Money Wellness
illustration of scammers unlocking bank details on a computer
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calendar icon03 Apr 2024

Watch out for fake banking website scams

Which? has discovered more than 2,000 websites were reported for imitating banks in 2023.

These fake websites are used in impersonation scams. Fraudsters will use their victims’ banking details once they’ve been typed into the fake website.

The research found more than 2,000 sites imitating many UK bank brands had been reported in 2023. The affected banks were Barclays, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds, Monzo, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander and Starling.

Most of the sites will look as close as they can to legitimate banking sites, with similar URLs (website addresses).

Which? said that there could be many more copycat websites out there because there’s a big issue of people not reporting scams or fraud when they become victims.

Many banks use tools to monitor for sites impersonating their brands, and will issue ‘takedown’ requests when they’re found, but as they don’t have control over removing websites, sometimes people will fall into their trap.

Top tips to avoid impersonation scams

  • You need to be wary of any messages you get from numbers or emails which aren’t already stored in your contacts. If it appears to be someone you know, check the email address closely, as there may be an obvious slip up.
  • Your bank, police or any other trusted organisation will never ask you to move your money. They also won’t ask you to download anything onto your own device.
  • If you’re contacted and asked to fill in an online form to process a refund, contact the organisation using details specified on their website, or anything else separate from the form you’ve been sent and check the request is real.
  •  Pay attention to warning screens on your browser. Antivirus software can also warn you about suspicious websites and scan downloads. 
  •  Use a domain lookup service such as Who.is to see when a site has been registered. A major bank wouldn’t have a website registered last month. These services will also show you an ‘abuse’ email address for reporting the rogue site to its hosting company.
  • If a cold caller contacts you, don’t download any software onto your devices, no matter where they say they’re from.
  • If someone messages you claiming to be someone you know, don’t be rushed into anything. Contact them in a different way to confirm that is them.

 

How to report scams

It’s a good idea to report a scam – even if you’ve got your money back – as it can prevent it happening to someone else.

Don’t be embarrassed about reporting a scam – scammers are clever and anyone can fall for a scam.

You can report the scam to Citizens Advice who pass all the information on to Trading Standards and they’ll decide whether to investigate or not. Depending on what they find, they can take legal action against the scammers or stop them operating.

All scams should also be reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud.

Action Fraud can get the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to investigate scams. They’ll also give you a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you’ve been scammed. You can report a scam to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040

If you receive a scam email, you should forward it to [email protected]. It will go to the National Cyber Security Centre and might stop other people being scammed.

Online scam adverts should be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority. You may also be able to report an advert directly to the platform hosting it e.g. Google, Facebook and Instagram.

 

Avatar of Lydia Bell-Jones

Lydia Bell-Jones

With a background in banking, Lydia has been writing professionally for over five years. She is passionate about helping people improve their personal finances and has a particular interest in the connection between money and mental health.

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