Each week we ask a money expert questions focused around a particular theme. Jane Parsons at consumer charity Citizens Advice explains the steps consumers should take if they’ve been the victim of fraud.
What impact has lockdown had on fraud?
Unfortunately being at home doesn’t protect us from being targeted by scammers. We’ve found that since lockdown first began in March, one in three of us have been contacted by a fraudster.
We should all take steps to look out for ourselves and anyone who might be at risk of falling victim to a scam.
What should I do if I think I’ve been scammed?
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from things getting worse.
If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours you should contact the police immediately on 101, and if you think the scammer has your bank account details or your pin contact your bank so they can protect your account from further risks. You should also change your online banking passwords if you think your account has been compromised.
After you’ve told your bank about the con, keep an eye on your bank statements and look out for any unusual transactions. Explain to the bank what’s happened if you do see something suspicious and ask if you can get a refund.
You should also check your credit score to see if there are applications for credit you don’t recognise.
Next you should report the scam. Don’t feel embarrassed about this, fraudsters are clever and it could happen to anyone. Reporting helps track down and stop scammers.
Anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by or has seen an online scam can report it to Citizens Advice Scams Action service, either online at citizensadvice.org.uk or on 0808 250 5050.
For in-person, mail and telephone scams, you can report issues to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. Citizens Advice will give advice on what to do next and report it to Trading Standards for you.
How can I get my money back?
Your chances of getting your money back depend on how you’ve been scammed.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get your money back if you’ve paid through a wire service such as MoneyGram, PayPoint or Western Union. Our advice is only to send money via these methods to people you know. It’s also unlikely you’ll get your money back if you used vouchers or gift cards to pay the scammer.
If you sent money by bank transfer or Direct Debit, contact your bank immediately to let them know what’s happened and ask if you can get a refund.
Most banks should reimburse you if you’ve transferred money to someone because of a scam. This is known as an “authorised push payment”. If you’ve paid by Direct Debit, you should be able to get a full refund under the Direct Debit Guarantee.
How can I prevent scams from happening again?
Unfortunately, falling victim to a scam once can increase exposure to further cons as personal details can be sold onto other criminals. This then opens the door to more scam mail, emails, phone calls or home visits.
It’s important to remain vigilant. So be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise. Never feel rushed or as though you have to make a decision straight away, and if you do suspect something is a scam hang up, walk away or delete the email.
How can I help a vulnerable relative?
If you’re helping someone who’s been scammed, there are ways you can manage their bank account for them.
You might need to do this if you want to stop payments or claim back money. The person you’re helping needs to fill in a form giving you permission to manage their account. This is known as a “third party mandate”.
Falling victim to a con artist can be stressful. If your wellbeing has been affected you can talk confidentially to charities such as Victim Support, The Samaritans or Age UK.
Source: i News