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How to spot a scam

Spotting a scam isn’t always easy, but scammers tend to use some common tactics, which can give them away. Read our advice on what to look out for.
2 min read

Be suspicious if you're contacted out of the blue


Whether you’re looking for a new bank account, pension advice or local trader, you should always be the first to make contact. Be suspicious of any company that contacts you out of the blue. At best it’s a sign of a pushy salesperson, at worst it’s an attempted scam – either way you probably don’t want to deal with them.


Be wary if the deal sounds too good to be true


Scams often try to hook you in by telling you that you’ve won a large prize or can make lots of money by investing a small sum with zero risk. It’s highly unlikely that someone you’ve never heard of will contact you with the ‘offer of a lifetime’. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.



Don't give away personal details


Scammers will try anything to get your personal details – with this they can steal your money, access your accounts and even set up new accounts in your name. Be very careful who you share your personal details with. Read more about ID theft on the Which? Consumer Rights website.


Don't feel pressurised to make an immediate decision


Scammers will often try to hurry your decision making. The more time you have to think about something, the more likely you are to realise something’s wrong. Always take time to think things through. A reputable company should always give you time to make an informed decision. Don’t trust anyone who tries to rush you.



Beware letters and emails full of grammatical or spelling mistakes


Scammers often use bad grammar and spelling. Legitimate organisations will rarely, if ever, make glaring mistakes.



Ignore requests not to tell anyone else


Being asked to keep something quiet should be a red flag. Scammers only say this to try to stop you from talking to friends and family who might alert you to the con.



Beware dodgy contact details


Scammers, understandably, don’t like giving out their contact details. If someone contacts you out of the blue and asks for money, think twice if they refuse to give their own contact details or only have a mobile number or PO box address. You should be suspicious of anyone giving inadequate contact information.

Further reading

Scams aimed at older people

Our guide on common scams and how to identify them. Share it with relatives and friends to keep one step ahead.

Doorstep scams

Doorstep scammers will have a variety of tricks to scam you out of money. We explain how to spot a doorstep scam.

Last updated: 25 Mar 2020