/ Scams

Welcome to a week of scams awareness

This week we’ll be supporting Which?’s wider work around scams by publishing new alerts, experiences and guest contributions every day.

Our free scam alert service has come a long way since its launch last April. What was a brand new initiative in early 2020 has become a key Which? communication with nearly 100,000 people registered to receive them.

As fraudsters continue to bombard the UK public and ruthlessly exploit the pandemic, it’s now time to take the scam alert service further, reaching and helping even more people.

Which? Conversation has been a huge part of its journey, providing a lot of the alerts that are sent out every week and helping to warn thousands of people about the latest phishing emails, fake websites, texts and cold calls that are doing the rounds.

This week Which? will be spreading the word about the scam alert service across its channels – but our regular updates can help fight fraud and ensure our members and the public are always one step ahead.

If you’re not already receiving them you can register for free here:

To support the activity this week, Which? Conversation is having a ‘scams takeover’ of sorts – we’ll be publishing new alerts, guest contributions and hearing directly from victims every day.

We’re also pleased to say there’s now a much easier way to make us aware of these scams directly with the launch of our scam sharer tool.

With your help raising awareness by sharing these alerts with friends and family we can continue to fight back against the fraudsters and prevent phishing emails, fake texts, cold calls and other types of fraud from having the impact they set out to.

Thank you for your support!

Which of these scams do you receive the most?
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As well as helping us all to spot, report and avoid scams banks need to do more to prevent rogue traders from obtaining accounts and card services. It would be good if Which? could give us an insight into what is being done to deal with the problem.

Many people have never been scammed, so perhaps it’s worth finding out how they have avoided the threats.

I may have been helped by all the marketing calls and emails that I have received. I won’t deal with unsolicited contacts and thanks to all the stories of fraud on Which? Conversation I am now very careful about checking that online businesses are genuine.

We are going to have to become more vigilant and a good start would be to ignore advertising on social media.

I get news feeds from the local county council which includes scam alerts from the Trading Standards Service.

Which? and other media are useful for drawing attention to the common scams [mainly by phone and e-mail] but the local information is much more granular and informs residents about doorstep scams and rogue traders operating in small neighbourhoods.

From a different direction a local community website gives a running round-up of petrol prices at the local filling stations and where to get the best deal. While national news is useful it’s not always the best.

I think it needs far more publicity than Which? can give it. I too get emails about scams but you have to register with the organisation, and I wondr how many do.

I would like to see the equivalent of public information films broadcast on tv at peak viewing times. There might then be fewer people who are not aware of scams.

I agree with you malcolm and see the Which? logo on many TV adverts these days and I barely notice adverts.

Maybe a condition of use should be a percentage of adverts dedicated to scam awareness.

Is it more useful to feature scams in the storylines of soap operas and other popular TV programmes? It has been tried.

Yes. “We interrupt this gripping drama to bring you news of a beastly scam in which people send off for a pair of rubbish Ray-Bans at a knock-down price and end up with a stylish pair of luxury moccasins they didn’t want. Keep watching to see whose hands were on the blood-stained putty knife.” That was a public service announcement from the Midsomer Constabulary [sponsored by Fatebook].

I’m thinking of a storyline where a popular character is the victim of a popular scam and we get to know the details. The problem with simple educational material is that it helps only those who are receptive.

Awareness of individual scams is a start, but the key to beating scams is education and teaching people how not to become a victim by researching their situations whether they are shopping, emails, investments, texts or phone calls.

I have posted my Shopping Checklist several times now and hope it has taught at least one person to check out a seller or prevented at least one person becoming a victim. It does tend to get buried and needs updating now and again.

Does anyone think it would make a good convo subject? Updates could keep it fairly current and a link could be sent out regularly as a reminder for occasions such as Black Friday or the New Year sales.

People could then comment and add other useful links.

Excellent idea.

Thanks John.
I have now updated and reposted the checklist:

I must get one or two scams each week, sometimes several in a day before they give up. The problem I have is that I always hang up before the scam can be introduced so I don’t know what I’ve missed out on. The give away is a few seconds silence before the caller replies; the use of “hello” or “this is a…” rather than “my name is” or “Hello Mr H.” There is often a snatch of music as one picks up the phone; a funny sounding voice or recorded droning voice, and an instant surprise “Your bank account is…” or ” Dear Customer” or “Your purchase is due to be…” Sometimes there is background chatter before the message begins. I prefer to be ignorant, but I’m sure I get the full range of scams and am targeted because someone has got hold of my date of birth and consider me to be a likely target. I get very cross when I can link a spate of calls to a recent purchase.

Rather than scam avoidance, isn’t it time we started working towards scam prevention?

I don’t have one answer, but it seems that the majority of scams are based on the principle of “take the money and run”. This is facilitated by the instant payment methods that have proliferated since the introduction of credit cards, and especially now that almost everyone has a computer in their home or pocket.

Why do these systems even exist? Convenience is one aspect, but instant gratification requiring instant payment is another, before you can take delivery of the goods or access the service is another.

I’m sure retailers would howl with outrage if anyone suggested that there should be a delay on processing payments to provide a cooling-off period. But why not? That’s effectively what Chargeback is, except it works the wrong way around. Money is transferred to the seller’s bank account almost immediately the sale is made, not after the goods are delivered.

Why can’t Visa and Mastercard offer two types of payment card?

One for face-to-face shopping (“card holder is present”) and the payment is processed there and then, so you can take the goods away.

