How To Protect Yourself From Scams

How to protect yourself or a vulnerable or elderly loved one from scams

Scams are designed to cheat people out of their money. New ways of communicating digitally have led to an increasing number and variety of scams. In 2021, one in four Britons received daily scam calls, texts and email.


While most of us assume that we or our loved ones would never fall for a scam, the increasing sophistication of scams makes them harder to identify.


Fraudsters can be extremely convincing. Taking advantage of our heavy reliance on technology, scammers use careful manipulation and sophisticated methods to make you believe you can trust them.


In a study conducted by Ofcom, 87% of UK adults have come across content they suspected to be a scam or fraud. Among the victims who lost money, one in five lost more than £1,000.


Anyone can be scammed, and the lasting impact can leave us feeling unsafe and embarrassed. When it comes to scams, knowledge is power. The more we know, the less effective the scams are, and the less powers the scammers have.


Read on to find out how you can stay one step ahead and protect yourself and your loved ones.

How to protect yourself and loved ones from scams

To safeguard loved ones from scams, it’s crucial to provide regular reminders on what to watch out for. Keep these reminders simple (such as never disclosing bank details or passwords to anyone) and easily accessible, perhaps placing written notes near their phone or computer.


Openly talking about scams and fraud is essential. Scams are constantly changing and are becoming more sophisticated, and there is no shame in falling victim.


By reporting incidents and talking about the latest updates, you can help them keep up to date with the latest scams and help protect others.


Think Jessica


Think Jessica[CB1]  is a registered charity. Their website is an excellent source of information about scams. It explains that:


“Criminals worldwide are hunting down the most fragile members of our society by ‘working’ from mailing lists which categorise people as being elderly or vulnerable in some way…Those who respond end up having their details put on what criminals call ‘suckers lists’. They sell these lists to other scammers all over the world. This can result in victims being delivered 100+ scam letters per day and plagued by international phone calls. Millions of victims have a condition which Think Jessica is trying to get recognised as Jessica Scam Syndrome (JSS).”


People with JSS have been ‘brainwashed’ by criminals who are having an easy and assisted passage into their homes, minds, and bank accounts.


The Think Jessica charity has kindly given their permission for us to reproduce an extract from their website on the key things to be aware of.

Bank scams

Scammers may impersonate officials from companies or official bodies like your bank or building society, HMRC, the police or even fraud investigation companies, through various channels including telephone, text, email, or letter. Bank scams are designed to cause panic, such as claiming fraudulent activity on your cards or account, using information already gathered to appear trustworthy and believable.


Banks, building societies, genuine fraud investigation agencies or the police will never ask you to disclose your PIN.


What to do:

  • Do not provide your bank details to cold callers.
  • Never disclose your PIN to anybody, especially callers who claim to be from your bank.
  • If you do receive a call from a person claiming to be from your bank, say you will ring them back. If possible, ring the bank using a different phone or wait at least ten minutes to make sure the line is clear (do not give your PIN details).
  • Visit your bank or building society’s website for information regarding fraud and speak to a member of their fraud team for more help and advice.
Energy scams

Energy scams involve criminals impersonating energy companies, government officials, local authorities, or regulators to obtain personal information or bank details.  They use tactics like offering grants or promising cheap energy to deceive victims, often targeting vulnerable individuals, especially those facing financial difficulties.


Energy scams come in various forms, such as Ofgem energy scams, energy rebate scams, and energy efficiency/home improvement scams. Scammers may contact you through text, email, door-to-door visits, mail, social media, or phone calls.


What to do:

  • Never accept a deal that sounds too good to be true.
  • Say no to anyone pressuring you to transfer money quickly or pay in an unusual way.
  • Contact Citizens Advice for support.
  • Forward suspicious emails to and texts to 7726.
Identify theft

Fraudsters can steal personal information and use it to commit acts of fraud. This is known as identity theft. Criminals can steal personal information such as your name, date of birth, bank card details or email address and use it for fraudulent activity, such as making purchases in your name, accessing your bank account, or taking out loans in your name.


What to do:

  • Monitor bank accounts closely and contact your bank immediately if you see any unfamiliar activity or missing money.
  • Cancel any lost or stolen bank cards, and report lost or stolen personal information such as passports or driving licences, straight away.
  • Keep important information safe, such as PINs and passwords. Never write these down or tell them to anyone.
  • Use strong passwords that aren’t easily guessable, such as using numbers and special characters and avoiding family or pet names.
  • Be vigilant in public – shield your PIN when withdrawing money.
  • Install security software on your phone and computer.
Online shopping scams

Online shopping creates opportunities for fraudsters to collect payment information or sell stolen goods. They set up deceptive websites posing as legitimate storefronts – these sites often appear authentic and are advertised online through social media.


What to do:

  • Look for red flags on websites such as surprisingly low prices and spelling errors.
  • If you’re purchasing from a company, you don’t know or trust, research first and ask friends or family for advice. If you purchase from an unknown website, use a credit card if you have one as most major providers have insurance against online fraud.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication.  This service makes it harder for fraudsters to access your online accounts, even if they know your password.
Pension and investment scams

There are multiple ways scammers can persuade people to hand over their pensions. Most of these schemes are too good to be true, from promising high investment returns to loans or cashback opportunities.


What to do:

  • Before you take up an investment opportunity, get a second opinion. Scammers rely on pressure selling, so seek advice before making financial decisions.
  • Check adverts carefully. Do not buy from newspapers or online adverts unless you’re sure they’re genuine. Information can be easily faked.
  • If you’re not 100% sure about the offer listen to your doubts. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Romance or relationship scams

In romance fraud or relationship scams, scammers create fake profiles on social media or dating websites, pretending to be someone they're not to seduce money from their victims. They prey on people who are lonely and use emotional manipulation.


Recently, there has been the ‘grandparent scam’  where criminals reach out to individuals and pretend to be their grandchild. They will create a fake stressful situation, such as being stranded, or behind on bills, and ask for financial assistance.


What to do:

  • Avoid giving personal information, such as address, date of birth or bank details, to someone online,
  • Report and block suspicious behaviour, such as asking to keep the relationship a secret.
  • Do not send money to someone you’ve never met in person, no matter what reason they give.
  • If you arrange to meet someone, meet them in a public place and always let a trusted friend or family member know where you are.
  • If you aren’t sure if someone is a genuine family member, such as in the grandparent scam, ask them questions only your family would know.
Tech support scams

Tech support scams are where fraudsters employ scare tactics to trick victims into unnecessary technical support services. They may try to charge you for non-existent issues or steal your personal information.


They will impersonate representatives of tech companies and prompt you to install applications for remote access or create fake pop-up messages claiming malware infection to deceive you into calling a provided phone number.


What to do:

  • If a pop-up or error message appears on your computer with a phone number, do not call the number.
  • Microsoft, Apple, and other reputable tech companies will never send unsolicited emails or phone calls to request personal or financial information.
  • Install security software on your computer and phone.
What to do if you get scammed

If you or your loved one has been scammed, it’s important to report it right away.


If you’ve had money stolen, contact your bank straight away by calling the number on the back of your bank card or the centralised 159 number.


To report a scam, contact Action Fraud  – the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.


Find care near you

Enter your city or postcode below to find your local office

locations in the UK