Shropshire Council

Scams and nuisance calls

Every year thousands of people fall victim to professional fraudsters who set up well-organised scams to steal personal and financial information. This is a multi-million pound industry with new scams being developed all the time. It is therefore extremely important to be vigilant and aware of when something is likely to be a scam.

Scams can take many forms including cold calls, text messages, emails and letters and can often appear genuine. They normally involve telling the victim they have won a competition, often with a prize of cash, jewellery or other high priced items.

Unfortunately most of these competitions promise everything and deliver nothing. Very often they ask for money to be sent up front in order to receive the prize, and the victim either receives nothing, or a prize which is worth next to nothing.

As soon as you provide your details to one of these scams they will be passed on to other con men and you can soon find yourself inundated with junk mail and nuisance calls.

You can find out more about common types of scams from Action Fraud and Citizens Advice, where you can also find out the best ways to protect yourself from scams and fraud. The telephone number for the Scams Action line is 0808 250 5050. Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

How can you recognise a scam?

There are some key questions you can ask yourself to help recognise and avoid scams:

  • Does it seem too good to be true?
  • Is the offer unsolicited?
  • Am I being asked to send money up front?
  • Do I have to respond immediately or urgently?
  • Do I have to give my bank account or bank card details?
  • Do I have to send money to a PO Box or by money transfer, Ukash voucher or similar?
  • Am I being asked to keep it a secret?

 If the answer to any of these questions is yes then it is probably a scam.

How can you protect yourself from scams?

There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from scams and fraud:

  1. If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘yes’ DO NOT RESPOND
  2. Find out more about phone services that can help tackle nuisance calls
  3. Register with the Telephone Preference Service
  4. Consider investing in a call screening device to stop unknown numbers calling you – there are several of these devices available on the open market

If you think you have received communication which may be a scam or fraud you can report it directly to Action Fraud or Trading Standards. If you are worried that you or someone you know may be a victim of scammers, or you need further advice, you can also contact us.

To support the work of National Trading Standards, Community Protection are now a Friends Against Scams partner.

Friends Against Scams is designed to inspire action, highlight the scale of the problem, change the perceptions of why people fall for scams and make scams a community, regional and national topic.

By attending a Friends Against Scams awareness session or completing the online learning, anyone can learn about the different types of scams and how to spot and support a victim. With increased knowledge and awareness, people can make scams part of everyday conversation with their family, friends and neighbours, which will enable them to protect themselves and others.

For more information, please contact Community Protection or visit the Friends Against Scams website.

Advice for businesses

With more employees than ever working from home, fewer opportunities to talk to colleagues and a different working environment, criminals have more opportunity to use these changes to commit fraud. Employees are having to make decisions on their own without verification from their colleagues, making businesses more susceptible to scams and fraud. There are a number of practical steps companies can take to reduce the risk of falling victim to a scam. For more information, take a look at the Businesses Against Scams website.

Helping scam victims get money back from their bank

You can find more information on the process on the Financial Ombudsman website.

How will the bank make a decision on reimbursement?

New schemes brought in by the banks mean that victims are now much more likely to get some money back from their bank if they fall victim to a scam.

Fraudsters try to con individuals by impersonating someone, such as a homebuyer's solicitor or a builder, whom the individual was expecting to pay. In other cases they may be selling non-existent goods online. In these cases, the individual authorises the payment to the scammers account. Banks had often refused to refund these frauds, but now people who realise they have been caught out in these "authorised push payment" scams should report the fraud to their bank immediately.

Under The Contingent Reimbursement Model Code for Authorised Push Payments scams (the CRM Code) many banks have signed up to the voluntary code and will look at whether the customer can get the money back from the bank.

Previously, banks only tended to reimburse people if there was an obvious fault in the way the payment was handled by the bank. Now anyone who has taken reasonable care, or has any element of vulnerability, is much more likely to receive a refund of the lost money. Community Protection working with a bank recently helped a Shropshire resident receive £25,000 refund from their bank after they were scammed.

For more details and to check if your bank has joined the scheme take a look at the Lending Standards Board website.

The bank will complete their investigation as quickly as possible, normally within 15 business days of receiving the claim. If the victim isn't happy with the outcome of the fraud claim – for example if the bank has refused reimbursement or has only offered a partial reimbursement – they should make a formal complaint to the bank. If the victim isn't happy with the bank response to the complaint, they're entitled to take their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service. They'll be notified by their bank of their right to do this. There's no cost to the victim for taking their case to the ombudsman.

Another scheme is the Banking Protocol. Frontline bank staff are now trained to spot signs that a customer may be withdrawing unusually large sums of cash to give to a scammer. It's hoped the scheme will help reduce financial crime by spotting scams before money has been handed over. Typical frauds of this kind include paying rogue builders, romance scams and elderly abuse.

Contingent reimbursement model for authorised push payment scams (CRM)

Banks which have signed up to the CRM, which includes the seven biggest banks, follow the rules in the CRM when determining whether to make refunds to customers who have been a victim of authorised push payment scams. Only transactions to UK accounts which were made by bank transfer (online, on the telephone, or in branch) after 28 May 2019 (the date the code came into force) are eligible.

The bank must investigate APP scam claims and determine whether the sending and receiving bank have fulfilled their obligations under the code, as well as whether the customer has followed the standards of care set out within the code.

You can find more information about the code, including a consumer guide and the full document, on the LSB website.

TSB fraud refund guarantee

On 14 April 2020 TSB launched their fraud refund guarantee. The fraud guarantee means that if a TSB customer has clearly been the victim of either an unauthorised or authorised fraud they'll get their money back. TSB will only decline to refund a customer if the customer appears to be complicit in the fraud, or have repeatedly ignored scam warnings.

More information about the TSB Fraud Refund Guarantee is available on the TSB website.

Banking Protocol

The Banking Protocol is a process where bank branch staff are encouraged to question customers about any suspicious or out of character transactions, and to call the police to the bank if they remain suspicious that the customer is being defrauded.

If the Banking Protocol could have prevented a customer from losing money but was not invoked by bank branch staff, then this may influence the bank’s decision on whether to reimburse the customer.

It's worth remembering that criminals often give their victims convincing cover stories to tell bank staff who ask questions about the purpose of the transaction. In these cases, it can be difficult for bank staff to spot the scam. Similarly, some victims are so convinced by the criminal’s story that they'll insist the bank releases their money – in these circumstances it's difficult for staff to prevent the transaction.

Loan sharks

We're aware that Covid-19 has left some people struggling financially, and loan sharks may look to take advantage of those who have found themselves in a vulnerable position, with nowhere else to turn for help. Take a look at the Stop Loan Sharks website for help and information, and take a look at this video...