Whether it’s at work or in our personal lives, we’re often reminded to stay alert for scams. From suspicious phone calls, texts, social media messages and emails, to post or word of mouth – scams are a common occurrence and can cost us a lot of money.
In 2021, £583.2 million was lost to authorised push payment (APP) scams alone.1 This is when you’re tricked into sending money directly from your account to the scammer's account. Of this figure, over £171m of APP scam losses came from investment scams.1
Pension and investment scams come in many shapes and forms. While we can do our best to stay ‘scam savvy’, even the most vigilant of us could fall victim to a sophisticated scam. Losing money to a scam can be a stressful and upsetting experience. So, it’s important to know what to do next to help you handle the situation.
We’ve outlined some tips on what to do if you’ve been scammed, the common types of scams – as well as ways to help you cope with the emotional response.
What to do if you’ve been scammed – 6 Steps
- Contact your provider and bank immediately
- Report it
- Change your passwords
- Speak to someone
- Monitor your credit report
- Keep up-to-date to prevent it happening again
1. Contact your provider and bank immediately
If you think that you may have been scammed, it might not be too late to stop it if you act fast. Contact your provider where you made the transaction from (for example, your pension provider or bank) and tell them what’s happened. Make sure you give as much information as possible, such as who you made the payment to and why you think it might be a scam.
They might be able to investigate further and potentially cancel any payment you’ve made before it reaches the scammer's account.
2. Report it
If you’ve been scammed, it’s important to report this as soon as possible. You can do this by contacting the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Action Fraud or Police Scotland. By reporting a scam, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back, but you might help prevent it from happening again to you or others. Try to note down as much information as possible before making your report, such as:
- Any individual or company names used by the scammers
- Addresses used
- Account numbers related to the scam
- The type of information you’ve shared, such as pins or passwords
- A note of how you made the transactions
These details could be useful for investigating the scam, as well as for receiving advice on what to do next.
Some people are reluctant to report that they’ve been a victim of a pension scam due to feelings of embarrassment. Remember, scammers are clever – it can happen to anyone. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
3. Change your passwords
Depending on the nature of the scam, you may have lost personal information such as bank account and address details. In this case, it’s important to change any passwords and pins as soon as you can. Make sure you go directly to the website for your provider rather than any email links that might have been sent through, in case these may have been part of the scam.
4. Speak to someone
Being a victim of a scam can be life changing. If you’ve lost a significant amount of money, you might be feeling particularly distressed and worried about the future. It’s important not to suffer in silence or alone. Try speaking to trusted friends or family about what’s happened – it might help to get some feelings off your chest. They may have gone through similar experiences or be able to provide you with emotional support through a difficult period.
If you’d prefer to speak to a professional or someone you don’t know, there are a number of resources you can turn to:
- The Samaritans offer support 24 hours a day for anyone struggling with any issues.
- Victim Support is an independent charity dedicated to supporting victims of crime and traumatic incidents.
If your health and mental wellbeing continues to be under significant strain, contact your local GP who may be able to recommend a consultation from a counsellor or therapist.
5. Monitor your credit report
It’s worth monitoring your credit report for any unusual activities, such as bank accounts or credit being taken out in your name. It’s especially important to do this if you lost any personal information during the scam. You can do this through credit check websites such as Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. You could also place a Fraud Alert on your credit file to alert lenders that they need to double-check your identity before any loans or credits are taken out in your name.
6. Keep up-to-date to prevent it happening again
If you’ve already been victim to a scam, it’s likely you could be targeted again, or have your information shared or sold to other scammers. Because of this, it’s important to be extra careful, and make sure you stay up to date with the most common scams so you can identify and avoid them.
Some common scams include:
- Authorised push payment (APP) – where you’re tricked into voluntarily sending money to a scammer.
- Phishing – where a fake text or email from a trusted institution such as your pension provider or bank is used to trick you into giving away your information.
- Investment scams – where you’re asked to invest in a product that doesn’t exist.
- Malware – where software is installed onto your device that can either track what you’re doing or completely take over it.
- Safe account scams – where fraudsters tell you your account has been compromised and ask you to transfer your money to an account that they control.
- Online auction scams – where you buy a product that doesn’t actually exist.
The FCA and Action Fraud websites share news of recent scams, plus the FCA’s ScamSmart initiative allows you to check the legitimacy of pension and investment opportunities. You can find out more on staying ‘scam savvy’ on our pension scams page.
Can I get my money back after I’ve been scammed?
Depending on the type of scam and how you paid or transferred money, it might be possible to get your money back due to certain laws and protections. In the case of online auction scams for example, you might be protected by the Consumer Credit Act if you paid using a credit card and can get your money back from your credit card provider.2 For a debit card, you could try using chargeback to request a refund.
For APP scams, your bank might be able to reverse the payment if you act quickly. In some cases, they might refund you even if they can’t recover the money – but it depends on the circumstances of the scam and who you bank with. If your banking provider has signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model Code (CRM Code), you may be able to get your money back, as long as you weren’t to blame for the success of the scam.3
However, if the scam involved payment by a money transfer service or through the redemption of a voucher, there aren’t as many protections or legislation in place. This means you unfortunately may not be able to get your money back in this scenario.
If you’re unsure, it’s best to speak to Action Fraud who can advise you on next steps and what you can do to get your money back.
Remember, you’re not alone
To repeat the most important point – you’re not alone. Anyone can be a victim of a scam so don’t be embarrassed to ask for the help you need to get you through this tough time. Stay cautious of any unexpected contact regarding pensions, investments or other opportunities – and avoid clicking any suspicious links via emails or text. If it seems ‘too good to be true’, it probably is.
Learn more about staying safe online and different types of scams on our online security and fraud protection page.