How to protect yourself against scams.

Consumers lose approximately £9 billion to scams each year.

Help stop people falling prey to scams

We’re asking people to help us tackle scams in Oxfordshire by getting to know the common signs, warning others, and reporting incidents to us so we can investigate.

If you have been a victim of a scam or know someone who has and would like advice, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506. Or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report a scam.

Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team initiative, which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to "Take a Stand Against Scams".

Anybody can join Friends Against Scams and make a difference in their own way.

12 scams of Christmas

With the festive season upon us, we would like to draw your attention to our twelve scams of Christmas. At this time of year people can let their guards down as the festive fun starts and the criminals try to take advantage. We hope you keep scam aware this Christmas and have a fun filled, scam free New Year!

  1. Subscription trap: This scam offers a free gift or trial offer. If you pay postage and packaging to receive the ‘gift’ beware as you may, without realising it, set up a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA) allowing the company to take any amount out of your bank account at any time.
  2. Two Bogus charities: Fake charities prey on the victim’s sense of good will at this time of the year, and their marketing techniques can be very convincing. Make sure that the marketing you have received is genuine. If you aren't sure– don’t take the risk.
  3. Pop-up shops: Whilst pop-up shops tend to appear more online, sometimes, especially at Christmas time, pop-up shops will temporarily take over closed down high street stores, and sometimes sell counterfeit and/or faulty items. Be cautious when shopping in these stores.
  4. HM Revenue & Customs: Criminals phone unsuspecting members of the public and claim they have over/under paid their tax. Beware - never give out your bank details and hang up the phone immediately.
  5. Bank scam: Criminals may phone you and claim to be calling from your bank to report ‘suspicious activity’ on your account. If you receive a call like this hang up immediately and phone your bank on a number you know to be legitimate (use a phone number from the bank’s website, a bank statement or on the back of your bank card).
  6. Police scam:  Similar to the bank scam, criminals phone members of the public claiming to be from the Metropolitan Police reporting ‘suspicious bank activity’. Hang up immediately, wait 15 minutes, or use another phone, and call 101.
  7. E-greeting (online) cards: Be careful when sending/receiving online greeting cards as they can contain mal-ware which can find address books and bank details which are stored on your computer.
  8. Bogus gift cards: Gift cards are ideal for that ‘hard to buy for’ person, but be aware if you are buying these online, as gift cards are easy to illegitimately replicate and could cause embarrassment to your friends and family when they try and use your gift… and they are fake.
  9. Seasonal travel scams: Beware of these too good to be true seasonal travel offers. Criminals are waiting for you to click on their ‘offer’ links so they can start looking for files on your computer in hope of obtaining your bank details. Be sure to only use trusted online travel agents.
  10. Delivery scams: With many gifts being sent via postal services at this time of year, it isn't a surprise if you come home and there is a ‘Sorry we missed you! Please call the number below to re-arrange delivery’ card waiting for you. However, be very careful to check it is genuine as fake delivery cards are being delivered by criminals and the phone number you are asked to call is a very high premium rate telephone number. You could run up a phone bill of hundreds of pounds waiting for someone who is never going to answer.
  11. Smishing: Criminals use text messages pretending to be a bank requesting an immediate response or else your account will be locked. However, whilst some banks do send text messages to alert you of suspicious activity you should never respond by text. Contact your bank on a number you know is legitimate.
  12. Romance scams: Only use well established and trusted dating websites. Do not click on links from some-one you do not know or trust. Do not communicate with anyone you find on these sites away from the site as you could be putting yourself into a vulnerable position.

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HMRC alert

Action Fraud has experienced an increase in the reporting of malicious calls, voicemails, text messages or emails to members of the public purporting to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The fraudsters state that as a result of their non-payment of tax or other duty, the victim is liable to prosecution or other legal proceedings such as repossession of belongings to settle the balance but can avoid this by arranging for payment to be made immediately by method such as bank transfer or by iTunes gift cards.

If the victim is hesitant or refuses to comply, the suspect makes a threat such as immediate arrest, bailiffs or in cases where the victim appears to be of overseas origin; deportation.

Once the money is paid the suspects sever all contact.

What you need to do

  • Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information. 
  • Listen to your instincts. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to question it.
  • Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision. 
  • Report phishing attempts. If you receive a call, text or email of this nature and have not lost money, report this as a phishing attempt to Action Fraud.

Pure Line cold calling

A company called Pure Line is cold calling residents, mostly targeting the elderly by offering to fit a police-accredited home security system. They claim to be able to fit a phone system which will know which emergency service you require when in distress and say they are currently completing home checks in your area.

This is potentially a scam. Do not give any personal details, home address or bank details. Call police on 101 to make a report and ask to speak to the local Neighbourhood Policing Team. 

The police do not endorse any particular company; we will happily offer crime prevention advice whether in your home, at a crime prevention event or through local engagement.

Scams come in all shapes and sizes

Scams are more common than most people realise. Every day our Trading Standards Team hear from people who have lost money to a scam-artist.

Some scams are one-offs that persuade you to part with a lump sum, while others go after your personal details so they can access your money or copy your identity.

Cold calls, high-pressure sales tactics and automated voicemails asking for people’s details are just some of the tricks scammers are using to rob you of your hard earned money.

Is it a scam?

Scams come in a variety of guises and we see new ones emerging all the time. However, there are common hallmarks to every scam and we’re keen to show people what to look out for so they don’t fall prey to a fraudster.

  • Don’t be rushed – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams.
  • If you haven’t bought a ticket – you can’t win it.
  • Never send money to someone you have never met or don’t trust.
  • You shouldn’t have to pay anything to get a prize.
  • Contacted out of the blue – be suspicious.
  • Reject cold calls offering investments or pension advice.
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
  • Your bank will never attend your home to collect cash, your pin, payment card or chequebook if you are a victim of fraud.
  • Your bank will never phone you to ask for your PIN or your online banking password.
  • Your bank will never ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons.
  • Suspect a phone scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call your bank.
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.

How you can take a stand against scams

  • Say No. To unwanted, uninvited callers.
  • Be wise to rogue traders. Too good to be true offers probably are.
  • Don’t feel pressured to make a decision. Say ‘No’, or say you need advice first.
  • Be wise to postal scams. No legal company will ask you for money to claim a prize.
  • Keep personal details safe. They could be used fraudulently in the wrong hands.
  • Research the credentials of the company. Be certain they’re not bogus.
  • Be online savvy. Check who you’re communicating with online.
  • Talk to someone you trust. If you’re suspicious.
  • Report a scam. Help expose the criminals.
  • Know you are not alone. Anyone can be a victim, report it and get the right support.

Fraud awareness videos

Scammers are constantly changing their tactics. Understanding their techniques will help protect you against them. Different kinds of scams seem to lure different types of people. The best defence is awareness and education so you can spot the warning signs.

Scam mail

Download our free Sinister Path of Scam Mail chart (pdf format, 1.2Mb).

Help for consumers from Citizens Advice

Find out about types of scam and how to spot and report scams. Look for signs to watch out for if you look after someone who could be vulnerable to scams.

Watch out for cyber scams

Don’t become prey for an online fraudster. Find out how to protect yourself against becoming one of them. 


The latest scam news from the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. 

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