What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme to try to steal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Other names for a scam include fraud, hoax, con, swindle and cheat.

Facts about scams

  • The National Audit Office (NAO) estimated  that individuals lose £10 billion a year due to online fraud.

  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated there were 3.8 million incidents of fraud for the year ending June 2019.

  • Citizens Advice research [ 0.89 mb] from 2017 found that:

    • Almost three-quarters (72%) of people have been targeted by scammers in the last 2 years, either via mail, phone calls, text messages, emails, online, and face-to-face.

    • Over a third (37%) of people have been targeted 5 times or more.

    • Almost half (45%) of people have taken no action to protect themselves against scams in the last 12 months, and two-thirds (65%) have taken no action to help protect friends or family.

    • 7 out of 10 (68%) of people targeted by a scam do not tell anyone about it.

  • The CSEW suggests that only 1 in 7 of incidents of fraud either come to the attention of the police or are reported by the victim to Action Fraud.

Scams advice

There are four important things that people can do if they suspect they’re the target of a scam:

  1. If payment or banking details are involved in the scam the person’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company. If the scam is a pension transfer, they need to contact the provider immediately, along with the Pensions Advisory Service.

  2. Get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133, or on 0808 223 1144 for a Welsh-speaking adviser. You can also get advice and information online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/sa20. The Citizens Advice consumer service can also report problems to Trading Standards for you. Trading Standards are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.

  1. Report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime.

  2. Tell family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams and find out how to protect themselves.

Useful links and resources

There are lots of other resources, content and advice that you can use to help you campaign, some of which are listed below. You can also take a look at our Partner Hub, where we’re signposting people to resources, training and materials from partners and other relevant organisations.

Resources to help teach consumers about scams

  • Citizens Advice scams advice pages. Citizens Advice offers free advice and helps people to find a way forward. You can also contact the consumer service for free consumer advice, including advice on scams at 0808 223 1133 (or 0808 223 1144 to contact a Welsh-speaking adviser).

  • Friends Against Scams. Run by the National Trading Standards scams team, the campaign aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities and businesses to ’Take a Stand Against Scams’.

  • The Pensions Regulator has handy downloads for consumers to help them spot pension scams.

  • The Money Advice Service offers free and impartial money advice, including advice about scams.

  • The Financial Conduct Authority has a register of authorised financial firms at www.fca.org.uk/register and a list of firms which have been implicated in scams. The FCA website also has advice to help investors avoid falling victim to scammers and a Scam Smart game showing examples of investment scams. 

  • www.cyberaware.gov.uk is a website launched by the government aimed at helping the public and small businesses to spot and avoid fraud, by raising awareness and promoting digital security for online users.

  • Get Safe Online are an organisation aimed at informing consumers to protect themselves from online scams with factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety.

  • Led by UK Finance and backed by the government, Take Five is a national awareness campaign providing advice and tips for consumers on how to protect themselves from financial fraud.

Help for people who have been scammed

  • Think Jessica is a charity that raises awareness of scams that target elderly and vulnerable people in their own homes, including by telephone, the postal system and on the doorstep. 

  •  Victim Support gives free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family, friends and anyone else affected across England and Wales. Call 0808 1689 111.

  • Age UK has local branches around the UK providing help and support for older people. Call the national line for free on 0800 678 1602.


Citizens Advice Haringey

20E Waltheof Gardens


London N17 7DN

FREE PHONE Advice Line: 0808 278 7966

General Enquiries: 0203 872 5840



Citizens Advice Haringey, an operating name of Haringey Citizens Advice Bureaux (Charity Registration Number 1069301, Company limited by guarantee, Registered Number 03501846 England, Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN: 617623