What is a scam?

A scam is a dishonest scheme designed to cheat you out of money, this is fraud. Find out more about the different methods of scams that fraudsters could try and use.

To learn more about different types of scams and how to protect yourself and others visit Friends Against Scams and complete the free online training.

Types of scams

Doorstep scams

A doorstep scam involves someone calling at your door to try and scam you out of some money or gain access to your home. There are different types of doorstep scams, from rogue traders to people pretending to represent charities. Callers may appear genuine, so it's important to know what to look out for.

Watch Age UK's video on spotting and dealing with doorstep scammers.

Phone scams

Phone scams are a common way that criminals try to get your personal or bank details.

Read Age UK's guidance about identifying different types of phone scams and how to stay safe

Phishing scams

A phishing scam is when someone tries to obtain your information, such as bank details and passwords, by asking you to enter them into a website that looks genuine but is actually fake.

There have been increasing numbers of phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates or compensation, and asking you to enter your details into a fake government website.

See some examples of HMRC related phishing emails and bogus contact.

Courier fraud

Courier fraud is when someone contacts you by telephone claiming to be a police officer or bank official and say they need your help with an investigation. Once they have gained your trust, they may ask you to hand your bank card, money or other items to a courier.

Read more about courier fraud on the Action Fraud website.

Banking fraud

The banking industry has a duty of care to protect customers from fraud, especially those who are vulnerable.

There have been increasing numbers of bank transfer scams where you knowingly or unwittingly transfer money from your own bank account to one belonging to a scammer. Learn more about bank transfer scams and what to do if you are a victim on the Which website.

Reporting a scam 

If you've received a suspicious text, email or phone call, or if you think you've been scammed, you can report a scam to Action Fraud or phone 0300 123 2040. You should also contact your bank if you think you've been scammed.

If you're in immediate danger contact the police on 999.

For advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Tips to help you avoid being scammed

Read our range of tips below to help you avoid being scammed.

General tips

  • Always be cautious and listen to your instincts.
  • Don’t be afraid to hang up on a caller, bin a letter, delete an email or shut the door. Take your time and don’t be rushed.
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know. Never give your bank card or PIN to a stranger.

Doorstep tips

  • If someone claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID.
  • Be suspicious of requests for money up front.
  • If someone pressures you into accepting a service, they're unlikely to be genuine. Check with family and friends before accepting offers of help if you're unsure.

Phone tips

  • Never give out personal information or bank details over the phone. 
  • If you're not sure if it's a genuine call, hang up and wait 10 minutes. Call the company back using a phone number you've got on a previous letter, or one you know is genuine.  

Find out more about scam phone calls.

Text tips

  • Never use the telephone number, web address or email that's provided in a text message. 
  • Always find the contact details yourself from a letter or website that you trust.  
  • Never reply to a suspicious text. 

Find out more about scam text messages.

Email tips

  • Check the senders' email address to make sure it's genuine.  
  • Never click on the links or download attachments from unknown senders.
  • Look closely at the spelling of the web address and check for any minor inconsistencies that may indicate a phishing website.   
  • Spelling mistakes may point to a phishing email. 
  • Use your spam filter. If you find a scam email, mark it as a spam and delete it. Then delete it again from your deleted items if you have one. This will stop the message from reaching your inbox again.
  • If you've received an email which you’re not quite sure is genuine, you can report it to the government’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service by forwarding it to

Find out more about scam emails.

Website tips

  • Be aware of fake news and always use trusted sources such as the GOV.UK or NHS.UK websites.
  • Only purchase goods from legitimate online retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
  • Fraudsters are extremely good at creating convincing websites. These websites may look legitimate but using them could mean you're giving away your personal or bank details. Find out more about how to stay safe shopping and transacting online.

Recent reports of fraud and scams

Below are some examples of recent scams you should be aware of.

Council tax refund scams

The police are asking householders to be on their guard about council tax refund scams.

Fraudsters posing as council staff may contact people via text, email or phone and tell them they’re due a refund. They may say this is due to an over payment on their account or that their property is in the wrong tax band. We will never contact you in this way for a refund.

These scams generally say there will be a fee or they need your bank details to pay you the money. This is just a way for fraudsters to try and get your bank account details and other personal information. 

If anyone contacts you about a council tax refund or assessment which includes a request for personal information and bank details, you should not give out any information and make sure you report it.   

If you receive a text, email or phone call claiming you're due a council tax refund, ignore it and contact us directly. You can find the contact details yourself from an annual bill or our website. Never use the email address or telephone number on the email or text.

COVID-19 vaccine scam

We’ve received reports of scam text messages which ask you to book a vaccination appointment. The text has a link to a form that asks for bank details in order to prove your identity. This is a scam.

The COVID-19 vaccine is available free of charge and the NHS will never ask for bank details to confirm your identity or ask you to pay for a vaccine.

If you think you’ve been scammed, tell your bank and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

COVID-19 school vaccination scam

We've been made aware that fake consent forms for COVID-19 vaccinations have been sent to some schools for onward circulation to parents. These forms contains misleading information and should not be circulated.

If you are a school that has received a form that you think may not be genuine please get in touch with your local SAIS provider.

If you are a parent that has received a form that you think may not be genuine or if you are in doubt please contact your school directly.

Further guidance can be found in COVID-19 vaccination programme for children and young people guidance for schools on the GOV.UK website.

COVID-19 businesses support grant scam email

We're aware of some emails being circulated to local businesses asking for bank details to send business financial support. The fake email uses an official-looking GOV.UK heading but is a scam aimed at extracting bank details from firms.

If you own a business please be aware that:

  • central government (GOV.UK) is not managing the grant process for the borough, Barnsley Council is.
  • we will only ask for bank details via the secure forms on our website.

Cancelling subscriptions scam

Emails stating that Virgin Media is cancelling subscription charges in light of COVID-19. Recipients are asked to click on a link to prevent them from being charged.

There have also been seen several reports relating to phishing abuse in other brands, for example TV licencing phishing attempts, BT Sport and Amazon phishing emails.

Impersonation scams

Fraudsters have been targeting people working from home with impersonation scams.

Impersonation emails, texts and WhatsApp messages from seemingly trusted organisations such as the government, World Health Organization (WHO), or government departments such as HMRC. Many of these are offering financial aid, refunds, or false health advice.  

Remember to never click links or download PDFs from these emails as attachments may infect your device with malware that captures your personal information.

IT desk and security scams

Fraudsters have been pretending to be CEOs of IT departments to get information out of employees. Employees offer up access to their device and share their screen information with the criminals who then take banking and personal information which can be used to steal the victim’s funds and identity.

Whilst working from home, ensure your security settings are up to date on all your devices. Never share your screen with anyone you cannot confirm is legitimate, and if you receive an email urging you to download any updates to your device then call your IT department to confirm validity.

Hoax NHS website

Action Fraud has become aware of a hoax copy of the NHS website. The spoofed site includes harmful links luring people who are after COVID-19-related health tips. Once a link is clicked a pop-up box appears asking if you want to save a file called ‘COVID19’. If saved, your device is infected with malware which can steal passwords, credit card data, cookies from popular browsers, crypto wallets files and screenshots. When searching for a website always type the website address directly into the web browser, rather than following links.