What is Fraud?

Fraud is when somebody tries to deceive or trick you to gain a dishonest advantage which is often financial.

There are many words used to describe fraud: scam, con, swindle, extortion, sham, double-cross, hoax, cheat, ploy, ruse, hoodwink, confidence trick.

Anyone is susceptible to fraud. Criminals can be clever and well organised - finding new ways to trick and mislead you. Some victims of fraud say they feel embarrassment or shame but there is no need to feel this way as anyone can be caught out, even the most careful people.  

Types of fraud 

Identity Theft - when someone steals your personal details and uses them to carry out a crime such as opening a bank account, purchasing goods using your bank details and money or applying for loans in your name.

Other common scams include 

  • being persuaded to buy goods or services that are not for sale or don’t exist/ financial gains that don’t exist, 
  • bogus tradesmen or doorstep fraud where you may be pressurised into buying something you actually don’t want or something that’s poor value for money, 
  • fraudsters who trick you into giving them money over a long period of time with the promise of making you more money e.g. pyramid schemes and bogus lottery wins.
  • romance fraud when you think you’ve met the perfect partner through an online dating website or app, but the other person is using a fake profile to form a relationship with you in order to steal money or personal information for identity theft.

Romance Fraud e-booklet - Thames Valley Police has developed a romance fraud e-booklet designed to demonstrate the clever tactics used by romance fraudsters with a view to empowering people, as well as dispelling the myths of shame and embarrassment often associated with this type of crime.

The Little Book of Big Scams developed by the Metropolitan Police can give you further information on existing scams and tips on how to identify them.

A lot of fraud takes place online with many offenders relying on the internet to carry out their crime.  Sometimes fraudsters only need the smallest piece of information, such as your address, email or phone number to commit a crime. For more information on online fraud please see the section on cybercrime.

Covid-19 fraud and scams

Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more about Covid scams here

Reporting fraud 

If you have been a victim of fraud, you can report it to Action Fraud.  Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.  You can call the Action Fraud team on 0300 123 2040.  Further information on the reporting and investigation of fraud is available in these Frequently Asked Questions.

Support for victims of fraud

If you have been a victim of fraud and need emotional or practical support contact Victims First on 0300 1234 148 or through our online form