Beware impersonation scams

Fraud Awareness
Views & insights

Find out how impersonation scams work and what you can do to help safeguard your money.

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1 December 2022 | 3 minute read

Impersonation scams are where a criminal pretends to be a trusted organisation to convince you to send them money.

Anyone can fall victim to an impersonation scam, so it’s really important to understand how they work and what you can do to protect yourself.

How do impersonation scams work?

Often, an impersonation scam will begin with a phone call that seems to be from your bank, but is instead from a scammer. During the call, the scammer will convince you to disclose where your savings or investments are held.

A short time later, you might receive a call or message that purports to be from the police or Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), claiming to be investigating fraud at the firm your investments are held with.

The fraudster will often try to instil a sense of urgency, claiming that your money is at risk of being stolen by employees within the firm. They may even claim to be investigating named individual employees, usually senior managers, whose names are readily available online.

The fraudster will stress the importance of secrecy so as not to jeopardise the ‘investigation’. They’ll tell you to withdraw your investments into a ‘safe’ account and, if you do, take it for themselves.

Firms like RBC Brewin Dolphin will always query large, unexpected withdrawals like this. However, the fraudsters will often cite these questions as evidence that we are trying to prevent you from accessing your funds. They may even provide you with a ‘script’, giving an explanation for the withdrawal.

What can I do to protect myself?

Impersonation scams are sophisticated and difficult to spot, but there are steps you can take to help safeguard your money. These include:

  • Understand that the FCA, your bank and the police will never ask you to transfer money to a safe account or contact you out of the blue to ask for your full PINs, passwords or passcodes.

  • Always question uninvited approaches in case it is a scam. Instead, contact the organisation directly using a known email or phone number.

  • Only give your personal or financial information to services you have consented to and are expecting to be contacted by.

  • Remember that just because someone knows your basic details, it does not mean they are a genuine organisation.

  • Think twice before opening links in text messages and emails, especially if they ask you to provide personal information or make a payment.

  • Don’t give anyone remote access to your computer following a cold call, unsolicited text or email.

  • Beware emails or calls claiming to be from HMRC and offering a tax rebate. HMRC never calls or emails about tax rebates. It also never asks for personal or payment information over the phone or via email.

  • Forward suspicious text messages to 7726 and suspicious emails to report@phishing.gov.uk.

If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, report it to Action Fraud as soon as possible at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Information contained in this document is believed to be reliable and accurate, but without further investigation cannot be warranted as to accuracy or completeness.

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