Skip to site content Skip to main menu

Identity Theft, Fraud and Scams

What is Identity Fraud?

Criminals may seek to obtain information which personally identifies you and 'steal' your identity to commit fraud. All kinds of personal information can be of use to criminals including your name, address, national insurance number, credit card number or any other financial account information.

In what ways can thieves steal an identity?

Identity thieves work in a number of ways including:

  • Stealing items- They may steal your purse or wallet, mail, cheques or credit / debit cards.
  • Searching bins- To find bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  • Card skimming - To steal credit or debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  • Using false pretences - Obtaining your personal information by acting as someone they’re not.
  • Phishing - Pretending to befinancial institutions or companies and send emails, spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  • Diversion - Diverting your billing statements to another location or person by completing a change of name and / or address form.

How can I spot an online scam and protect myself?

To get more information about ‘phishing’, how to protect your identity and avoid fraudulent scams whilst online, visit our Keep Safe Online advice.

What basic things can I do to protect myself from identity theft?

There are a number of simple steps you can take:

  • Take a few moments to check through transactions on your bank statements.
  • If you're not happy and spot anything unusual or suspicious contact the bank directly to establish fraud at an early stage. If you are expecting correspondence from your bank and it doesn't arrive contact the bank immediately to inform them of your concerns.
  • If you move house, tell your bank and credit card company immediately.
  • Royal Mail offers a redirection service to help prevent identity fraud when you move house.
  • Regularly get a copy of your personal credit file from a credit reference agency.
  • Cancel any lost or stolen cards.
  • If your passport or driving licence has been lost or stolen contact the organisation that issued it.
  • Don't use the same password for more than one account and never use banking passwords on other websites. Avoid using your mother's maiden name or dates of birth as passwords.
  • NEVER give bank details to anyone unless you know and trust them and even then be cautious.

How should I store and dispose of my personal documents?

All kinds of mail that you receive will contain information you would not wish to share with a stranger:

  • Don’t leave personal documents lying around for anyone to access - Keep them in a safe place.
  • Don’t put mail containing any personal information out for recycling or in your wheelie bin with your normal household rubbish.
  • If you are not filing personal documents then destroy them including all household utility bills, bank statements and credit card bills.

How should I act at a Cash Machine?

  • Memorise your PIN, never write it down and shield the keypad when entering it.
  • If you spot any camera or suspicious device attached to a cash machine - DO NOT USE IT.Contact the bank as soon as you are able, preferably at the time.
  • Immediately report a card which has been confiscated by a cash machine and, if you can, don’t leave the machine – use your mobile to call the bank immediately.
  • Never rely on a stranger to help retrieve a confiscated card or assist you at a cash machine.

What else can I do that will help protect me from Bogus Phone Callers?

Fraudsters can also make contact with you by phone. The caller might pretend to be from your bank and ask for personal information such as bank details or they might be someone offering you a deal or a prize.

  • Consider making your phone number ex-directory.
  • Don’t give out any personal information unless you are the one who made the call and you are certain of the identity of the person you are speaking to.
  • Don’t give out your credit card or bank card details to strangers on the telephone.
  • NEVER tell somebody your bank PIN number, even if they claim to be the bank or police. If the caller is genuine they will never ask for this information.
  • Don’t give out information which may infer that you live alone, are older or vulnerable.
  • Never send money to anyone who claims to have a prize for you.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Contact local trading standards – they may be able to use approved ‘call blocking’ technology.

Information about how to protect yourself from bogus callers arriving at your door is available in our Keep Safe from Doorstep Crime advice.

What is a Boiler Room fraud?

A boiler room fraud is where a bogus stockbroker, usually based overseas, cold-calls investors and coerces someone into buying worthless shares. Their favourite targets are middle-aged people with previous experience of buying shares, whose names are on share registers.

The fraudsters are usually well spoken and knowledgeable. They often have experience of working in the stocks and shares market. They are persistent and have been known to call their victim several times. Among tactics employed by such fraudsters are assurances that a company is about to announce a major discovery in technology or mining, for instance, and that this will send the price of its shares soaring.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) recommends that potential investors check its website both for a list of boiler rooms and to find out if the so-called stockbroker is authorised in the UK. The Regulator is unable to take action if the boiler room is not based or authorised in Britain, so victims are vulnerable as they will not be able to claim compensation from the FSA or the Financial Ombudsman Service if something goes wrong.

A check can also be made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to ascertain if the company is regulated in the United States.

What are the Warning signs of a Boiler Room fraud?

Scams often contain similar features that may alert you to the fact that they are not genuine. These are:

  • You are asked for money up front to pay unexpected fees (such as customs) before your shares can be released.
  • You are put under pressure to reply immediately or the offer will be given to someone else.
  • You are asked to keep the details secret.
  • The company will usually be based overseas, as it is illegal for UK based firms to cold-call an investor to attempt to sell shares. The boiler room may have a UK listed phone number to give the impression that they're based in the UK, but a check with the FSA will confirm if they are legitimate or not.

Take Action on Boiler Room fraud

If you believe that you have been the victim of a boiler room fraud please contact your local police station to report the matter.

The City of London Police is responsible for co-ordinating the UK intelligence collation system for boiler room fraud and reports should be made to them via

Money Mules – What is a money mule?

A money mule is anyone who is recruited by criminals to use their own bank account to transfer money from one country to another, usually from the country where the criminal lives. Normally the mule is offered a cash incentive for the use of their bank account.

How do fraudsters recruit money mules?

Criminals often try to recruit mules by the following means:

  • Unsolicited e-mails asking for assistance.
  • Contact via social networking sites.
  • False vacancies on websites posing as legitimate businesses.
  • Classified, legitimate looking adverts in the press and online.

What are the risks attached to being a money mule?

  • You’re breaking the law and could be charged with a criminal offence.
  • Your bank account will be suspended.
  • All of the money involved will be seized from your account.
  • If convicted it will be difficult to gain credit or even a bank account again.

How can I avoid becoming a victim of this?

  • Be wary of offers of large amounts of cash for very little work or no prior experience – this could indicate a fraudulent scheme.
  • Always be cautious of overseas offers as it can be difficult to verify identity.
  • Always research any company that offers you a job.
  • NEVER give your bank details to anyone unless you know and trust them and even then be cautious.

Further Advice on Identity Theft, Fraud and Scams

  • Get some more tips about fraud and scams in our Victims of Fraud leaflet.
  • More information is also available in the ‘Little Book of Big Scams’Link Here.