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Common phone scams

These are some of the most common phone scams to be aware of – and remember to trust your gut instinct if something doesn’t feel right.
4 min read
In this article
‘Vishing’ (voice) or ‘smishing’ (text) phone scams The ‘hang-up’ phone scam Microsoft phone scam
The missed-call phone scam Amazon Prime renewal scam How to spot a phone scam

‘Vishing’ (voice) or ‘smishing’ (text) phone scams

The scam: someone calls or texts pretending to be a person of authority – maybe a police officer or a member of bank staff. They might say that you have been a victim of fraud, or that there is a potential security issue on your account. The aim is to worry you so you don’t think straight and don’t question their authority. The fraudster will then ask questions about your personal or financial details so that they can ‘fix the problem’.

The reality: the criminal will use the details to access your bank account and take money.

Our advice: never give out your bank details – or any personal details – over the phone. Contact your bank directly to verify any potential problems. Look up the bank’s phone number yourself, from a bank statement or official website, and don’t rely on any numbers given by the caller.

Watch out for coronavirus scams

During the coronavirus outbreak experts are warning of an increase in scam calls. These could include scam callers claiming to be from the police, HMRC or your bank

Find out how to spot a coronavirus scam and stay protected.

The ‘hang-up’ phone scam

The scam: the scammer tells you that you need to transfer money or give bank details – then tries to gain your trust by telling you to call your bank to check that the call is genuine. They pretend to hang up while you call your bank. You dial your bank’s number and speak to someone who sounds very official and tells you that the original caller is genuine.

The reality: the scam artist doesn’t disconnect the call, allowing them to stay on the line, without you knowing, for up to two minutes. So, when you put the phone down to call your bank, you’re still speaking to the criminals, who of course tell you that everything is fine and to go ahead with the transfer.

Our advice: thankfully, upgrades to the UK’s major phone networks have almost stamped out this type of scam. But, if you’re dubious about a call, wait at least five minutes before calling your bank for verification, or use a different phone. That way the scammer can’t stay on the line. 

Receive expert guidance on caring for older people. Our emails are free and you can stop them any time.

Microsoft phone scam

The scam: someone calls up pretending to be from Microsoft, or another computer security company. They tell you that you have a virus on your computer or other serious computer problem. They offer to fix the problem by selling you software, or by taking control of your computer remotely to fix it there and then.

The reality: they don’t know anything about your computer or even if you have one. They will take payment for the bogus software or, if you allow them access to your computer, they could steal your personal details, such as account numbers and passwords.

Our advice: hang up.

The missed-call phone scam

The scam: you receive a missed call from a number beginning with 070 or 076. Scammers use these numbers as they appear to be calls from a mobile phone number. When the victim tries to call the number back, the call is immediately dropped or an engaged tone is played.

The reality: the number is a premium rate number in disguise and victims are charged 50p, or more, for making the call.

Our advice: if you get a missed call from an unknown number beginning 070 or 076, don’t call it back. Make a note of the number and complain to the premium-rate regulator – the PSA (Phone-paid Services Authority).

Stamp out scams
Fraudsters are stealing hundreds of millions of pounds every year from innocent victims in bank account scams. Enough is enough. Demand banks protect us from scams.

Amazon Prime renewal scam

The scam: An automated scam call impersonating Amazon Prime, telling you that your subscription will be ‘renewed’ for £39.99. It will instruct you to ‘press 1’ to be connected. 

The reality: The call connects you to a fraudulent ‘account manager’ who will attempt to extort bank details or personal information from you. 

Our advice: Even if you’re not a Prime account holder, please be wary of an automated call informing you that you’re due to renew your Amazon Prime account. If you receive this call, hang up immediately. You can read more about the scam here.

How to spot a phone scam

For more tips on how to spot a phone scam, and what do if you have been contacted by a scammer, read our general guide to phone scams:

Further reading

Phone scams

Here, we describe some of the most common phone scams and offer advice on how to deal with them.

Easy-to-use mobile phones

There are simple mobile phones that are easier to use, and specialist models that help those with memory problems.

Last updated: 22 Jul 2020