Fixing the damage
Obviously, if you discover you’ve been tricked by a fraudster, the first thing to do is stop sending them your money. If you’ve set up a Direct Debit, for instance, cancel it by contacting your bank as soon as possible. You can also tell them if someone’s got hold of your PIN or other information.
If you start spotting transactions on your card statements that you don’t recognise, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Let your bank or card provider know the instant you realise something’s wrong. You can get the card cancelled straight away, and in most cases you can reclaim the cash from any fraudulent transactions.
If you’ve made payments to a scammer from a credit card, you might have some basic protection. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, for instance, means you can claw back payments of between £100 and £30,000 if the “seller” you’ve been dealing with either disappears or never had what you were buying in the first place. Even if that doesn’t work out, you might still be able to do a “chargeback”, basically reversing the payment. Debit card payments can sometimes be recovered by talking to your bank, but they won’t necessarily all have the same rules and procedures for this.
The rules around bank transfer scams have been going through some changes, hopefully making it easier to get your cash back from a scammer. You might be able to get the bank to reverse the payment altogether, but it’s not always possible. You might be offered only a partial refund - or even nothing at all, depending on the circumstances. If they refuse to help for some reason, it’s probably worth making a complaint – either to the bank itself or the Financial Ombudsman. Getting in touch with the police is also a good idea at this point.
Not all scammers take your money via cards, obviously. There are some pretty convincing PayPal frauds going round as well, for example. Maybe you’ve been directed to a fake PayPal form or payment page. As with any copycat page, it’s easy to find yourself plugging your details in almost automatically. PayPal has a Buyer Protection scheme built in - but with a lot of these scams they’re not involved in the transaction at all, leaving the scammer with your bank details and you in the lurch. Worse still are wire transfer services, like Western Union. These kinds of payments can be next to impossible to recover.