The most common types of fraud in the UK and how to protect yourself

A rundown of the most common types of fraud in the UK, and what you can do to protect yourself against fraud and cybercrime.

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

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From credit card fraud to identity theft, fraud is a growing problem for everyone. To help you keep your money – and identity – safe, here’s a rundown of the most common types of fraud in the UK and tips on how to spot them fast.  

What is fraud?

Fraud is when someone deceives you into handing over personal data, like your name, address or credit card details, and uses it for their own financial gain. It’s the most common crime in the UK, and it’s tricky to spot. That said, fraud schemes often have similar hallmarks.

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Identity theft

This is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. This includes your name, address, passport number, National Insurance number and financial details. Fraudsters might use these details to make loan applications or buy things. 

  • Don’t respond to unexpected messages asking for any personal details.
  • Check your bank account regularly for unusual activity. 
  • If you receive bills or correspondence for items or financial products you haven’t purchased, contact your bank or Action Fraud right away.

The types of fraud below all involve some form of identity theft. Let’s break them down.

Credit card fraud

It’s fraud if someone steals your details to make unauthorised payments on your credit card. Here are the three most common ways fraudsters do this.

1. Phishing

Someone calls or emails you pretending to be from your card provider or another legitimate company. They ask you to confirm personal details or provide security information.

For example, you might receive an email from someone claiming to be from the NHS, offering you a covid-19 vaccine. All you need to do is provide your credit card details and they’ll book you an appointment. This is a scam – the NHS won’t do this! 

Phishing scams are among the most sophisticated types of fraud, so you need to stay alert. Ignore unexpected messages, or contact the company involved to check if the request is legitimate before answering any questions.

2. Skimming

Someone clones your card details using a small, portable device. This can happen anywhere, from ATMs to restaurants, and it’s not always easy to spot.

  • Conceal your pin when using an ATM, and don’t use the machine if it looks suspicious in any way (e.g. the credit card reader appears loose or damaged). 
  • Don’t let anyone take away your card when you make a payment, for example, in a restaurant. 

3. Remote access 

Someone steals your card details online and uses them to make payments. This is one of the types of fraud that is pretty hard to spot, because the site you’re using may look legitimate.

Check your credit card statements regularly, and if you lose your card or someone steals it, tell your card provider straight away. They’ll block the card so no one can use it. 

Phone fraud

We all know cold calls are annoying, but some of them are actually types of fraud. Let’s break down some common phone scams. 

  • Someone claiming that they’re calling from a reputable tech company, such as Microsoft, claiming you’ve been hacked and you must download (expensive) antivirus software immediately. 
  • Someone claiming to be from HMRC, saying you haven’t paid your tax bill and you need to call them back to make payment. 

These are elaborate ways for fraudsters to get their hands on your money. It’s best not to engage with cold callers, even if they sound convincing.

If you want to call the company the person calling claims to represent (e.g. HMRC or Microsoft), use the number listed on the company’s official website, not any numbers given to you by the callers.

And wait at least 10 minutes before calling. Fraudsters can sometimes find ways to keep your phone line open so they can listen to outgoing calls. 

Loan fraud

A loan scam is one of the types of fraud that can cost you a lot of money. Generally, scammers target you in one of four ways: 

  • Advance fee: fraudsters contact you, saying you qualify for a loan but you need to pay a fee upfront. Legitimate companies never charge fees for loan applications.
  • Cloning: you receive a letter, call, text or email claiming to be from a real company, encouraging you to apply for a loan. This is a way to steal your personal details. 
  • Interception: buying a house? Be extremely wary if the law firm contacts you with a last-minute change of bank details to pay anything. Scammers may be trying to steal your money.
  • Phishing: fraudsters pretend they’re from your lender and ask you for personal details. 

Double-check you’re dealing with a legitimate company before you apply for any loans or hand over personal details.

Takeaway

The reality? Fraudsters are out there, and there’s a chance they’ll target you. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the different types of fraud. Don’t answer unsolicited messages or give out personal details, and check your credit score regularly. 

Finally, contact Action Fraud right away if you suspect you’re the victim of any type of fraud. 

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