Common fraud threats

Knowledge of common scams, how they operate, and their warning signals can help you stave off the fraudsters.

Scam artists will manipulate common ways of communicating, such as phone calls, emails, texts, and social media messages. Here are some of the typical ways they’ll try and trick you into giving away your personal details or allow them to access your computer.

When paying someone new we will check that you’re confident about who you are paying. We’ll do this by guiding you through tailored information about the type of payment you’re making. If you don't want to continue or you're unsure about making the payment, you'll have the option to cancel it and contact us to discuss your concerns.

Common types of fraud

Suspicious emails, texts and social media messages - also known as phishing and malware

Scam messages can be very convincing. They are popular with fraudsters.

What are scam messages?

They are fake messages that can appear authentic. Fraudsters will deliberately mimic the contact details of the Bank, Police or other trusted companies to hide their true identity. Scam messages will often try to get you to act quickly, claiming there is an urgent issue to encourage you to act fast, e.g. to call a phone number included in a text message to stop a fraud payment, or will ask for personal information, such as bank details and passwords.

These fraudulent messages can lead to you speaking to fraudsters, who will try to trick you into providing account security such as; verification codes or token codes to move money out of your account without you realising. Remember: we will never ask you to provide verification codes or token codes over the phone.

Fraudulent messages often contain links or attachments, which if opened, will take you to a fake website asking you for your bank details. Fraudsters will then try and use your details to access your account to steal your money.

Fake websites and malicious email attachments may try and install malware, a form of harmful software. Malware can be subtle, it can blend into the background without disrupting your computer - whilst you carry on as normal, malware can move your money around or make you think you've failed to log into your online banking site. Prompting you to re-enter your security details, which the fraudster captures.

Do the following to help protect yourself

  • If you are in any doubt that a message may not be genuine stop and do not respond. Instead contact us.
  • Be vigilant to any out of the blue message requests from family members, friends or work colleagues, which involve you transferring money to them. Always check the message first by speaking to the person direct before deciding to part with any money.
  • Never reply to any unexpected messages that come from an unknown source. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments contained in these messages and never log in to your bank via a link from a message.
  • Always use strong passwords and lock your devices when not in use. Keep your anti-virus software up to date and perform regular security scans. This can protect you from malware, viruses and suspect websites contained in links and messages.
  • Be wary when asked to re-enter your banking or security details. Be suspicious of new and unusual pages on a familiar website. These can be signs of malware.
  • When making a purchase online or when dealing with personal info, check that there's a padlock symbol in your browser (it's often next to the web address). Also check that the web address starts with 'https' instead of 'http.' These show that you are on a secure site.
  • If you're worried you've received a fake email, text or social media message, contact the relevant company using details that came from a reliable source. i.e. call your bank using details from the bank's mobile app.
  • To help stop SPAM text messages forward the text to 7766. For further advice on nuisance calls and messages visit OFTEL website.
  • If you are using a Third Party Provider (TPP), please read our advice on how to use Third Party Provider (TPP).

If you have seen a scam email claiming to be from smile, please forward it to

If you fear you’ve fallen victim to fraud, call us on:

Current account customers - +44(0)3457 212 212 (Call charges)

Credit card customers - +44(0)345 600 6000 (Call charges)

Scammers may phone, out of the blue, claiming to be from your bank, the police or other trusted organisations. They will pose as someone trustworthy and attempt to get your personal and banking info.

Fraudsters may attempt to trick you into letting them access your computer to steal your money.

Remember, the bank, police and other reputable groups will never ask you:

How to help protect yourself from phone fraud

  • Don’t trust cold calls. Say no to information requests and don’t be afraid to hang up the call.
  • Don’t respond to requests asking for your PIN number or requests to collect your bank card from your home address. We will never do either of these.
  • If someone says you need to move your funds to another bank, even if they claim it is urgent or that this new account is ‘safe,’ don’t do it. We will never ask you to do this.
  • Even if a caller knows personal information about you, or if a familiar number appears on your caller ID, don’t necessarily trust them. Scam artists can make another organisation’s number appear on their caller ID.
  • If you want to validate a phone call, please use details obtained from a trusted source.

For more updates see our latest fraud alerts here.

Scam artists may impersonate pension advisors or aggressive salespeople. They may try and make you put your money into fake investment schemes.

No investment return is ever ‘guaranteed.’ If you are considering investing your money or realising your pension funds and putting them into an investment, consider seeking advice from a reputable, regulated source.

Pension advisors, brokers and financial organisations ought to be regulated and authorised by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). If you are contacted by a suspicious organisation, check if they are authorised by the FCA by visiting the Financial Conduct Authority’s ScamSmart pages or calling their customer helpline: +44(0)800 111 6768.

What kinds of investments might scammers try to sell me?

  • Binary options (betting on if the price of a share, stock market or asset will be above or below a set price in the future)
  • Wine
  • Gold, Silver, diamonds or other precious metals
  • Land for development
  • Properties or land abroad
  • Storage units and parking spaces
  • Biofuels, Graphene and carbon credits
  • Investments involving the use of Cryptocurrencies (virtual money) such as Bitcoin or Ethereum

As these scam companies aren't authorised by FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), you won't be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme when things do go wrong with them.

