What is a scam?

What is a scam?

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A scam, also known as fraud, is essentially a dishonest way people get hold of your money or identity. There are many ways this can be achieved, and more often than not, it can take a while for you to realise that you have fallen victim to a scam.

Fraudsters are forever adapting to the current market. They often think of new, clever ways to take advantage of a certain situation so that they can trick the most vulnerable people. The best way to stay protected from a scam is awareness. You may not know what market they are going to target or what company they are going to pretend to be, but as long as you are aware of the methods that are used and what information you should never freely give, then you are one step closer to protecting your identity and your money.

Here we take a look at the different ways scammers could contact you so you know what to look out for.

What types of scams are there?

There are many types of scams out there, from knocking on your door, to cold-calling, to sending an email. Here are the main ways scammers will contact you.


One of the most common methods for scammers is phishing. This is an email that will appear to be legitimate, either from a company, your bank, the government, or a friend. The email will often contain a link to a fake website, or a link or attachment encrypted with a virus. Their aim is to gain access to your device and sensitive information, such as bank details and passwords.


A more direct approach that is used is called vishing. This is a phone call from the scammers pretending to be someone you should trust, including your bank, the police, or a big company, like Amazon or BT. They will often try to convince you that there is an issue that needs urgent action as a way to gain access to your bank details or other personal information. For example, they will convince you to move your money to a ‘safe’ account.


Fraudsters can contact you via SMS, called Smishing, also known as SMS phishing. The message will appear to be from a trusted person or organisation to obtain sensitive information. It will often include a link or a phone number to call and, similarly to vishing, there will be a sense of urgency to the message to convince you to take immediate action without thinking about it.


Door-to-door scams are less common nowadays compared to digital scams, but they do still happen. Most of these scams can include the scammer pretending to be:

  • From a charity asking for money
  • An official from your gas or electric provider to gain access to your home
  • Selling goods or services that don’t exist or are overpriced, such as offering home-improvements

There’s also the risk of distraction burglars, where one is at the front door talking to you, while the other is sneaking in through the back.


Pharming is a cyber-attack on your device, and is potentially the most difficult to detect. The hacker will manipulate web traffic, redirecting you to a fake website rather than the website you typed into the browser. Once you are on the website they have built, they can install malicious software to gain access to your device and steal your personal information.

How to avoid a scam

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out if someone is being genuine or if it’s a scam. However, if you’re asked for any personal information and are being forced to act quickly, take five.

To avoid being victim of scam check out our guide on how to protect yourself from a scam.