How to spot and avoid bank scams
10 January 2021
It’s not uncommon for your bank to try and contact you. But sometimes those emails and phone calls are just scammers using the trust you have in your bank to con you out of your money.
Bank transfer scams
Possibly the most common bank scam is getting you to transfer money out of your account.
You will get a phone call claiming to be from your bank alerting you to a problem with your account. This will normally be something security related, such as telling you someone is accessing your account illegally, or has stolen your identity.
Their solution will be to ask you to transfer all the money into a ‘safe account’ until the problem is solved.
The problem is, nobody is trying to access your account and you’re transferring money directly to the scammers. The money is then transferred very quickly to other accounts around the world.
Worst of all, because you agreed to transfer the money and it’s been moved on again so fast, it can be very difficult to get the money back. In fact, according to UK Finance, in 2017 three quarters of the money could not be returned to the victims.
The other bank phone call scams
Bank transfer scams might be the most common telephone, or vishing, scam, but it’s far from being the only one.
Others might try to take control of your computer remotely, by telling you there is an issue with your internet connection or you have a virus. In reality, they use this time to install spyware on your computer to steal your information.
Another tactic is to tell you you’re due a refund or compensation, but you’ve been sent too much. You’ll then be asked to transfer back the difference.
Spotting and avoiding bank phone scams
It can be difficult to spot phone scams, but there are a few really important things you should know which will help you to protect yourself.
First, banks will never ask you to transfer money into a ‘safe account’. It just doesn’t happen.
Second, banks will never ask you to reveal personal information including your PIN, or passwords for online accounts.
If in doubt, hang up the phone and call your bank directly using the number on your credit or debit card. If there really is a problem, they will be able to tell you.
Bank card scams
There are a vast number of different bank card scams and most of them don’t even involve the scammer getting hold of your card.
The most common way to get your card details is when you’re shopping online.
Unsecured websites which only say http rather than https in their website address can be attacked and spyware can be installed on your computer, so scammers can see everything you’re doing online.
However, other scams are less high tech. Envelopes with new credit or debit cards can be stolen. You will then get a phone call from the person with your card asking you to confirm a few details which allows them to start using it.
By the time you realise what’s happened, your account could have been emptied, or your credit card maxed out.
ATM and cash machine scams
This is simply another way of cloning your bank card so scammers can use it to steal your identity.
A device of some kind is attached to the card slot, or miniature cameras attached so they can see your card number and PIN.
These can be hard to spot, but sometimes there will be a device attached to the card slot. Ensure you always cover the keyboard when you enter your PIN.
Spotting and avoiding card scams
If you’re shopping online there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself.
Most importantly, make sure your antivirus and operating system software is up to date.
Don’t use websites which only have http in the address rather than https and never use public Wi-Fi in coffee shops or shopping centres to shop online or use online banking.
Strong passwords can also help you protect your online accounts.
Bank email and phishing scams
Fake emails or phishing scams are very common and usually use a trusted company, such as your bank, to get you to lower your guard.
The email will encourage you to click a link in the message and logon to your online banking, normally by telling you to approve a transfer or to confirm some information.
The link takes you to a fake website which tracks what you do so the scammers can then use your details to access your account and transfer money.
Spotting and avoiding bank email scams
There are two main things to look out for if you get an email claiming to be from your bank.
First, what do they call you? Scammers will generally use a generic welcome, such as Dear Sir/ Madam or valued customer. Real emails will address you by your name.
Second, what email address has it been sent from? Emails from scammers maywill come from an address which is either just a series of letters and numbers, or have a spelling mistake.
Emails will also encourage you to click on a link to go to your online banking. This will be a fake website, so again it will be a series of letters and numbers, or have obvious spelling mistakes.
The best thing to do however is don’t click the link. If you think the email might be genuine, go to your online bank and login as normal and see if you have a message.
How to report bank scams
There are two things you need to do if you’ve been targeted by a bank scam, or worse fallen victim to one.
First, contact your bank. Even if you’ve spotted it’s a scam you should let them know because this will give them the chance to inform other customers to be on the lookout.
If you’ve become a victim, or have handed over personal information, it’s even more important as your bank will be able stop any payments or transfers, cancel cards and make sure your account is secure.
Second, you should get in touch with Action Fraud by either calling 0300 123 2040, or by using Action Fraud's online form (Opens in a new window)