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Check if something might be a scam

This advice applies to England

A scam is a type of fraud in which someone steals your money or information.
You can be scammed online, in person, over the phone, or through the post.
Scams can be difficult to recognise, but there are things you can look out for.

Recognising a scam

It might be a scam if:

  • it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s significantly cheaper than you’d expect it to be
  • someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
  • you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by vouchers or wire transfer
  • you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs

If you think you’ve paid too much for something

Paying more for something than you think it’s worth isn’t the same as being scammed. Usually, a scam will involve theft or fraud.

You have other rights if you think you’ve overpaid.

If you think you’ve spotted a scam

If you’ve given away money or information because of a scam, there are things you should do. Check what to do if you’ve been scammed.

If you haven’t been scammed but you’ve seen something you think is a scam, you should report it. Find out how to report a scam.

If you’re not sure if something is a scam, contact our consumer service. They'll give you advice about what might be a scam and the steps you should take if you've been scammed.

Protecting yourself online

There are things you can do to protect yourself from being scammed online.

Check you’re buying from a real company

It’s important to check you’re buying from a real company. If you’re buying something on a site you haven't used before, spend a few minutes checking it – start by finding its returns policy. The company’s address should have a street name, not just a post office box.

Check to see what people have said about the company. It’s worth looking for reviews on different websites – don’t rely on reviews the company has put on their own website.

Also, don’t rely on seeing a padlock in the address bar of your browser - this doesn’t guarantee you’re buying from a real company.

Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust

Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust - for example, if you get an email from a company with a strange email address. Doing this could infect your computer with a virus.

Make sure your antivirus software is up to date to give you more protection.

Be careful about giving personal information away

Some scammers try to get your personal information – for example, the name of your primary school. They can use this information to hack your accounts. If you come across sites that ask for this type of information without an obvious reason, check they’re legitimate.

Check if your details have been shared online

Sometimes your log-in details can be made publicly available when a website is hacked. This means that someone could use your details in a scam. Check whether your accounts have been put at risk on Have I Been Pwned.

Make your online accounts secure

Make sure you have a strong password for your email accounts that you don't use anywhere else. If you’re worried about remembering lots of different passwords, you can use a password manager.

Some websites let you add a second step when you log in to your account – this is known as ‘two-factor authentication’. This makes it harder for scammers to access your accounts.

Find out how to set up two-factor authentication across services like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Outlook and iTunes on the website Turnon2fa.

Pay by debit or credit card

Pay by card to get extra protection if things go wrong. Read our advice on getting your money back after you’ve been scammed.

Know how your bank operates

Check your bank’s website to see how your bank will and won’t communicate with you. For example, find out what type of security questions they’ll ask if they phone you.

Find out about recent scams

You can sign up for email alerts on Action Fraud’s website to find out about recent scams in your area.

You can also check recent scams on Action Fraud’s website, and find out about common financial scams on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website.

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