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What is a ‘safe account’ scam  and how to protect yourself

Safe account scams have been on the rise recently and they can have a detrimental effect on those who fall victim to it.

Some victims have transferred every penny they have to these scammers so it’s very important that you’re aware of what these scams are, how to detect them, and how to keep your money safe.

What is a safe account scam?

A safe account scam is essentially a scammer who convinces you to transfer all of your money to a ‘safe account’ by telling you that your bank account has been compromised.

They may phone you completely out of the blue, or they may target you with a much smaller scam first in order to get your bank details and make the safe account scam more convincing.

How do scammers get my details?

Scammers will usually call you pretending to be someone from your bank’s fraud team.

This scam can happen in a couple of different ways.  

Initial small scam

Some scammers will get your bank details first by targeting you with a much smaller scam. For example, they have recently been sending out text message scams pretending to be from Royal Mail. The text says that there is a small unpaid shipping fee which you must make otherwise your parcel will be returned to the sender. You’re given a link to a site, controlled by the scammers, where you’ll be asked to enter your bank details in order to make the payment.

This is an easy scam to fall for as so many people are genuinely waiting on parcels, and the shipping fee is normally £2 or under to people don’t mind making the payment.

Once the scammers have your bank details and personal information, they are able to make their safe account scam far more convincing. They usually call one to two days later.

When the scammers call you they’ll inform you of this Royal Mail text scam (which they sent out in the first place), or whatever scam they’re using at the time, and say that you’ve fallen victim to it.

Out of the blue

Alternatively, scammers will just try their luck and phone people out of the blue. They can get people’s names and phone numbers easily from companies that have sold information to third parties.

They’ll pose as a representative from one of the UK’s largest banks, for example Barclays or Santander, and call hundreds of people until they find those who genuinely banks with whoever they’re pretending to be.

How do safe account scams work?

They’ll claim that a scammer has access to your account and that they’re setting up direct debits in your name or making large payments from your account.

They’ll reassure you and tell you that they’re sending you a new bank card and they’ll give you a new sort code and account number – all of which is fake. But, in order to stop the scammers from doing any more damage, they’ll tell you to transfer all of your money into a ‘safe account’ which they have set up for you.

These scammers are clever. They set up these accounts with one of the few banks that haven’t yet implemented the ‘confirmation of payee’ scheme. This is because, if your bank is signed up to the scheme, then you’ll get an alert if the name you enter doesn’t match the name on record for that the account that you want to transfer money to. The scammers will tell you that this new account is in your name and that they’ve set it up on your behalf, but it’s actually in their name and you won’t have access to it at all.

If your bank does use the confirmation of payee scheme and you get an alert saying that the details don’t match, the scammers will tell you that it’s because you haven’t verified it yet and you’ll be able to do so once you’ve made the transfer.

Once you have transferred all of your money to this safe account, the scammers will disappear without a trace. They’ll move the money into a third account for which you don’t have the details.

How to identify a safe account scam and how to protect yourself
  • Most importantly, you will never get a phone call from your bank either asking for personal details, bank card numbers, security codes, or asking you to transfer money.

    If you receive a call from anyone saying that they’re from your bank and they ask you for any information or ask you to transfer money then hang up immediately and report it. You can find your bank’s genuine phone number on the back of your bank card if you want to call them to verify the caller’s claims. Do not phone them back on the number that called you.

  • The scammers will be polite and reassuring, but ultimately they will be very pushy and stress how important it is that you do what they say. They will persuade you to stay on the call even if you ask to phone them back and they will urge you to carry out the transaction as quickly as possible.

  • They will also try to persuade you into transferring any overdraft balance which is a big red flag.

What to do if you’ve fallen victim to a safe account scam

You must report it as soon as you become aware of a safe account scam. Call your bank and tell them what’s happened – the quicker you act, the more chance you have of getting your money back.

You should also report it to Action Fraud UK.


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