Statistics from Financial Fraud Action UK indicate that 1.9 million cases of fraud on UK-issued cards and remote banking services were reported in 2016 – a 39% increase from the previous year.
Much financial fraud goes unreported, but in 2015 losses across payment cards, cheques and remote banking totalled £755m, while banks and card companies detected and prevented a further £1.8bn.
Other types of scam are more difficult to measure statistically as many victims feel too embarrassed to report being conned or duped.
Here we line up some of the most common types of scam, and include some advice on recognising the fraudsters and what to do when you think someone's trying to scam you.
Boiler rooms – get rich quick share scams
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) believes as much as £200m is lost in the UK each year to boiler room share scams.
Victims receive a telephone call offering a "once in a lifetime" investment opportunity promising fortune-making returns – often in excess of 40%.
The victim is told by a fast-talking expert that this offer is only open for the next few hours – you must act quickly to take advantage.
It is not uncommon for the boiler room scam to mention a company that actually exists, and there might be a plausible reason why its share price is already exhibiting gains.
However plausible it may seem, the boiler room exists only to extract as much money from you, and as many other people as it can, and it is common for victims to part with tens of thousands of pounds.
Reject all cold calls. A general rule to remember: if they're getting in touch with you, it's a scam. Or at the very least, there’s more in it for them than there is for you.
Some may pretend they're not cold calling by referring to a brochure that you were supposed to have received several days ago, or that their records show that you expressed an interest in their services. Don't believe them.
And remember one thing above all. If it sounds too good to be true, it undoubtedly is.
Identity theft – tracking down your personal details
Identity theft is the illegal gathering of financially sensitive personal information such as name, date of birth, address, mother's maiden name and card numbers.
This is a real growth industry as fraudsters target social media websites for personal information. The number of victims of identity fraud rose by 57% in 2015 according to data from fraud prevention service Cifas.
The scammer will use this information to apply for loans, credit cards, or to make retail purchases. When the scammer then defaults on any loans or card repayments, the bank or card issuer contacts the owner of the true identity who is assumed responsible.
Be careful of the information you share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. The scammers are trawling these websites for potential victims. Never divulge personal details to anyone, no matter who they claim to be.
Phishing – angling for disclosure of bank account details
Some phishing scams can be very elaborate and look convincing – here's how one such scheme works:
The fraudster poses as an official from your bank or building society and you'll be asked to respond to an email that takes you to a web page that looks like a login to your account – indeed, it asks you for account and password details.
Or they can be fairly simple: posing as a representative from the retail payments department of a common online shopping service, the fraudster claims to be checking up on something – maybe a delivery address, or that you’re getting the correct discount. They then ask for your account details for confirmation.
This information is then used by the fraudster to withdraw money from your account. It is rare for banks to reimburse money lost in this way.
Never disclose your full account details to anyone. Not even your bank asks for full account and security details. If in doubt, call the bank and ask if the request is genuine.
You can ask your bank to suspend your account if it spots what looks like an irregular payment. For example, if your spending habits are fairly routine, it's easy for the bank's systems to spot an unusual amount going out.
Advance fee loans – theft of loan arrangement fees, and more
If you need a loan, but your credit rating isn't strong enough to be granted one by a regular lender – bank or building society – do not be tempted by emails or adverts offering low interest loans for an advance fee.
The bogus lender will disappear with your advance and, most likely, now also has your identity for use in other scams (see above).
If your credit rating is low, you'll never get a low interest loan. If you're in financial trouble – try to arrange something with your bank, even if it is just a way to be able to repay your creditors.
Pensioners – a growth industry for fraudsters
The over-55s offer fraudsters the largest social grouping with the most disposable income.
Retired people, especially those who retire early, are often looking for ways to invest some of their pension in an effort to make it go further.
That is not to say that they are any more likely to fall for a scam, only that retired people are being increasingly targeted by scammers, particularly since 2014 pension reforms allow retired people total freedom over how they withdraw and invest their pensions.
Also, the over-55s are far more computer literate than they were a decade ago, and it's far more likely they'll be on social media sites.
Again, don't disclose too many personal details on social media. And remember, if an offer promises out-of-this-world returns if you act quickly, be wary.
Choosing the right investment for your pension funds is one of the most important decisions you'll make – don't make that decision under duress.
Online dating scams – unlocking funds for a happy ever after
The age-old email scam comes to dating sites. This is where a foreign businessman with "over £8,000,000" in investments, just needs you to send him £1,000 so he can liquidate his assets, arrange the appropriate visas and grease the bureaucratic gears.
In exchange, he'll give you £500,000 once he's safely in England with his money.
Instead of a businessman, a lonely, attractive and single foreigner strikes up an online romance with the victim.
Over a couple of weeks of grooming, the suggestion that "we should meet" is followed by "but you'll need to send me £500 for the plane ticket". That's £500 you'll never see again.
Report it to the dating website – assuming that the whole website isn't a scam.
Don’t be embarrassed if you feel you’ve been the victim of fraud. Report it right away – the quicker you act, the more likely you can recover some of your losses.
And the most important piece of advice warrants reiteration: keep personal details and account information secure. Be careful about the information you divulge on social media.
Financial decisions should be made with much consideration and research. Don’t allow anybody to force a quick decision out of you and never give money impulsively.
For more information about credit scams and how to deal with them, visit ActionFraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre [link:https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/], or contact the Financial Conduct Authority [link:https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/protect-yourself-scams].