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What's the difference between fraud and a scam?

Criminal schemes designed to part you from your money are getting more sophisticated all the time. Knowing the facts can help you protect yourself. But what's the best way to stop scams and fraud before they happen, and what's the difference between the two?

What is fraud?

Fraud is suspicious activity on your account that you didn't know about and didn't authorise.

Examples of fraud include:

  • unauthorised use of your credit or debit card 
  • bank account takeover - someone accesses your account without you knowing
  • identity theft - a fraudster uses your details to open accounts in your name 

What is a scam?

A scam involves you making or authorising the payment yourself. You're persuaded to buy a fake item, hand over your security code or transfer a sum of money, not realising you're being conned by a criminal.

Scams can be very convincing and anyone can get caught out. 

Examples of scams include: 

  • instructions to transfer money to another account (e.g. a 'safe account')
  • fake investment opportunities
  • requests for money from a scammer who has befriended you or struck up a romance online
  • 'to good to be true' deals that must be paid for by bank transfer

Find out about the latest scams.

How can I protect myself from fraud and scams?

One way to protect yourself is to safeguard your personal details online. Be careful what information you share. Set your social media profiles to private - only let friends see what you post.

You should also store physical statements securely. When it comes to disposing of them, do so carefully, ideally shredding them, or blacking out your personal and financial details first.

If you receive a call, text or email asking about money, or security details, don't respond or click on any links. Stop and think. An unexpected call or message is often the first sign of a scam.

Where to find more information

Visit our Fraud and security centre for more on fraud and scams. Or download our scams leaflet.

If you want further information, here are some other organisations who offer advice on guarding against financial crime:

Action Fraud

You can report fraud or cybercrime to Action Fraud, a national reporting centre run by the City of London Police, working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.


This not-for-profit fraud prevention organisation was first launched in 1988 as the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System.

Cyber Aware

Previously known as Cyber Streetwise, this awareness campaign run by the Government, aims to help small businesses and individuals protect themselves against online criminals.

Get Safe Online

Get Safe Online offers free security advice to help protect people from fraud and other issues encountered online.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

You can report scams to the FCA, an independent public body which regulates 58,000 financial services businesses in the UK.

Take Five

A government-backed national campaign offering advice on how to guard against fraud.