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Spotting online scams

This advice applies to England

Scammers try to get your personal details to get money from you or steal your details so they can pretend to be you. 

If you think someone might be trying to scam you, don’t:

  • give them any personal information, like bank details, computer passwords or PIN numbers
  • reply to their email or click on any links
  • download any attachments or files in emails
  • send them any money or buy anything
  • ring any numbers in emails

If you’ve lost money because of a scam, you can report it.

Check the warning signs

It’s easier to spot a scam if you know what to look for. 

Be careful if something:

  • comes out of the blue or from someone you don’t know
  • sounds out of the ordinary - like you’ve won the lottery, or you’ve been invited to invest in an ‘amazing’ scheme and keep it a secret
  • asks you to pay for something in advance - especially by bank transfer
  • asks you for personal information - like your bank details, computer passwords or PIN numbers
  • pressures you into buying something or making a decision quickly - a trustworthy company will be happy to wait
  • asks you to phone an expensive number - these start with 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098

You can check recent scams on Action Fraud’s website, and common financial scams on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website.

If you’ve been contacted about making an investment, check if the company is registered with the FCA on their website. If it’s not, it’s probably a scam.

Spotting a fake email or website

Scam emails ask you for personal information like passwords or bank details to get money. This is called ‘phishing’.

They often look like they’re from a real company - like a bank or building society. Remember that your bank will never ask you to confirm personal details by clicking on an email link.

If you’re not sure if it’s a scam, check:

  • the email or website address - if it’s a scam, it might have a strange address or come from a free email provider like Gmail
  • for spelling mistakes - trustworthy websites are less likely to have them
  • if the website starts with https:// - this means the information you send on the website is secure, but the website could still be a scam
  • if the website has a green padlock in the website address bar - this means the information you send on the site is private

Get advice on being safe on the internet on Get Safe Online’s website. They also have advice on protecting your computer from viruses which can sometimes steal your details.

If you think you’re being scammed

Don’t click on anything and leave the website. You might want to keep the email as evidence in case you report the scam.

If you’ve had an email that looks like it’s from your bank, contact your bank directly using the number on your card. You can also log into your account on their website - use Google to find the real one.

You can also block the email sender or mark an email as ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ - this means you won’t see them in your inbox. Check your email provider’s help section for instructions on how to do this.

Get advice on scams

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

If you were pressured into buying something, you might be able to get a refund.

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