Banking and payment card scams

Banking and payment card scams involve the fraudulent use of a victim’s card details to make cash withdrawals or buy goods. With cases of card fraud on the increase, it’s more important than ever to protect your card details when you’re out and about and shopping online.

Telephone scams

Your bank and the police will never ring you and ask you to verify your PIN, withdraw cash or purchase high value goods. They’ll also never come to your home to collect your card, cash or purchased items. Should you receive a call like this, put the phone down.

If you receive a call from your bank or the police, verify who the person is before handing over any personal details. You can do this by calling your bank (the number on the back of your card) or the police (101) on a different phone line, whether it’s a mobile or a phone owned by a family member, friend or neighbour.

This is because scammers are able to keep phone lines open after pretending to hang up. So while you think you are making a new phone call, the line is still open to the scammer who pretends to be a different person from your bank or the police (also see Courier Fraud).

Depending on your bank, the security questions they ask may vary, but they will never ask you to authorise anything by entering your PIN into the telephone.

Never send money abroad to a person you have never met or to anyone you don’t actually know and trust. Likewise, never agree to keep your online relationship a secret. This is a ploy to get you not to tell your family and friends who will see the scam for exactly what it is.

Equally, do not accept any offer of money. A scammer may ask you to accept money from them into your own bank account. They will come up with a convincing story as to why they can’t use their own bank account. The circumstances may appear to be genuine, but you may unwittingly be committing the criminal offence of money laundering.

ATM or cash machine scams

Never share your debit or credit card PIN with anyone. If there is anything unusual about the cash machine or there are signs that it has been tampered with, do not use it and report it to the bank as soon as possible.

When using the ATM, cover your PIN as you type it. Stand close to the machine and always use your free hand and body to shield the keypad as you enter your PIN. This will prevent any prying eyes or hidden cameras seeing your PIN.

Do not get distracted. Be particularly cautious if seemingly well-meaning strangers try to talk to you or offer to help you while you’re using the ATM. If they seem persistent, simply cancel the transaction and discreetly put your card away.

Fraudsters sometimes fit devices to cash machines that trap your card, or ‘eat’ it, which they then retrieve as soon as you have left the area. If your card is retained by the machine for any reason, report it to your card company immediately - ideally using your mobile phone while you’re still in front of the machine. Make sure you have your card company’s 24 hour contact number stored in your mobile phone.

Once you have completed a transaction put your money and card away before leaving the cash machine. Destroy or ideally shred your cash machine receipts, mini-statements or balance enquiries when you dispose of them.

Banking scams

Check your statements regularly, including low value transactions. Notify your card company immediately if you suspect a fraud. Dispose of statements or slips which contain your card details carefully and securely by shredding or tearing-up your documents. This includes your cash machine receipts, mini statements or balance enquiries.

If you need to destroy your bank card, make sure you cut through the card including the metal chip. You can also use a shredder to destroy them.

Investment scams and pension fraud

The world of investments is extremely vulnerable to fraud. Since many emerging markets are unregulated, it’s difficult for authorities to enforce good, ethical working practices. Common investment scams involve buying rare metals, diamonds or gemstones, rare wine, land, carbon credits and alternative energy technology. If you’re new to investing, find out more about investment scams.

Common investment scams

In the most common scams, fraudsters cold-call their victims by telephone and pretend to be from an investment company. They try to sell investments in emerging markets they claim will lead to financial gains higher than the rates of established investments like ISAs. In reality, the item offered may not exist or is worthless.

Often the scammers will mention details that you might think only a genuine investment company will have. They may have details of previous investments you have made, shares you hold and know your personal circumstances. Remember, the scammers will do their homework and make it their business to know as much about you as possible.

They’ll often call you a number of times in an attempt to form a friendly relationship. If you respond in any way, they will persist, try and build trust and may eventually persuade you to part with your money. Having obtained some money from you they will probably call again and try to persuade you to ‘invest’ more money, perhaps in a different commodity.

Scammers may say they are from a reputable investment company, some will say they are stockbrokers or consultants. Always seek independent financial advice before you commit to any investment, including checking with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to see if they are a registered company. Do not rely solely on Companies House data.

Be wary of companies claiming they can recover money from lost investments on your behalf for a ‘one-off’ fee. This could be the same fraudsters trying to scam you again. Similar to the initial investment, they are likely to know all about your previous investment history.

Pension fraud

If you are over 55, from April 2015 changes in the law allow you to access your pension savings. You will have control of your pension pot and it is for you to decide how to invest the money.

Scammers may target you to try and steal your savings by persuading you to cash out your pension and put your money into fraudulent and unregulated investments with the promise of high returns.

If you are under age 55, you can transfer your pension to another scheme. However, you cannot access the funds unless you are seriously ill. If you are offered a cash incentive to transfer your pension, be aware that you’re likely to face tax charges that exceed half your pension savings.

If you are cold-called, receive a text message, email or similar unsolicited approach offering a pension review, be careful. It may not be someone acting in your best interests.

Never make a decision based on phone calls, glossy brochures and pushy salespeople. How often do you buy from a doorstep salesperson? So why trust someone you’ve never met, contacting you from a company you’ve never heard of, with your life savings?

Always seek independent advice from someone who is not associated with the ‘sales pitch’. If possible, research the company. A genuine financial advisor should be registered with the FCA.

In short, if you receive a cold call, email, text, or any message regarding your pension, put the phone down or delete the message immediately. For more advice, visit