Scams come in many different forms - email, phone call, letter, text message, or even with a knock at your door.
Although there are many different types of scam, they all rely on tricking the victim into thinking the scammer is trustworthy, is someone they really aren't, by playing on the victim's natural curiosity, naivety or desire to 'hope for the best', or by rushing them into making an unwise decision. Scammers aim to steal money or personal data, either directly or by tricking the victim into installing viruses or other 'malware' on their computers.
Constant vigilance and scepticism are required, especially online, however cyber-street-wise and internet-savvy you think you may be. Of course, it isn't advisable (or perhaps even possible) to simply pull up the drawbridge, retreat into a world of paranoia and avoid ever being at risk of being scammed, but it is possible to learn how to identify - and thus avoid - potential scams.
Warning signs include:
- unsolicited emails, phone calls, text messages or letters
- emails from sources you don't recognise that include attached documents or other files
- emails that appear to be from your bank, HMRC or another trustworthy source that ask you to reveal personal data, such as your account details
- you are asked to pay money up front, for example to cover delivery costs or to 'release funds'
- you have 'won a prize' in a lottery or competition you have never heard of, much-less entered
- you are pressurised or hurried into making a decision - e.g. told to 'act now' as the price will go up if you don't buy immediately
- you are told to not tell anyone else about it - for example 'it's an exclusive deal only for you'