Unmasking Phone Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them

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Did you know that more than 50% of scams begin with a phone call? In today’s world, phone scams are an ever-present threat, targeting unsuspecting individuals and potentially leading to financial losses, identity theft, and other forms of fraud.

As the tactics employed by scammers continue to evolve, it is crucial to stay informed and be prepared to protect yourself and your loved ones. In this blog post, we will discuss various types of phone calls and scams, provide tips on recognising and avoiding them, and share information on how to report scams and safeguard your personal information online.

Key Takeaways

  • Phone scammers use various tactics to steal personal and financial information or transfer funds.

  • Recognising and avoiding phone scams can be done by enrolling with the Telephone Preference Service, refraining from divulging personal details, and terminating suspicious calls.

  • Reporting phone scams is essential for protecting others. Elderly and vulnerable loved ones should also take precautions such as call blocking apps.

Types of Phone Scams and Tactics

An older woman;s hands holding a telephone with the words scam in yellow stating alert on the a red screen.

Phone scams, especially common phone scams, are a prevalent method used by criminals to deceive individuals and obtain their personal or financial information. They employ various tactics during phone scam calls, such as:

  • Requesting your personal information, like banking details

  • Instructing you to transfer money

  • Using fake links in texts, directing you to counterfeit websites and prompting you to log in

Being alert and reporting phone scams when they occur is necessary. Here, we outline some prevalent phone scams and the strategies different phone scammers use to trick their victims.

Bank Scams

Bank scams occur when scammers impersonate bank representatives in an attempt to gain access to your personal and financial information or transfer funds. They may even pose as undercover police officers, requesting your credit card information during a scam call while claiming to investigate a staff member at your financial institution. Some of the most prevalent types of bank scams include:

  • New account fraud

  • Skimming

  • Card not received

  • In-person theft of card and PIN

  • Phone bank fraud

  • CEO fraud

  • Invoice fraud

  • Overpayment scams

  • Check-cashing scams

  • Phishing scams

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank and asking for your bank account details, it’s recommended that you terminate the call and contact your bank using the phone number or the contact information printed on the back of your card to authenticate the caller.

Investment Scams

Young man wearing glasses looking at computer screen with trading charts reflecting in eyeglasses watching stock trading market financial data growth.

Investment scams are fraudulent investment opportunities that can result in the loss of savings. These scams can be conducted through telephone scams or other means of communication, and they often involve uninvited contact, intense sales techniques, assured high profits, unprofessional contracts or documents, and the absence of appropriate licensing or credentials.

Recent investment scams include:

  • Ponzi schemes

  • Falsified sample findings

  • Crypto-related schemes

  • Schemes where money is collected from new investors to pay previous investors

You should exercise caution when you receive a suspicious phone call or text message about investments, and report anything suspicious tp Action Fraud and your local police force.

Tax Scams

Tax scams involve scammers impersonating tax authorities, and falsely asserting that a sum of tax must be paid, or else risk arrest.

Some common tax scams include HMRC scams, or cold calls where individuals pretend to be HMRC representatives and falsely claim there is an issue with a taxpayer’s tax refund or unpaid tax bill, and Council Tax scams, where calls claim to be regarding the adjustment of your Council Tax band or providing you with a Council Tax rebate.

Keep in mind that HMRC does not make unsolicited or nuisance calls and does not ask for personal financial details, like bank account information.

Computer Software Scams

Computer software scams involve scammers impersonating legitimate company or software companies, requesting remote access to computers, and subsequently stealing personal information. Typical indications of computer software scams include:

  • Requests for remote access

  • Links that are deceptive in nature

  • Insistence on installing software

  • Messages with poor spelling and grammar

  • Random connections to unidentified websites

  • Unsolicited offers of assistance

Scammers may exploit remote access software, such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer, to gain access to a victim’s computer, asking the victim to then download software, and install these tools, thereby granting them control over the computer. During a computer software scam, personal information vulnerable to theft includes:

  • Bank account information

  • Online passwords

  • Passport numbers

  • Driver’s license numbers

  • Social security numbers

  • Medical information

Recognising and Avoiding Phone Scams

An older man recieving regular calls using phone scams and looking concerned.

Recognising and avoiding scam phone calls, including cold calls, can protect you from financial losses, identity theft, and other forms of fraud. Some indications that suggest a scam phone call include unexpected calls, demands for personal data, insistence on swift action regarding lost money, and propositions that appear too advantageous to be genuine.

To reduce the potential of being targeted by a telephone scam, you can enroll with the Telephone Preference Service, refrain from divulging personal details, and terminate any suspicious phone calls.

Exercise caution when receiving text message, especially those asking for personal information, containing links to unknown websites, or making offers that seem unrealistically good.

Reporting Phone Scams

Service desk consultant talking on hands-free phone. Smiling call center operator with headset working on a phone scam support hotline.

Reporting phone scams to the authorities is vital for the protection of others and contributes to effective phone scam prevention, research, and the development of policies. You can report scam calls to Action Fraud. In Scotland, you can also contact the police on 101.

To report a phone scam on an Android or Iphone device, text the word ‘call’ to 7726, and you will receive a message requesting the scam number.

