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Fraud is when criminals use deception to gain someone’s trust and trick them into handing over money, personal details, or valuable possessions.

There are many types of fraud, including cyber fraud, mail scams, and identity theft.

If you’re a fraud victim, or know someone who’s been a victim of fraud, it’s important that you report the offence and seek advice from a fraud support network.

Courage to come forward

Fraud victims sometimes find it difficult to report the crime – or even to know whether a crime has been committed. They can feel embarrassed that they’ve been conned or have fallen victim to a ‘scam,’  which can make them reluctant to come forward.

Fraud, by its nature, is difficult to pin down. Fraudsters are also very good at reinventing themselves, concealing their identity, and finding new ways to trick and deceive people. If you’ve been a victim of fraud, the offender has likely targeted other people too.

Anyone can be a fraud victim. But the more people that come forward, the greater our chance of alleviating fraud for good.

Remember, whatever form it takes, all types of fraud are a criminal offence and should be reported.

Fraud victim advice

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, the first step is to contact Action Fraud and report the crime.

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud, scams, and cybercrime, run by the City of London Police, working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

If you are a fraud victim in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you can report the crime to Action Fraud through its 24/7 online reporting service or by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm.

Call 0300 123 2040 if you are a business or charity currently under a live cyber-attack; do not use the online service.

Fraud Calls for Service

In most cases, the police will refer anyone reporting a fraud directly to Action Fraud.

However, there are certain occasions when the police must act immediately in response to a fraud or cybercrime report. These incidents are identified as Calls for Service (CFS).

In these types of incidents, the police will conduct an assessment to determine if the report fits the criteria of a CFS.

The following criteria constitute a Call for Service:

Offences where offenders are arrested by the police;

  • Where there is a CFS to the police and the offender ‘is committing’ or has recently committed (at the time of the CFS) all fraud types;
  • The suspect is known and is a local suspect.

A ‘local suspect’ is defined as where, through viable investigative leads, police:

  • Can or could locate the suspect with the details provided
  • Have sufficient details to apprehend an offender

‘Recently Committed’ should be interpreted using a common sense approach and dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The principle question for the force to answer is ‘does the incident require an immediate response?’

‘Local’ has its everyday meaning (including a delivery address) and has been used to ensure that, as with any other type of crime, where there are local viable investigative leads, police should consider the crime for investigation. Local is not necessarily exclusive to a force’s geographical area.

An officer should also be deployed if the victim is identified as vulnerable.

What is fraud?

Fraud is when criminals use deception to gain someone’s trust and trick them into handing over something of value, such as money, personal details, services, goods, or possessions.

According to the government’s 2006 Fraud Act, there are three general ways of committing fraud: by false representation, failing to disclose information and abuse of position. You can find out more about what constitutes fraud in our types of fraud resource section.

What types of fraud are there?

There are many types of fraud, including cyber fraud, mail scams, and identity theft. These methods are changing and evolving all the time.

That’s because fraudsters are very good at inventing new ways to get what they want from people, directly and indirectly, whether that’s personal information such as bank details or money through falsified payments and donations.

It’s important to remember that anyone can become a fraud victim. Below, we have listed some of the most common types of fraud.

Identity fraud

Identity fraud is when someone takes your identity, including personal details such as your name, address, date of birth, and other contact information, and uses it fraudulently. For example, they may take out loans, pay for goods on credit, or open a new bank account in your name. They might also use your details to defraud other people.

Identity fraud victims usually won’t know they’ve been defrauded until the money has left their account, they’re refused credit or are contacted by a third party asking for payments they didn’t make.

Romance fraud

Romance fraud is when you meet a new partner online through a dating app or social media and believe you’re in a genuine relationship. In reality, that person is a fraudulent criminal using a false name and profile to build a relationship with you.

They then use this connection to persuade you to give them money, disclose personal details, or make online transactions for them. Romance fraud victims have become increasingly common with the rise of internet dating.


If you’re a romance fraud victim, you could also be a victim of sextortion, though not necessarily. Sextortion is when criminals set up a fake online profile through social media and dating apps, then contact people and persuade them to perform sexual acts online, unaware they’re being recorded.

The criminals then use these photos or videos to blackmail the person into sending them money, threatening to share the footage with friends, family, or colleagues if they do not comply.

Investment and pension fraud

Investment and pension fraud can happen when the victim is contacted by an unsolicited third party and invited to invest in a product or scheme or to cash in their pension early. This could be in the form of an email, phone call or through the post.

However, it’s also common for people to become victims when actively searching for investment opportunities.

Scammers will often have a professional looking website and will use professional looking documents. Consider checking the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Warning List online tool and the FCA Financial Services Register.

Phishing and smishing

Phishing and smishing are types of digital fraud where scammers contact victims out of the blue via spam emails (phishing) and text messages (smishing) and try to get them to reveal personal information about themselves. This could be passwords, bank details, or other account information that would give them access to the victim’s money or identity.

