Anyone can fall prey to scammers, and as their methods become increasingly sophisticated, more and more people find themselves caught up in fraudulent operations. But people often feel reluctant to report a scam as they are embarrassed to admit they fell for it.
If you have been scammed or think someone may have tried to scam you, don't be embarrassed, as it can happen to anyone. You must report it to relevant authorities as soon as you find out what has happened. Not only will this help stop other people from being scammed in the future, but it may also help you get your money back.
With more contact details online than ever before, increasingly advanced phishing emails and cold calls, and a general state of confusion caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns, scams have been on the rise for the last few years. Scammers target anyone and use any method they can, whether it be an online scam, postal scam, or telephone scam.
We are going to take a look at scam phone numbers, what they are, how to report one, and how to get your money back if you are the victim of one.
Depending on the nature of the scam, you should either contact Action Fraud or the non-emergency police service 101, but both services will be able to help. If you feel threatened or unsafe, you should call 999 immediately.
Action Fraud investigate scams, but the service is only available in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If you are in Scotland, then you should call 101 immediately.
So let's jump in and find out what exactly is a scam phone number.
A scam phone number is any number used by fraudsters to try and scam people out of money.
The number may be withheld, spoofed - which means the caller ID is different from the number they are calling from -, or connected to a genuine line.
In every case, you should report what you can to the relevant authorities.
Phone scams have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and it is now often difficult to detect a scam phone call from a legitimate one.
Phone scammers cold call their victims - which means they call unsolicited - and will often pretend to be from an organisation you would typically trust, such as HMRC, the police, or your bank.
The caller will either be a real person or an automated speaker. In both instances, they will either ask for sensitive personal information such as your bank details or request that you transfer them money over the phone.
The caller may be sympathetic and pretend they are on your side and the money or details are needed to rectify an issue. Or they will pose as an organisation demanding payment as you owe them money.
If you are suspicious of a call that you have received and believe it may be from a scam phone number, make sure you do not provide the caller with any sensitive information. This includes names of family members, birthdays, addresses, as well as more obvious things such as your bank account details, as scammers could use the information to hack your online accounts.
Ask for their full name and demand that they validate the call. If they are unable to do so, then you should hang up. If the call is legitimate, you can contact the organisation yourself.
Once you have hung up, wait for a few minutes and then call the organisation they claimed to be from and find out if it was them that had called you. You should be able to find a contact number for the organisation either online, in a phone book, or in any letters or emails they previously sent you.
If you are suspicious of a call, make a note of
- the time and date of the call
- the phone number
- what information you shared
- whether you paid money and, if you did, how much you paid
- the name the caller gave (if they gave one)
- the content of the call and what they asked for.
If you have been the victim of a scam phone call, there are multiple organisations you should contact.
Never refrain from reporting a scam, as your report will help stop future scams to other people.
Depending on the circumstances, you should report your scam to:
The standard organisation to report scams to is Action Fraud. Action Fraud is the UK's national reporting centre. You can call them on 0300 123 2040 or report it on their website.
Action Fraud will give you a crime reference number. This can be very useful if you need to tell your bank you've been scammed.
This service is available in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If you are in Scotland, you should call the non-emergency police on 101 straight away.
If you gave the scammers any of your bank details, you should call your bank immediately and have them temporarily lock your account. This ensures that scammers cannot use your details to take further money from you.
If you transferred money to the scammers in the last 24 hours or if you somehow know that the scammers are in your local area, you should the non-emergency police number on 101.
If you feel threatened or unsafe by the scam phone call - for example, you may fear they will come to burgle your house - then ring 999 and report your issue to the police.
National Fraud Authority
You can easily forward any suspicious messages or calls you receive to the National Fraud Authority by sending a message to 7726.
The service is free and stores a database of numbers that they then go on to investigate.
The organisation the scammer said they were from
If you can, you should also contact the organisation the scammer pretended to be from. This means that they can then warn other customers or users of their services that scam calls are pretending to be from them and advise people on what to do if they are suspicious of a call.
Friends and family
Many scams work by phishing private emails and other internet accounts. This means it is very common for multiple people from one social group - friends or family - to get scammed simultaneously as a whole list of contacts can be extracted from one email account.
You should, therefore, inform anyone on your contact list of the scam and make sure they are aware of what happened.
The Citizen's Advice Bureau
You don't need to report the scam to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, but depending on the situation, they can help you to try and get your money back.
When you report phone scams, either Action Fraud or the police will pass your report on to the Trading Standards. Trading Standards will then log your report and decide whether to pursue further investigation. If they do, they will likely contact you for more information.
It is important that you help them in any way possible as your information could lead to the prosecution of the scammers and help prevent them from scamming any more people.
If the Trading Standards don't contact you, your report may still be used as evidence against the scammers. It is very likely that you are not the first victim of their scam, but you should still report it as it can help to build a case against them.
It can be possible to get your money back if you have been scammed. Whether you can or not largely depends on what happened.
So let's take a look at some of the different scenarios.
If you paid the scammer by bank transfer or Direct Debit
If you transferred money via your bank or using Direct Debit, you should contact your bank as soon as possible and inform them of the situation.
This type of scam is known as an "authorised push payment." Most banks should reimburse you if you have transferred money because of a scam, and you should be able to get a full refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee if you paid using Direct Debit.
If you are refused a refund and think you should be entitled to one, you should lodge an official complaint with the bank.
Then, if within eight weeks your complaint has not been addressed and sorted, you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service. This is an organisation that helps to settle disputes between consumers and businesses.
If you paid using a credit or debit card and did not receive anything for your payment
If you paid for something you then did not receive, you might be able to get your money back. There is a service known as the "chargeback scheme," which involves your card provider requesting the seller's bank to refund the money as the goods or services were never provided.
Debit cards are not limited in the amount they can be refunded using the chargeback scheme.
Credit cards can be refunded for amounts between £100 and £30,000 using a scheme called the "section 75 claim." If you bought something for less than £100 using a credit card, you could also use the chargeback scheme.
If an unknown payment is made from your account
If there is an unknown payment that has been made from your account, you should contact your bank as soon as possible.
This scenario is known as an "unauthorised transaction."
Again, your bank will decide whether they will refund you or not. And again, if you are unhappy with how your claim is dealt with, you should lodge a formal complaint.
You can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service if, after eight weeks, you have received no response from your bank. You can also contact the ombudsman if the bank has refused your claim for a refund and you believe you are entitled to one.
If the ombudsman believes you have been unfairly treated, they can force your bank to refund you in full.
If you help someone else who has been scammed
If you are helping someone who has been scammed, you might need to find a legitimate way of managing their bank account if you want to claim back any money that was taken from them.
The person you are assisting needs to fill in a "third-party mandate," which permits you to manage their accounts. This can usually be done online.
If you need to manage more than one account of theirs, then the person you are helping needs to give you power of attorney. This requires a solicitor to sign off the request.
Once you are able to manage the necessary accounts, follow the steps in the previous scenarios to help them get the scammed money back.
Scam phone numbers are the numbers used by scammers to make scam phone calls. While they may not be real numbers, you should still report them to either Action Fraud or the non-emergency police.
Anyone can be scammed, and it is important that you don't feel ashamed if it has happened to you. Reporting the scam will help your case to get your lost money back, assist the police in finding the scammers, and help future people who may fall prey to a similar scam.