If you have been a victim of a scam call, more advice is available through Age UK’s free advice line on 0800 055 6112.

Premium-rate Number Scams

A woman holding a mobile phone from an unknown number representing a premium rate call

Premium-rate number scams are used by fraudsters to deceive victims, often through “click to dial” text messages and “missed call” scams. “Missed call” scams involve a scammer calling you from a premium number and disconnecting before you can answer, incurring charges on your phone bill.

To prevent these scams, follow these steps:

  1. Avoid clicking on sponsored results when searching for companies or government departments and navigate to their official website instead.

  2. Report any unexpected premium rates calls to the Phone-paid Services Authority.

Nuisance Calls and Telephone Preference Service

Frustrated mature woman talking on mobile phone at home, sitting on sofa, stressed female having unpleasant calls from phone scams

Nuisance calls can be bothersome and potentially dangerous, as they are unwanted calls that maybe linked to scams. The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the UK’s official ‘Do Not Call’ register for landline and mobile numbers, allowing individuals to register their wish not to receive unsolicited sales and other marketing calls.

Registering with the Telephone Preference Service can be done via the official website at tpsonline.org.uk/register, and the service is free. However, be aware of Telephone Preference Service scams, where victims are asked to pay to renew their membership, which is actually free of charge.

Learn how to protect yourself from BT scams and protect yourself from fraudsters, read our informative blog

Staying Safe Online: Social Media and Personal Information

Finger touch smartphone screen with privacy protection and security to protect from Phone Scams.

Maintaining online safety is significant in safeguarding your personal and financial information from possible scams. Scammers can exploit personal information available on social media to make their phishing messages appear more legitimate. There are various social media scams, such as:

  • Crypto investment scams

  • Fake friends

  • Free app downloads

  • Quizzes

  • Hidden URLs

  • Phishing

  • Romance scams

  • E-commerce scams

  • Charity scams

  • Job offer scams

  • Brand collaboration scams

Be cautious about the personal information you share online and keep your social media accounts secure with strong passwords, privacy settings, and regular updates.

Protect yourself from HMRC scam calls, read our informative blogpost and protect yourself.

Elderly and Vulnerable Targets: Protecting Loved Ones

An elderly woman sitting on a call with a worried look on her face, recievince phone scams from fraudsters.

Elderly and vulnerable individuals are often targeted by phone scams, such as robocalls offering free medical supplements or discounts, government impersonation scams, sweepstakes scams, and telemarketing scams.

Guarding your loved ones from these scams, including marketing calls is important, and there are several strategies you can use, these include: call blocking apps, registering on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), buying a phone with a ‘block caller’ feature, and employing incoming call blocking services.

If an elderly individual suspects they have been targeted by a scammer, they can take action by contacting organisations such as Action Fraud, Victim Support, or Adult Protective Services, or reporting scams to thier local police force.


In conclusion, phone scams are a significant and ever-present threat, with fraudsters using various tactics to deceive their victims and obtain personal and financial information.

By staying informed about the types of scams and the tactics used by fraudsters, you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to these malicious attacks.

Remember, knowledge is power, and being proactive in your approach to phone scams can make all the difference in protecting yourself and those you care about.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the latest telephone scams?

Beware of scam texts, fake police calls and cancellation refunds. Scammers may call with a name, police station and ID claiming to offer help with a refund or send fake emails asking for payment details, or set up fake social media accounts promising refunds.

How can you tell a scammer on the phone?

You can tell a scammer on the phone if they use a generic greeting, request money or sensitive personal or financial information, ask for your PIN or online banking password, or try to pressure you into making a decision without giving you time to think.

What are the 4 most common scams?

The four most common scams are grandparent scams, imposter scams, mail fraud and money mule scams. Romance scams should also be noted as they involve the deceptive manipulation of trust.

How do mobile phone scams work?

Phone scammers will call you unsolicited, pretending to be from organisations like your bank or the police and attempt to get you to give out your personal information or transfer money.

How can I recognise a scam phone call?

Be suspicious of any unexpected, phone numbers, calls, requests for personal information, insistence on swift action, and offers lost money that seem too good to be true – these could all be indicators of a scam call.

Useful External References

  1. Action Fraudactionfraud.police.uk
    • The UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. It offers detailed information on the latest phone scams and prevention tips.
  2. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)fca.org.uk
    • The FCA provides information on financial scams, including those conducted over the phone, and offers advice on how to avoid them.
  3. Citizens Advicecitizensadvice.org.uk
    • Offers comprehensive guidance on how to identify and deal with various types of scams, including phone scams.
  4. Which?which.co.uk
    • Known for consumer rights advocacy, Which? provides detailed articles and advice on how to recognize and avoid phone scams.
  5. Age UKageuk.org.uk
    • Provides resources specifically aimed at helping older people avoid scams, including phone scams.
  6. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)ncsc.gov.uk
    • Offers guidance on cybersecurity, including how to protect oneself from digital and phone-based scams.
  7. Ofcomofcom.org.uk
    • The UK’s communications regulator, providing information on phone scams and how to report them.
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With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.

In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.

I am always open to connecting with other professionals in the field, sharing knowledge, and exploring new opportunities. Let’s secure the digital world together.