How to spot a scam

How to spot a scam

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Knowing what a scam is and how to spot a scam could save you a lot of money and stress. That’s why we’ve created a list of signs to help you understand whether you are being scammed or not.

Why is it important to be aware of scams?

Scams can be tricky to detect, particularly if you aren’t aware of them. If you fall victim to a scam, your devices, passwords, bank account, and identity could be compromised. This can result in you losing a lot of money that will be difficult to get back, being blocked out of your bank account and devices, or unintentionally get yourself involved in criminal activity.

That is why it’s important to make yourself aware of scams and what to look out for to protect yourself and your money.

What to look out for when spotting scams

1. Contacted out of the blue

If you are contacted by your bank, HMRC, or a company, particularly by phone, without any prior warning, then you should be extra cautious. While there is a chance that you might receive genuine calls out of the blue, you will never be asked to provide any sensitive information or transfer your money. So if you receive an unexpected call and are asked to act right away or provide any details, don’t do it.

2. Links to fake websites

Emails and SMS messages often contain links that will send you to fake websites or install malicious software onto your device. If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, do not click the link. Also, many organisations will not require you to click a link to take immediate action, such as the bank, HMRC, the government, and the police.

3. Urgency

Scammers will often try to convince you that you need to act now so that you don’t have time to think about what you’re doing or seek advice. If you are ever contacted and are told you need to act now, take five. For example, if you are contacted by the bank and are told that there is an issue with your account and that you need to move your money to a ‘safe’ account right away, do not do it.

4. Misspelt email address

When receiving an email that you weren’t expecting, always check the email address from the sender. Scammers can often forge an email to look like a company you use, your bank, or a friend. A good indicator that the email is not genuine is spelling mistakes, or a range of numbers and symbols within the sender’s email address.

5. Grammatical/spelling mistakes

It is also worth checking the grammar and spelling throughout the email too. Although mistakes can be made, it isn’t often that you will see multiple mistakes within a genuine company's email.

6. Impersonal greeting

If you are greeted with your email address as your name, or a version of it, rather than your actual name, that is a clear sign that it could be a scam.

7. Asking for sensitive information

You should always be careful about revealing any sensitive information, such as passwords, one-time passcodes, and bank details. Therefore, if you are ever asked for any information like this, there is a chance that it could be a scam. For example, your bank will never call you and ask for your one-time passcode.

8. Asking you to move money

One popular way to steal your money is to convince you that there are issues with your account and that you should move your money to a ‘safe’ account. This is a scam. You should never transfer your money to any account unless you know whose account it is.

9. A deal too good to be true

If a deal, investment, raffle, or job offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. People are often drawn in with amazing offers, such as investments with guaranteed profit and no risk, or a high-salaried job but little experience needed. These types of offers are often promoted on social media or websites, like Gumtree, and should be handled with caution.

Raffles on social media, if not listed with a charity, are often ran by fraudsters and are funded by the money that they have gained from scam victims to start with. So, the only winners are the fraudsters!

10. Vague contact details

When contacted by a company who is asking for details or money, but only provide very little information about themselves, you should also be cautious. If they aren’t willing to provide contact details and information about who they are, they are likely to be fraudsters.

If you miss all the signs, and fall victim to a scam, then the next step is to report the scam.