‘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.
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.
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).
Here, we describe some of the most common phone scams and offer advice on how to deal with them.
If you're the victim of a scam, report it: you may help others.
There are simple mobile phones that are easier to use, and specialist models that help those with memory problems.