A second card, or even just a different CVV/CVC (3-digit code), for distance selling and internet transactions would authorise the payment, but funds would be withheld until the goods or service is delivered and the customer has acknowledged receipt of the same. Plus maybe a 14-day cooling off period where that is already embodied in legislation.

Rather than scam avoidance, isn’t it time we started working towards scam prevention?

100% agree with you Em but all suggestions fall on deaf ears and there have been no end of good ideas here on the convos.

Refunds are not instant and retailers can get away with mysteriously taking up to 10 days to credit our accounts.

What you are suggesting is a bit like the old pay by cheque with a cheque guarantee card. Many people realise they have been scammed as soon as a phone call ends, so this would give them a chance to get their money back.

Joan Leesley says:
25 March 2021

Had a cold call by land line today about a Amazone account being used in my name. I put the pohone down knowing it was a scam.

I normally do my banking online but today I had to phone my bank to get help with a transaction. The person was working from home – an uncontrolled environment – and I wondered what measures banks and other institutions are taking to protect our data and my money in particular. The employee could let a friend see the information or the friend could shoulder surf to find out some details that could later be used in a scam.

Am I stupid to be concerned.

Toby – Not at all – I share your concern. How did you become aware that the responder was at home? Were you informed at the outset and given the option of speaking to someone in the office?

I had to call my bank [Nationwide building society] the other day and it occurs to me now that the person answering and noting my verification information could have been sitting in his kitchen with other people in sight of his PC. He had to look up my recent spending history to clarify a declined transaction which he then cleared. In that instance my name, address, account codes and available balance would have been visible. Or, without the general observation and personal supervision of being in an office, he could have written down or printed off my data and passed it on. I also wonder whether the conversation was being recorded for monitoring purposes as is usually the case.

If working from home [or living at work as some call it] is going to be the new normal then there needs to be a code of practice that customers can read and be aware of [vide Nationwide’s announcement yesterday that non-branch staff will in future be allowed to work wherever they like – at home, in a branch, or at the main office].

A number of questions come to mind: Will staff have to specify their location each day as part of their log-in and control procedures? Will there be rules on privacy when working at home? Will they be required to log-out when they have a comfort break or receive visitors? Will there be any remote supervision of their computer and telephone activity? Can the customer demand a video link so they can check the situation? What on-line and telephone activity will be permitted to take place outside the regular office hours? How will absence on leave be controlled [e.g. log-in denied on authorised holiday dates]?

Some staff might live in accommodation shared with others who are unrelated and have no special allegiance to the employee. It would be interesting to know whether the home working arrangements are subjected to any suitability assessments and approval process. I trust that customer-facing staff still in their probationary period will not be allowed to handle customer business unsupervised.

I would at the very least expect any companies in the financial services sector to carry out a security risk assessment in each case before making home working a routine and flexible arrangement.

I think everyone should return to their previous permanent place of employment for a four-week period after the current restrictions end before new arrangements are introduced in an organised manner with the necessary security and privacy protections in place. I am concerned that many organisations could slide into a more informal style of operating making it difficult to reassert control if circumstances justify it and to identify the causes of problems or breaches that might occur. The management will no doubt be able to trust existing staff as they will have known them for some time but the same might not apply to new recruits.

I am now asking myself whether I want to continue to be served by a building society that will let its personnel work remotely from the management and supervisory protocols.

A pertinent comment, TobyHayes.
@gmartin, George, something Which? should be concerned about. Worth them doing a contribution on banking security with staff working from home?

@gmartin – George: I echo Malcolm’s suggestion. Yes, please do a topic on this – you’ve got some material to feed off above and, unlike me, you and your colleagues have some practical experience of working from home.


OMG, I’m running to the bank tomorrow to draw out my money and will store it under my mattress.

I bank with First Direct and always have a brief chat when I call them. It was in the course of the conversation that I learned the customer service assistant was working from home. I accepted that during the pandemic but expected them to return to their offices shortly. Then I heard the Nationwide announcement and was concerned. That was when I checked on here to see if any others were concerned.

I expect the computer logs out if there is no activity for a short time, like for making a cuppa or a toilet break. I would also hope that printing any details from a banking computer programme would not be possible. It’s the fact that people not employed by the bank could see customer records that worries me the most. That could be the source material for scams. Criminals live somewhere and they could be house sharing with your banker.

I’ve always assumed that bank staff would have been set up to work at home during the pandemic.

As an engineer, I’ve always done some of my work from home.

Down the years, different employers and clients have put in appropriate physical and procedural security measures for this, when it was allowed.

I’ve also worked on other much more secure projects, where all work was done on site and none of the computers used could be connected to the Internet.

I see it as essential for each company or other organisation to take appropriate measures to ensure security of data and to prevent theft when money is involved, but in many jobs there needs to be trust.

Like Derek I sometimes worked at home and my employer – a university – allowed me to access their computer system from home. The access privileges were given to staff strictly according to their needs and all access was logged. I was trusted and did not betray the trust but had it been found that someone had been making use of confidential information I expect the culprit could have been found.

I hope that anyone working in a shared office will at least lock their screen before going for a coffee break.

Robert says:
6 April 2021

Recently I have had all 3 types of scams both verbally and in writing.
I have had my personal details stolen from the computer system of a company called DivideBuy. Not sure if this is why.

Maureen says:
13 April 2021

Constantly getting scam calls on the landline and mobile phones