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How to spot a scam

Scams are schemes to con you out of your money. They can arrive by post, phone call, text message or email or a scammer may turn up at your home.

It could be a scam if:

  • the call, letter, email or text has come out of the blue
  • you’ve never heard of the lottery or competition they are talking about and didn’t buy a ticket
  • you are asked to send money in advance
  • you are told you have to respond quickly so I don’t get time to think about it or talk to family and friends before you decide
  • you are told to keep it a secret.

Read this page for help on how to spot scams.

Who is affected by scams?

Scams can affect many different types of people. It’s often thought that older people are the most likely to fall for scams, but while this does happen, other age groups can be just as likely to be taken in. If you’re aged between 35 and 45, you can be caught out by too-good-to-be-true offers and get-rich-quick schemes, especially if  you’ve suffered a difficult situation such  as a job loss.  For example, there are training scams which affect people  who are hoping to improve their employment chances but which will defraud you of all your money instead.

Spotting scams

A scammer may:

  • contact you out of the blue
  • make promises that sound too good to be true - if something sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • ask you to pay for something up-front - for example, they'll ask you to pay a fee before you can claim a prize
  • ask you to make a quick decision by saying things like ‘if you don’t act now you’ll miss out’. This puts you under pressure and doesn’t give you time to think
  • be over-familiar and over-friendly with you
  • tell you an offer has to be kept secret
  • ask for your bank account details. Never give your bank details to people you don’t know, especially people you meet online
  • give a mobile number or PO Box number as the contact for their  company- these are easy to close and difficult to trace. It may be a sign that the company doesn’t exist or isn't legitimate. Check out the company's details with Companies House or look on the internet for more details about them.

If you think something might be a scam, don’t reply - then throw it away, delete it or hang up and get further advice.

Next steps

Other useful information

►Action Fraud A-Z of scams at:

►Age UK scams advice

►Metropolitan Police information on scams at:

►Metropolitan Police information on scams at:

►Think Jessica information on scams at:

►Companies House at:

Reporting a problem to Trading Standards

Trading Standards deal with complex consumer problems and potential criminal activities.

If you want to report a problem to Trading Standards, you should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, who share information reported to them with Trading Standards.