Scams and staying safe online

Sadly not everyone out there is trustworthy and some people have been taking advantage of the unusual situation our society is facing. See our list of COVID-19 scams to be aware of.

What is a scam?

A scam is where somebody tries to get your personal details or money from you. It’s good to be aware of the different scams 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

There have been increasing numbers of phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates or compensation.

The latest scams claiming to be from GOV.UK include:

  • text messages advising the victim their phone data has shown they've left their home more than once and they should phone a number to pay a fine or risk further punishment;
  • text messages sent informing victims they can claim £458 of coronavirus aid. This text includes a link to a fake government website which urges users to enter their postcode to apply for COVID-19 relief.

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 new Suspicious Email Reporting Service by forwarding it to report@phishing.gov.uk 

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.