If these investments do turn out to be bogus, you risk losing all the money you have put into them.

What warning signs should I look out for?

Cold calls and unforeseen contact

If someone calls you, out of the blue and unprompted, about an ‘investment opportunity’ or releasing your pension savings, be wary. Regardless of how they get in touch - be it via email, phone, text message or even on your doorstep - if it’s unexpected and unsolicited, it’s important to be cautious.

Guaranteed returns

There are no guaranteed returns. Fraudsters will tempt you with improbably fantastic deals that are ‘guaranteed’ to go up in value. They may have a well designed website, sleek brochures or seemingly professional promo materials. Even if the presentation looks legitimate, the information they contain will likely be too good to be true.

Offers of ‘free pension reviews’ or ‘retirement planning advice’

They may claim they are acting on a government initiative. They may try and offer you a free pension review, or retirement advice. They may claim you can release your pension funds before the age of 55 thanks to some legal loopholes (they likely can’t - this is usually only possible in rare cases, such as illness). These are the things scammers are likely to offer you. If you get a cold call from pushy advisers or ‘introducers,’ as they may call themselves, about a ‘unique investment opportunity’ or free financial advice, be wary. It may be a scam.

Being told to ‘act now’

People make mistakes under pressure. Fraudsters will try and get you to act quickly, claiming that otherwise you’ll miss a ‘once in a lifetime’ offer - or something similar. They may call you over and over again, telling you about this ‘golden opportunity.’ They may be trying to pressurise you into making a bad decision. If someone is pushing to ‘act fast,’ be very suspicious.

No talk of risk or implications

Legitimate finance companies need to point out potential risks or tax implications involved with investments. If the people you’re talking to brush over, downplay or just plain don’t mention the risks involved with your money, the company you’re dealing with may be acting improperly or fraudulently.

Offers to help recover money

If you’ve been scammed once, your details may be passed on or sold to other fraudsters. These other fraudsters may contact you and offer to help you ‘recover’ the money that was initially scammed. However, they will often ask for an initial, upfront payment. If you pay this, you will likely never see it again.

How do I check if a company is legitimate?

Ask them for their Firm Reference Number and contact details.

Research them as much as possible.

Check if they are authorised and regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) by visiting or by calling them on +44(0)800 111 6768.

I think I’ve fallen victim to an investment or pension scam. What do I do now? If you bank with us and think you’ve been scammed, contact us immediately.

If you don’t bank with us, call Action Fraud - the UK’s national fraud reporting centre - on +44(0)300 123 20 40.

The Action Fraud website is

Where can I find more information about pension scams? If you would like further information on pension scams, visit or visiting

Online dating can be a wonderful way to get to know someone and find love, but it's also a common way for fraudsters to scam you.

Romance scams happen when fraudsters use fake online profiles through dating sites, chatrooms or social media to form a relationship. Once the fraudster wins your affection, confidence and trust, they'll pull on the emotional bond that you've developed and ask you for money.

Spot the warning signs - Be extremely cautious if your online love interest...

  • Is very attentive - contacting you regularly, often daily and pushes to speak with you away from the dating site or chat room.
  • Declares their feelings for you very quickly and asks lots of personal questions but never really tells you much about themselves or they are vague about basic details such as where they live or work.
  • Has the perfect profile picture and seems too good to be true.
  • Begins to ask you for money - typically for some sort of crisis e.g. an ill friend or relative who requires urgent hospital treatment or to pay for a flight, food or rent etc.

How to protect yourself from romance scams

  • Don't put yourself and your identity in jeopardy by trusting people too quickly. Be cautious when getting to know people online.
  • Think twice before displaying or posting personal or financial information online or openly sharing personal details which could be used to steal your identity.
  • Guard your privacy and trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right it probably isn't.
  • Use reverse image search to check that the profile picture of your new love interest isn't taken from somewhere else.
  • Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don't really know or have never met in person.
  • Never let your bank account be used to receive money or to move money on for someone else.
  • Only use reputable dating websites and avoid switching to direct messaging, text or phone calls too quickly. Fraudsters try to get you away from the website so that there is no evidence of them asking you for money.

Fraudsters will try and trick businesses into transferring legitimate payments to fraudulent accounts. They do this by pretending to be a supplier that the business works with, then ask the business to change the supplier’s account details to their own bogus account. This scam can produce losses running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, and sometimes even more.

Any business, big or small, can fall victim to fraud. Always verify requests to change banking and payment details. If a supplier says they are changing their bank details, contact them again (using trusted contact details) to check that they actually instigated the changes and that the new details are correct.

If you think you or your business may have fallen victim to an invoice re-direction scam, then contact us immediately.

How do these scams work?

They will do their research. Scam artists will suss out the intricacies of a business and supplier relationship and learn when regular payments occur. They may get hold of genuine invoices, but change the payment details on them. They may even contact the business directly, posing as the supplier, and ask for ‘their’ details to be changed.

