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Fraud 101

We all think fraud is something that happens to other people, until it happens to us.

Understanding fraud is like understanding magic. Confusing if you don't know the trick, but easy to spot once you know how it’s done. If we all learn the tricks, we're less likely to be fooled.

Common scams and how to spot them

Email scams (phishing)

Phishing is a common method criminals use to try and trick you into sharing personal information by email. This can include your username and password, but also information they can use to impersonate you, such as your family history or previous addresses.

These messages will often look like they've come from somebody you trust, such as your bank or the government.

What to look out for: Any email asking you to reply with personal information should be treated with extreme caution. You should also avoid clicking links in emails, particularly if they look unfamiliar. Check for tell-tale signs such as poor spelling and grammar, offers that seem too good to be true or unusually long URLs.

How to avoid: If in doubt, don't click on any links and don't open any attachments. If the email claims to be from HSBC, you can double check by contacting us directly using the details listed on our Contact us page.

You can also forward any suspicious emails claiming to be from HSBC to and it’ll be investigated.

SMS Scams (smishing)

Another common way in which criminals may target you is through fake text messages. These may also appear to come from a trusted source, such as the bank or your utility provider. They will usually ask you to click on a link, reply to the message or call them back.

What to look out for: As with emails, any SMS asking you to click a link or reply with personal or financial information should be checked carefully before you respond. HSBC will never ask you to supply personal information by text or email, so if you're asked to do this, it's probably a fake.

How to avoid: If in doubt, don't respond and don't click the links. Check to see what regular text messages look like from the organisation claiming to be contacting you, and if you’re unsure, contact them through the official customer service channels listed on their website. 

Voice scams (vishing)

From time to time you may receive an unexpected call claiming to be from an official institution such as your bank or the police. But it may be a criminal trying to scam you, or get information they can use to impersonate you online.

Sometimes these calls may be threatening in nature, such as claiming that you're being investigated for a crime you did not commit or a road accident you were not actually involved in. Others may claim to be conducting a marketing survey, but the questions will often become increasingly more personal.

What to look out for: If you receive a call from an unfamiliar number, exercise caution. Reputable companies should not try to scare or intimidate people over the phone, so if the call feels threatening, or if you feel that you are being pressured to take immediate action, this could be a danger sign. 

Many of these calls are automated, so look out for voices that sound robotic or fail to respond to you naturally. Some might try to persuade you to transfer or move your money to a 'safe place'. Others will ask you to divulge personal information, or even your account passwords, PIN or secure key codes.

How to avoid: If in doubt, just hang up. If you are unsure whether a call is legitimate or not, ring the company back on a number you know and trust. In the case of HSBC, you can find all our valid customer service numbers on our Contact us page.

Romance scams

As online dating apps have become more popular, many criminals are trying to manipulate people into sharing personal information by creating fake relationships.

They might begin with an innocent flirtation before asking you increasingly personal questions. Others may attempt to win your trust and then ask you to send them money. They can be surprisingly convincing, and will often go to great lengths to form an emotional bond with you.

What to look out for: Any relationship with a person you've not met should be treated with caution. Question why they might be asking you certain things, and be aware of how much you're revealing about yourself. If somebody asks for money, even if their reason seems genuine, you should be extremely cautious.

You may also be asked to hold money that they or somebody else will send to you. Never agree to do this - you could be being used as a money mule to help transfer stolen money.

How to avoid: Never send money to someone you've only met online. Also, don't agree to accept money from them to send on their behalf. Be cautious and avoid sharing personal information, even if it seems innocent. 

Identity theft

The end game for many fraudsters is to get enough personal information to allow them to open new accounts in your name, apply for credit cards or to access your existing accounts.

What to look out for: In addition to the techniques we've already mentioned, online quizzes are also a popular method for extracting personal information. These may seem harmless, but if they ask you to reveal personal details about yourself, this data may be collected, abused or sold to third parties.

How to avoid: Avoid any short, fun quizzes that may pop up on social media and keep your social media profiles private. If you wish to keep some of them public, avoid sharing anything too personal. For instance, never share your home address or family details on a public social media platform, and make sure no important documents are visible if you share photos or videos online.

Finally, if you receive paper bank statements and other important financial documents, ensure these are destroyed before you dispose of them. 

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