Software scams: how to protect yourself and your devices

19 September 2023

4 min read

Software scams typically involve criminals posing as representatives from trusted organisations, such as the police or your service provider, and ask you to download software onto one of your devices. This type of software is often referred to as RAT (Remote Access Technology).

How fraudsters use software scams

Fraudsters will use a range of methods to contact you. Typically, they will verify your contact details with an initial fake text or email and then follow it up with a phone call.

Once they’ve made contact with you, they’ll usually try to persuade you to act in some way. Often with claims that there has been suspicious activity, a security compromise, or that you are due a refund of some sort. During this conversation, they’ll try to trick you and ask you to log in to your online bank account and/or emails.

Once the software has been downloaded, it allows the fraudsters to take over your device. They can present screens to stop you from seeing what they are doing on your device, so if you have logged in to your online bank account or emails, they’ll have full access and control. They can then attempt to make payments from your accounts without you realising, and stop any messages or contact attempts from us to warn you of suspicious activity.

Examples of software scam tactics

To get a better idea of what software scams may look like, below, we’ve included a few examples of how fraudsters may try and execute software scams:

  • Pretending to be the police or your bank – fraudsters may contact you and tell you they can see there’s been fraudulent activity on your account and that you need to move your money to keep it safe. They may even say they need your help with an investigation, but not to tell us, as it could be an internal issue.
  • Using fake messages on your devices to get you to download RAT – When using the internet, a pop-up on your browser may appear, stating that your computer is infected with a virus or spyware. It may ask you to call a number, and the person on the phone will try and trick you into granting them remote access to your device. You could also receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, saying that they need access to your device so they can cancel a fraudulent payment on your account. These are both examples of RAT scams.
  • Pretending to be HMRC – fraudsters will call or text and claim to be from HMRC. They may try to put you under pressure by telling you to pay an urgent tax bill or face prosecution.
  • Pretending to be your broadband or telecommunication provider – fraudsters may contact you and claim that there are problems with your broadband or that your internet is compromised, and ask you to download software so they can fix this issue for you.
  • Pretending to be a well-known company such as Amazon – fraudsters will pose as companies like Amazon to discuss a refund, or to tell you that fraudulent purchases, such as an iPhone, have been made from your account. They will offer to help guide you through cancelling the orders on your device, or assisting with a refund.

Be vigilant to any 'out of the blue' contact, either by text message or from a telephone call

If somebody calls you, no matter who they say they are, it’s important that you never agree to download an app or software on to your laptop, computer, or mobile device. Especially if they then ask you to log in to your online banking accounts.

Remember – Never tell anyone your online banking verification codes or password, or your memorable number, not even us.

Important – If we suspect a fraudulent payment may be about to leave your account, we may text you to ask you to confirm if it is genuine or not first before the payment can be made. In a computer software scam, the criminal may have tried to move money from your account and they may tell you to ignore our security message and to just reply ‘yes’. If you are told to do this by someone over the phone, it’s a scam! You will be authorising the criminal to steal your money.

How to protect yourself - remember these key tips:

Fraudsters are criminals and those affected are victims. It’s important that we do what we can to help protect ourselves and those around us. Help us fight fraudsters and scams by keeping the below in mind.

  • Be vigilant – if you’re unsure if a text message or phone call from us is genuine. Stop. Don’t panic, and contact us using the number on the back of your card, ideally using another telephone as the caller could try to stay on the line.
  • You can also contact a genuine company by using a trusted number from their website.
  • Neither the Bank nor the Police will ever contact you and ask you to move your money to another account to keep it safe. Neither will we ask you to help us with a fraud investigation, or to hand over your cards or cash to anyone.
  • HMRC will never text or call you and threaten you to pay a tax bill or face prosecution.
  • You will never be contacted by anyone and asked to log in to your online banking, check that you have received a refund, or to request that you return an overpayment.

Find out more about common fraud threats and how to avoid them.

Take Five is a national campaign that offers straightforward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from fraud. Visit: for more information.

Not found what you're looking for?

Contact our support team