to see the telephone number of the person calling. Unfortunately, criminal gangs have found a way to 'spoof' or mimic the numbers of legitimate business and organisations. If the caller telephone number appears genuine, it doesn't mean the caller is.

Consider using a scam/telesales call blocker. There are a number of services and devices that will help block scam and telesales phone calls.

Find out more about how to block nuisance calls.