Social media fraud

Social media fraud is when criminals use platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to target victims with fake adverts, websites, or invitations. They may also hack into friends’ social media profiles and use them to send victims smishing links to fraudulent websites.

Although most buyers and sellers are genuine, fraudsters sometimes use shopping platforms like Facebook Marketplace to target unsuspecting victims. For example, it is common for buyers to pay for an item, but not receive it.

Charity donation fraud

There are two types of charity fraud. One is where criminals pose as collectors or fundraisers for a known charity, with no intention of passing any money to the charity itself. Another is where a fake charity or fund-raising website is set up, encouraging people to donate to a worthy cause when in reality the funds are being pocketed by fraudulent criminals.

Who is at risk of fraud?

It’s important to remember that anyone can be a fraud victim.

Criminals who commit fraud are very good at finding new ways to get what they want from people, directly or indirectly.

In reality, everyone is at risk from fraud. But there are measures you can take to be vigilant and minimise the risk.

I think I've spotted a scam; what should I do?

If you or someone you know has a reason to suspect fraud, instantly report the incident to Action Fraud.

Suspicious emails: Forward suspicious emails to The National Cyber Security Centre ( NCSC ) will investigate it.

Suspicious texts: Most phone providers are part of a scheme that allows customers to report suspicious text messages for free by forwarding it to 7726. If you forward a text to 7726, your provider can investigate the origin of the text and arrange to block or ban the sender, if it’s found to be malicious.

Who deals with fraud in the UK?

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. It is run by the City of London Police, who are the national policing lead for economic crime, alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).

The NFIB receives all cases of fraud reported to Action Fraud and uses them to identify serial offenders, organised crime groups and new scams. If the NFIB reveal enough information to send to a police force, the NFIB will forward the report to the police for assessment and possible investigation.

How do criminals commit fraud

There are many different types of fraud. Quite often, a victim won’t know they’ve been a target because criminals use everyday means to commit the crime. Fraud could be in the form of:

  • A phishing email
  • A text or voicemail scam
  • A fake phone call
  • A letter or flyer in the post
  • A print or online advert
  • An online relationship

Some criminals even commit fraud in person, by going door-to-door or stopping people in the street.

Whatever the act, the intention of fraud is always the same: to get something of value from the victim through deception.

What are the most common types of fraud?

Some of the most common types of fraud to be aware of include:

  • Identity fraud
  • Romance fraud
  • Sextortion
  • Investment and pension fraud
  • Phishing and smishing
  • Social media fraud
  • Charity donation fraud

You can find a comprehensive list of all types of fraud here.

How do I recognise fraud?

There are a few things that should raise a red flag that something might be a scam:

  • Offers that seem too good to be true – if goods or services are much cheaper than you’d expect
  • You’re contacted unexpectedly by someone you don’t know
  • The company you’re dealing with is missing essential information, such as a recognised postal address
  • You’re pressured into transferring money quickly
  • Payment has been requested in an unconventional way
  • You’re asked to share personal information, like passwords or PINs
  • You have no receipt or written confirmation of what’s been agreed

How do I avoid becoming a fraud victim?

Anyone can become a fraud victim, and there’s no surefire way to prevent it. However, there are measures you can take to reduce your personal risk of fraud:

  • Be wary of offers and deals that seem too good to be true. If someone promises something that seems unrealistic, such as a get-rich-quick scheme, a dream prize, or a holiday, it could be a scam.
  • Always give yourself a cool-down period and seek independent or legal advice before committing to any offers or deals. A genuine offer won’t require an immediate decision.
  • If an offer involves time, money, commitment, or the sharing of personal information, always seek independent or legal advice first.
  • Don’t rely on online reviews. Instead, always seek reliable, independent proof of a company’s reputation before doing business with them.
  • Check company details and those of the staff you’re dealing with before signing anything or handing over money.
  • Insist on a receipt or written confirmation of any transactions you make.
  • Never share your bank details or personal information with anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Never use payment methods you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with; seek advice from your bank first.
  • Never transfer or send money to someone you don’t know or trust, whether in the UK or overseas.
  • Do not follow links, especially if they’ve been sent to you in a message or email; always log onto the website directly
  • If you uncover a scam or suspect you’ve been a fraud victim, report it. By doing this you will reduce the risk of other people being scammed.
  • Stay informed. Signing up for Action Fraud’s fraud alerts will keep you updated with scams and fraud in your area via email, text, or voicemail. Furthermore, you can also sign up to West Mercia Neighbourhood Matters Scheme to receive local fraud/scam alerts.

What are other words for fraud?

Fraud goes by lots of other names, including con, scam, cheat, extortion, swindle, hoax, sham, phony, and fake. Whichever word you use to describe it, they all describe the same illegal act of exploiting and gaining an advantage over someone through deception.