Scams and staying safe online

Sadly not everyone is trustworthy, with some people trying to take advantage of others. A scam is where somebody tries to get your personal details or money from you. It’s good to be aware of the different types of scam out there and what to do if you think someone is trying to scam you.

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.

Tips to avoid being scammed

  • 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; don’t be rushed.
  • 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.
  • If you're online, be aware of fake news and always use trusted sources such as the GOV.UK or NHS.UK websites. Make sure you type the addresses in and don’t click on links in emails.
  • Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know. Never give your bank card or PIN to a stranger.
  • Know who you’re dealing with; if you need help talk to someone you know or call us on (01226) 773300.

The National Cyber Security Centre has published some useful tips for staying safe online during the coronavirus crisis, including advice on strong passwords and using two-factor authentication.

Contact information

If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and if you need advice, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

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

Contact your bank if you think you have been scammed.

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.

Staying safe online 

Read our tips for staying safe online.

Suspicious emails

Criminals often use emails and text messages to try and scam you out of money. 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 

Your report will help the service act quickly to protect many more people from being affected.

Find out more information about how to identifying scam emails or read NCSC's advice on suspicious emails.

Using video calling safely

Video calling software like Zoom, Messenger, WhatsApp etc, is a great tool for keeping in touch with loved ones during the coronavirus crisis. 

Find out more information on using video calling software or read Microsoft's how-to guide on using Teams.

Identifying safe websites

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.

COVID-19 scams

Here are some COVID-19 scams to be aware of:

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 will always be 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. Always report a possible scam; it could save someone else from becoming a victim.

COVID-19 fraud line

The government and CrimeStoppers have joined forces to launch an anonymous reporting service for those with information about COVID-19 fraud. 

This new service does not replace Action Fraud. Victims of fraud must still contact Action Fraud, and any reports to the new hotline from victims will be re-directed there for follow up.

The hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year for all COVID-19 fraud-related crime. Call 0800 587 5030 or find out more about the COVID-19 fraud line.

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.

Fake news

Fake news articles have been circulating the internet and the press claiming remedies, cures and false advice around coronavirus. Read trusted sources such as GOV.UK and the World Health Organisation websites.

Other scams to be aware of

  • Home cleaning services.
  • People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus. This is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy.
  • Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus and they're just after your personal and bank details.
  • There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect you or cure coronavirus designed to take your money.
  • There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead, they lock your phone and demand a ransom.
  • Your bank or the police will never ask for your bank details over the phone.
  • People offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus.