Advance fee fraud scams see 82% rise – signs to look out for

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Scam of the week: Advance Fee Fraud Scams

Experts discuss the scam in this week’s Scam Watch with James Walker from Rightly and Louise Baxter from the National Trading Standards Scams Team. It’s time to take control, know how to spot a scam and what to do about it.

In recent years there has been a rise of Advance Fee Fraud. Criminals as ever use all of the tools in their toolboxes to try and steal our money or details. Scams and fraud awareness has become even more important due to the cost-of-living crisis as the average consumer cannot afford to take a hit of even £100. People are looking for deals and offers and some people are in such financial difficulty they will take up fake offers of wealth or loans to ensure they can stay afloat financially.

What is advance fee fraud?

The world of fraud and scams always seems complicated, there are so many names for all the different sorts of scams and fraud. Essentially it is all the same, criminals attempting to take your money or personal details and not providing anything in return.

Advance fee fraud sounds more complicated than it is. Basically, what it means is that you will be asked to pay an upfront fee for goods or services that you don’t ever receive.

One High Street bank reported an 82% increase in this sort of scam year-on-year in 2022, with victims losing £711 on average.

In addition to these kinds of scams related to products and services, reports of loan fee scams have more than doubled over the past year, up 105% compared with the previous year. Cases continue to rise sharply. The average amount lost by victims in loan fee scams last year was £214.

These scams come in all forms; examples we have seen include:

  • offers of goods that are never delivered
  • loans fraud
  • rental fraud
  • romance fraud
  • inheritance fraud
  • lottery fraud
  • fake adverts
  • invitations for home working opportunities

What do the criminals do and how do they scam you?

Criminals will ask for a fee (money) in advance for you to receive the goods or service. Avoid this sort of scam by being aware of out-of-the-blue offers, check out any offer independently.

The cost-of-living crisis has given the criminal yet another opportunity to play on our consumer vulnerabilities and entice consumers into making risky decisions.

For example, loan fee scams, where criminals target people on low incomes or you may have a poor credit history. The criminal will tell you that they will approve a loan no matter what, but you must pay an advance fee to secure the offer.

According to one bank, it reports loan fee scams have increased 105% year-on-year and continue to rise and they are seeing a trend of those aged 25–44 becoming a victim to these ruthless criminals.

Surely, I will just get my money back from my bank?

The rules on this are currently governed by a code that the banks opt into. If you authorise what is called a push payment, so you pay money away from your bank account, the bank may not refund you,

You need to ensure you check who you are paying the money to, do not ignore the bank warning messages and check that if the bank does offer confirmation of payee, which essentially confirms you are paying who you should be. If it’s not a match this should be a huge red flag and should not be ignored.

Confirmation of Payee was set up as a way of giving you greater assurance that their payments are being sent to the intended person. So, you are not being accidentally or deliberately misdirected to the wrong bank account.

Do not ignore the warnings from your bank about making a payment to an account where the name does not match.

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How do I protect myself from these sorts of scams?

The most important thing to remember is that a genuine business won’t try to rush you and they won’t mind if you do check on the offer they are making. For example, a genuine loan lender will always do credit checks before offering to lend you money, a genuine home working offer won’t ask you to pay to go to work.

Warning signs to look out for

  • Is the offer out of the blue, from people you don’t know
  • Are they applying pressure for you to make a payment – especially if the details you’ve entered don’t match the account you’re trying to pay
  • If you are suspicious in any way, check them out independently, google the details, speak to a friend or speak to your bank. Genuine companies with genuine offers don’t mind waiting whilst you do checks.
  • If it’s web-based use this tool to check out the website Free Website Scam Checker – Check a website by Get Safe Online

Scambusters Mail bag – answering your scam niggles (Reader questions)

Question: I have recently started internet dating, as it’s the only way I can meet people, due to my job and responsibilities. I met a woman online and we started to chat and moved it to WhatsApp. Really recently the person, let’s call her Laura, asked me about my financial investments. This is something I’m always very good at and I don’t make quick decisions when it comes to money. However, the investment seems like a really good offer, but I have some doubts. I think I trust Laura as we have been talking for a long time and I really like her, and she seems to like me. What do you think? Should I pursue the investment further, I don’t want to miss out on a life-changing investment?

If you have doubts, I would suggest you take a break from talking to Laura, do not send any money. You should also be able to independently look at the opportunity, without relying on the information she gives you. Sadly, romance fraudsters quite often use online dating to build a relationship with someone and then extort money from them. Your story does sound like a scam

Questions to ask yourself

  • Do you really know this person?
  • Do they say they can’t meet you in person? What is the reason for this and is there any proof?
  • Are they asking you to keep your relationship a secret? This stops you from seeking a second opinion.
  • If you stop talking to her for a while does she go away? This would indicate she was only (if she is she) in it for the money.

I would also suggest you talk to someone you trust, there is no shame in these situations, millions of people become victims of scams each year. You are not alone. Ask their opinion on the messages, an objective viewpoint is always a good thing.

You can also do a reverse image search if you can or get someone to help you do it. If the picture has been used before it will come up on a search. This is a clear indicator the person you think you are talking to might not be who you think they are.

Top Tip

Consider your friends and neighbours, with the world the way it is and so much uncertainty and strains on our mental health, scams are rife. Do you think someone you know could be situationally vulnerable, if the answer is yes, they may be more susceptible to scams and frauds. Share this article with them, and get them talking. Peer-to-peer support for scams and fraud awareness is one of our biggest arms of defence against the vicious criminals.

Remember: If you have received a text, you think is a scam then you can forward to 7726 or take a screenshot and send it to [email protected] If you are receiving lots of unwanted phone calls or text messages you can also consider removing your details from data brokers, ensuring that you use a right to object to the processing of your data. You can learn more about this on Rightly to stop the sharing of your data exposing you to scams. And you can take a free training course on how to fight against scams on The more we talk about scams the more we take away the shame.

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