Scams Awareness Month: Online scams explained

Published: Friday 22nd July 2016 by Tom Drinkall

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Fraudsters often succeed in duping people into handing over personal information because these people simply don’t know enough about online scams to be suitably wary.

Knowing what sort of scams to look out for is crucial in helping you to protect yourself against online criminal activity.

Phishing/fake websites

This practice involves the fraudster sending you an email claiming to be from your bank, utility company or another trusted organisation in order to get you to disclose details you wouldn’t normally share.

They direct you to a fake website where you’re asked to enter your account details and other personal information.

The website normally looks like the legitimate organisation’s real website so that you give your personal information in good faith.

Emails asking for money

It goes without saying, but be extremely wary of any email that asks for money.

Scammers will often pose as a stranded friend or relative and ask you to send money. They may seem like genuine emails from loved ones, but they invariably are from scammers who’ve hacked into their email accounts.

Alternatively, you could receive an email asking you to assist with the transfer of something valuable for which you’ll receive a reward which never comes.

Emails with virus attachments

Cyber criminals send emails which contain viruses which could infect your computer. These emails can even be sent from the email account of people you do know if their account has been hacked.


Scams involving pop-up windows involve the user being invited to take part in a survey, by people posing as legitimate companies, with the promise that they will receive a prize for their troubles.

They are then told they must pay a processing or mailing fee to receive the gift and are prompted to enter the payment card details. What they don’t know is that, instead of paying for receipt of said prize, fraudsters are actually using their card details to withdraw money from their accounts.

It’s important to note that many companies use online surveys to conduct market research and those that offer prize incentives will not ask you to pay any fee whatsoever.

Tax refund emails

HM Revenue and Customs will never email you to inform you about a tax refund so ignore any email of this nature claiming to be from the HMRC. Unfortunately this is a common scam and many people have fallen victim to it.


It’s important to remember that there are many, many different types of scams – too many to mention here – so it’s important to remain vigilant when online.

Click here to read advice about how to avoid online scams.

How to report online scams

Contact Action Fraud if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam by phone on 0300 123 2040 or by visiting their website.

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Published: Friday 22nd July 2016 by Tom Drinkall

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