Avoiding Common Scams

Avoiding Common Scams

Humans are by far the weakest link in computer security - we all have several natural traits that make us susceptible to being scammed.

We instinctively want to help others, we're curious, we want to be liked, and we're often lazy. We're also programmed to want to trust each other. Fraudsters know this - and use it against us.

Scam warning signs

Fraudsters use all sorts of methods to run their scams, whether it's email, social media, telephone cold calling, post, or even doorstep visits.

Regardless of the type of scam or the method used though, most fraud will have at least one of the following signs. If you spot any of these in any communication then immediately be suspicious and do more research - it could save you a lot of money!

1) Unusual payment requests

Being asked to pay upfront, to change bank details, or to pay via a money transfer service, can all be big warning signs.

2) Too good to be true?

If it's too good to be true, it almost certainly is (sorry, you've not won that lottery!)

3) "Don't tell anyone"

The fewer people who know, the less chance there is of someone raising the alarm.

4) Time pressure

Scammers know the quicker you act the less time you have to realise you're being scammed.

5) Playing on your emotions

Scams regularly manipulate our emotions, especially curiosity, empathy, hope, and fear.

6) Authority

Fraudsters will feign authority by impersonating banks, well known companies, lawyers, charities, or even the police.

Not all scams have all of these characteristics, but they'll almost certainly have at least one.

And not all are sudden or from new strangers either; some fraudsters take their time waiting for the right moment to strike, such as dating fraudsters who may try to build up trust over a period of time.

Common scams

Scams can take many different forms and affect their victims in many ways. There's a huge variety of scams that criminals are using and we've gathered some of the more common ones here - reading how some of these work can help us learn to spot other scams too.

Email scams

Email is still one of the most popular ways that criminals spread scams, whether that's a phishing email, a "hot tip" on some shares, a plea for help, or the classic "419" advance fee fraud, there's no end of variety to watch for!

Read about common Email scams...

Money transfer scams

Almost all scams are ultimately about criminals trying to make money, so what better way than to fool us into transferring our money straight into their bank account?

Read about common Money Transfer scams....

Social Media scams

The psychology of social media sites, from trusting our friends to seeking a sense of belonging and social validation, make it an ideal place to try and fool us with scams such as fake adverts, clickbait, and many more.

Read about common Social Media scams...

Dating scams

Dating fraud is one of the cruelest types of fraud, exploiting our most personal feelings to trick victims out of their savings and with the potential to leave devastating emotional scars.

Read about Dating fraud...

Offline scams

Scams don't just happen online. Whether it's a door to door con artist, a phone call to gain your trust, or a scam letter through the post, there are plenty of scams still out there in the offline world.

Read about common Offline scams...

I think I'm being scammed.... what should I do?

If you think that you're being scammed what you should do next will depend on what the scam is and how far into it you are. Generally the steps would be:

  • Check to see if it's a scam we've covered on this site, either as an email, money transfer, social media, dating, or offline scam. We may also have specific guidance on our help page too.
  • Never send money to anyone you don't know. If you've already sent any money, or given over your account details, then contact your bank immediately to see if they can stop any payments.
  • Change passwords. If you've handed over or typed into any screen your password or PIN number then change them immediately. If you've opened any file sent by the scammers, or visited a web page they directed you to, you may want to run a virus check too.
  • Don't be pressured. Scammers will try to use allsorts of tricks to pressure you into continuing, whether that's guilt, feigning innocence, outright threats, or even manipulating you subtly by being friendly.
  • Keep evidence. It's important to keep copies of all communications you've had, for example emails or screenshots if you can. The police and your bank will need this for any investigations.
  • Report it to the police. Your local police force or national body that deals with cyber crime should be contacted; as well as investigating the fraud they will be able to provide further help.

Being scammed it's nothing to be embarrassed by - humans naturally have several traits that make us susceptible to fraud. Being aware that you're being scammed is the biggest step towards stopping it.

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