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Eight common scams and how to avoid them

We show you how to spot the tricksters

Consumer scams

Prize draw scams are common in the UK

With The OFT’s Scams Awareness Month kicking off on February 1,  Which? shows you how not to get duped by eight of the most common tricks out there.

Advance fees

Also known as a money-transfer scam. This usually involves an unsolicited letter or email asking you for help getting money out of a foreign country. You’ll be asked for your bank details so the sender can deposit cash in your account. Protect yourself by binning emails from unknown sources and never giving your bank details out.


One in 12 people are scammed by fake ticket websites. You need to be able to tell the real ones from the phonies if you don’t want to lose money. How? Check the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers website – if the retailer is on there, it’s real. If not, do more research. 


These schemes are designed to fool you into buying a cheap plot of land that has the promise of future planning permission (PP). But beware; land, especially with the potential for PP, is never cheap. Contact the relevant local authority to verify whether the plot is ever likely to get PP; more often than not, the answer will be no.

Prize draws

You receive a letter or email saying you’ve won a prize and you have to send money to receive it. But, in fact, you’re only being entered into a prize draw. If you didn’t enter a competition, you aren’t going to win. If you did, you don’t have to pay to win. Bin the letters.

Advance credit

A company claims that you have ‘pre-qualified’ for a low-interest loan or credit card and are guaranteed to get it, even with a bad credit history, if you pay an upfront ‘processing fee’. Don’t ever believe this. Lenders rarely guarantee a card before you apply. Visit our guides to loans or credit cards for reputable deals.

Fake careers

We’ve all seen the ‘Work from home’ and ‘Earn £££s’ ads. If you call, you’ll usually be asked for cash upfront or personal details that can be used to defraud you. If you do respond, ensure the company has a landline, an address and is willing to put you in contact with current employees.

Boiler rooms

As high pressure as money scams get. Share dealers call investors and offer worthless shares at inflated prices. The broker will push, cajole and pressure the investor into buying the shares. If a trader you have no relationship with calls you out of the blue and offers a great share deal, put the phone down.


Phishing emails, asking for your personal details, are getting smarter. Over Christmas, scammers sent millions of emails purporting to be from Amazon in the hope of snaring shoppers and stealing their IDs. These can look convincing, but look for signs such as poor spelling or grammar. No genuine email will ask you for bank details, so never give them out.

pound coins

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