Go back

How to spot an online scam

Go back


With stronger regulations on cold-calling, scammers have turned their attention to the internet to convince people to part with their hard-earned money. We cover what an online scam looks like, and how you can stay one step ahead of scammers.

Email scams

Have you received an email from a big company such as PayPal, eBay or Amazon, claiming that your account has new, unexpected funds, or you’ve made a big purchase? Don’t fall for it, and definitely don’t click on it.

These scams are designed to make you click through to a fake website that looks exactly like the real thing. Once you input your details, a scammer has access to your account. If you use the password for any other sites, they’ll likely have access to these also.

As the email looks so realistic, it’s easy to fall for. However, there are usually telltale signs in the email that you can look out for:

Typos: Usually, these scams are set up overseas by people who have English as a second language, or use a basic online translation service. Check for errors with spelling and grammar.

Currency: If the currency in any amounts mentioned is not in GBP (£), it’s likely that it isn’t real. US Dollar ($) is usually the default as the email is sent en mass to several regions.

Sender: While it may say Paypal or Amazon in ‘from’ at the top of the email, you can click on the address for more information. Anything other than a ‘@paypal.com’ or ‘@amazon.com’ email is not correct. Emails with a long mixture of letters and numbers indicate a throwaway email, which scammers often use for these type of campaigns.

If you’re ever in doubt about whether an email is genuine, find the company’s customer support number online and simply ask. Don’t use the number provided in the email – it could be a pay-per-minute number designed to dupe you into wracking up a big bill.

Social media scams

While huge companies such as Facebook are finally doing their bit to make sure fake news and untrusted content doesn’t make it to your news feed, a lot still slips through the cracks.

There are many types of social media scams to look out for – here are just a few:

People in need: Many people have reported a common scam, where they receive a friend request from a total stranger. After accepting the request, they receive a sob story which ends in them asking for money to help. However, they aren’t in need and are currently copying the same story to countless others from multiple accounts. You can easily protect yourself by only accepting requests from people you actually know. If in doubt – reject them.

Fake news: It’s easy to get drawn in with clickbait. Whether it’s news of a deceased celebrity, a personality quiz or a tool to see who viewed your profile, we’ve all seen them. If you’ve clicked through, there’s usually a small form which asks you to log in with your social media account before seeing the content you want to see.

Unfortunately, there’s no content on the other side – it’s just an online scam designed to gain access to your password.

To make sure you don’t get caught out, only click on stories from trusted news sites. Also, only ever put your password into the social media site directly – never an external site.


Who wouldn’t love to become a millionaire overnight?

When the value of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin skyrocketed, the online scam world turned its attention to offering ‘get rich quick’ cryptocurrency through email, social media and website ads. However, it was just a way to swindle unsuspecting people out of a lot of money.

The scams even included fake celebrity endorsements, with victims losing up to £200,000 on various scams.

The only advice for scams like this is, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Simply Google the value of the cryptocurrency you’re being offered to see if it adds up.

Pension Scams

One scam our team deals with on a daily basis is pension mis-selling. An introducer who seems legitimate gets in touch via email, or you click on an ad for a ‘free pension review’. However, your pension is never reviewed.

You’re then swamped with an endless choice of ‘low-risk, high-reward’ self-invested personal pension (SIPP) schemes to transfer your pension into. These include hotel rooms, forestry, car parking and storage units amongst many other schemes.

As the majority of people wanting a comfortable retirement are not investment experts, they trust the scammer, who appears to be genuine.

Before acting on any pension advice, there are measures you can take to ensure you’re in safe hands.

Check the ScamSmart website: The Financial Conduct Authority has created a website so that you can check the company you’re dealing with. There are also handy tools, including a quiz, to help you be more wary of scams.

A Google search: It seems very basic, but a simple Google search will often raise those red flags. Search the company’s name, the name of the introducer and any schemes you’ve been offered. If anyone else has had a bad experience, you’ll soon find bad reviews or news articles to warn you off.

If you did transfer your pension into a scheme that wasn’t right for you, we may be able to help you get your investment back. Get in touch today for a free consultation.