If the business does not check these details and settles the fraudulent invoices, the funds will be sent to an account the scammer has access to. Your payment is then transferred, often outside of the UK - this makes recovering your money a real challenge.

Businesses often become aware of the scam only when the actual supplier asks for on old payment to be honoured, a payment the business thought it had already made. Sometimes, the supplier will only chase for an old payment weeks or months after they were due. By the time this happens, it is normally impossible to trace and recover the stolen funds.

A variation of this scam involves someone falsely claiming to be a senior member of the business itself and instructing an urgent payment to new account details. If the business does this, the funds will be transferred to an account the fraudster has access to.

What warning signs are there?

Out of the blue requests to change or alter payment info for a regular supplier.

Regardless of how they do it (by email, phone, fax, letter), if you are unexpectedly asked to amend bank payee details then tread carefully and investigate. This is a serious warning sign.

Urgent, unexpected payment requests (via email, text or fax) which appear to be from senior members of your company and provide specific account details should be treated with suspicion.

What can I do to help protect my company from this?

If you want to help protect your business, you can do the following:

  • Treat requests to change a supplier’s bank account details, or complete any ‘urgent’ payments (be they internal or external), with caution.
  • Check and verify payment requests BEFORE you complete them. Be wary of using contact details provided with the payment instruction - instead, use trusted contact details to check the payment request and verify any account changes.
  • Teach staff the warning signs for these scams. Get them to check for irregularities and be wary of sudden, urgent payment requests. Encourage them to raise any concerns they have as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure senior staff understand this scam and keep this in mind when authorising payments.
  • Set up specific points of contact with suppliers. Being contacted via alternative means will then be treated with suspicion.
  • Reconcile accounts on a daily basis. This will help you find any fraudulent, or potentially fraudulent, payments quickly.
  • Be mindful of what details are available on your company website. Some information might help fraudsters.
  • Never assume an email, text or fax request for an urgent payment is legitimate - even if it seems to have come from someone senior within the company.

I think I have been scammed. What now?

If you bank with us and fear you have fallen victim to an invoice redirection scam, or believe you have received a fraudulent payment request, contact us immediately.

Current account customers - +44(0)347 212 212 (Call charges)

Credit card customers - +44(0)345 600 6000 (Call charges)

If you do not bank with us, report your loss or suspicious payment request to Action Fraud - the UK’s national fraud reporting centre - by visiting their website or calling +44(0)300 123 20 40.

Where can I find out more information about protecting myself from this?

Further information is available in the scam booklets listed below.

Little book of big scams (business edition PDF)

Information is also available by visiting the Take Five website.

Fraudsters will say that you have been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and you are owed money. They will tell you that you must make a payment for the funds to be released. This is a scam.

Fraudsters will contact you under the guise of working for authorised claim companies in an attempt to make their approach seem credible and genuine. They may also claim to be from the Financial Conduct Authority, the Claims Management Regulator or Ministry of Justice.

They will inform you that you are owed a refund from the mis-selling of PPI. Fraudsters will then ask you to make a payment to them so that you can access the money. The payment tends to be about 10% of the amount they claim you are owed.

Scammers will request that payments are made using unusual means; this could include a Ukash voucher, iTunes gift cards or a Paysafecard. These means are used so that the money transfer cannot be traced.

If you make a payment, fraudsters will often contact you again to request more funds to be transferred to release the owed payment.

Protect Yourself

  • Be wary of unexpected calls, especially if you're asked to make payments or transfer funds up-front, or to divulge account information. There's no harm in hanging up.
  • Avoid making any payments to people claiming to be from companies or authorities who contact you without prior notification. Be extra vigilant when they ask you to use unconventional payment methods.
  • You can use the Authorised Business Register to check if a claims company is authorised and legitimate. Be aware that fraudsters will often pretend to be from genuine companies.
  • Check that any phone calls, text messages or emails are from numbers or addresses registered in the UK. Avoid contact from overseas numbers.
  • Regulatory bodies such as the FCA, the Claims Management Regulator or the Ministry of Justice will never contact members of the public asking for personal banking details or money.

Report fraud

Scams can be sophisticated. If you fear you’ve fallen victim to fraud, call us immediately on:

Please note, calls to these numbers will be charged. See call charges.

Report a scam or potential scam

Call 159 — this service quickly redirects you to your bank, so you can report scams and suspected fraudulent contact.

Find out when you should call 159

Fraudsters will sometimes send fake emails claiming to be from trusted organisations. If you suspect a smile email of being a scam, please let us know by forwarding it to

Along with other UK banks, we have made a commitment to UK finance and the FCA to protect our customers from fraud. View our approach to fraud prevention (PDF).

Verification codes

We use verification codes as an additional layer of security when you’re doing things like logging in to online banking, making online banking payments or setting up new payees.

To make sure it’s always you using your online banking account and nobody else, we’ll either send your code as a text message or in an email. You then need to follow the instructions online to enter the code.