Types Of Scams


Scams can come in many different disguises. So it’s important to know the warning signs to look out for and what to do if you have, or think, you’ve been targeted.


This is an email scam where you appear to get a message from a legitimate source, such as your bank, HMRC, PayPal, Apple or Amazon.

The message will encourage you to click a link and log into your account, normally by telling you your account has been locked or there’s a large transfer of money.

In reality, the link in the email goes to a fake website which collects your information. Another version of this scam involves an email attachment – perhaps a coupon or form you need to fill in – which is in fact a computer virus.

How to spot it

There are two main ways to spot a phishing scam:

  1. Look at how you’re addressed in the email. Scammers will use a general greeting such as Dear Sir, Dear Madam or Dear Customer. Legitimate emails will use your name.
  2. The email address the message has been sent from. Open the email and expand the pane at the top of the message and look at the email it was sent from. If it’s a real message, it will come from a recognisable address – such as ‘noreply @ bank.com’. Scammers won’t be able to send messages from a real domain name. So the email addresses will be filled in with random letters or numbers, such as ‘noreply @ 1234.bank.com’, or have deliberate spelling mistakes.

What to do

Never click the links in a suspicious email. If you think there might be a legitimate problem with an account, go to the website directly and log in. This way, you’ll never be caught out by a fake website.

Some organisations, such as HMRC, have an email address you can forward these emails on to, which helps them combat scams.

Investment scams

This is generally a phone-based scam. Although you might be targeted in other ways, such as email or people coming to your house.

Although investment scams vary, the principle remains the same. You’re encouraged to hand over money to invest in a company or product, which doesn’t exist.

How to spot it

It can be quite difficult. Many of the companies the scammers are calling from or trying to get you to invest in can look legitimate – with websites, social media profiles and testimonials.

See if the investor is regulated by checking the register on the FCA website. To see if what they’re getting you to invest in exists, check them on the Companies House website.

It’s unlikely a company will contact you out of the blue about an investment opportunity. So if you get an unexpected phone call, it’s best to ignore it.

A big warning sign should be if you’re told an investment offers a high rate of return with little risk.

What to do

Report scams on the FCA website. Or, if you’ve lost money to suspected investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or visit Action Fraud

Pension scams

Since the pension freedoms were introduced in 2015, retirees are able to access large sums of money from pension pots.

An unfortunate side-effect has been that this group is now being targeted by scammers because they can potentially access large amounts of cash. Pension scams will usually follow a similar path to investment scams, with contact normally being made by telephone.

How to spot it

Warning signs are similar to those for investment scams. Unsolicited phone calls, or any unrequested contact, should be treated as suspicious. Anything involving high returns with low risk should ring alarm bells. If you want to be sure, check the FCA register and the Companies House website.

What to do

Report scams on the FCA website. Or, if you’ve lost money to suspected investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or visit Action Fraud

Authorised push payment fraud

The goal of this scam is to get you to voluntarily send, or authorise, a payment to the scammers. They do this by posing as a legitimate business, often by intercepting or hacking your email account. This often occurs when you’re in the process of buying a house, having building work done on your home or booking a holiday.

How to spot it

Spotting push payment fraud can be very difficult as it normally occurs at a time when you’re expecting to be asked for payment. Don’t assume all emails are genuine.

What to do

Check the company you expect to be paying sent you the email, and that the bank details match. If you do fall victim, new rules introduced by the FCA mean you can now make a complaint to your bank and the bank receiving the payment. Most high street banks area signed up to this new code of practice.


These are text message-based scam. Scammers will contact you claiming to be from your bank, saying you need to update your personal details  or that there’s an issue.

The text might contain a link, like a phishing scam, or a phone number to call. The phone number is fake and when you call the fraudsters will attempt to get you to reveal your details.

How to spot it

It’s difficult to spot, so if you get a message like this – be suspicious. One giveaway might be the phone number in the text is not the same as the one on your credit or debit card.

What to do

If in doubt, call the number on your card and find out if they have tried to contact you. Don’t click any links in text messages. Always go directly to the website and log in as normal.

Ticket scams

This is when you buy tickets for a concert or sporting event, for example – but the person, or website, you’re buying from either doesn’t send the tickets, or sends you fakes.

This is most common on ticket reselling or exchange sites, which makes get a refund very difficult. To combat touts, many events issue tickets that can only be used by the person who bought them, so tickets on reselling sites won’t work

How to spot it

Spotting this scam can be difficult as you might not realise you’ve been scammed until the day of the event. One way you might be able to spot it is by looking at the website. If it’s one you’ve never heard of, doesn’t have proper contact details, or only lists a mobile phone number or PO box – avoid it.

What to do

Avoid buying tickets from social media or online auction sites where it might be difficult to trace the seller and get a refund.

Check the website you’re buying from is a member of the Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers (STAR). Find out more on the STAR website. When paying, make sure the website address starts ‘https’, not just ‘http’, as this means the site is secure.

For more detailed information on other types of scams, please see the original MoneyHelper article (click here).