Online Scams

The nature and complexity of scams is continuously changing and is happening more and more through the internet and email.Find out about some different types of internet frauds, including how to protect yourself and where to learn more.

Advance-fee fraud

Fraudsters target victims telling them to make advance or upfront payments for goods, services and /or financial gains that never happen.

This can include:

  • clairvoyant / medium scams
  • inheritance scams
  • impersonation of officials

To carry out these scams they will ask for your bank details and may also ask you to send money to cover legal fees and other expenses. However, there is no money and you will lose any money that you have sent.

Dating fraud

Some fraudsters will connect with you on a dating website. You may think you have met your ideal partner, but all the information they give will be false, including any photographs.

They’ll be up-front about living overseas,  getting to know you over time and becoming affectionate and romantic, gaining your trust.

Then, when you have become involved, they will start asking for money for a variety of differing reasons, playing on your emotions.

They will take your money but ultimately you will never meet them.

Health scams

If you see an email or an advert for a ‘miracle cure’ for baldness, cancer, impotence, acne or weight loss, then do not open the email.

You could be offered something that appears to be a legitimate alternative medicine but doesn't actually work. Or you might think you are getting drugs and medicines very cheaply or without a prescription but they may not be the real thing if they actually turn up at all In some cases these fake medicines can actually damage your health.

Job scams

There are a variety of job scams which range from promises of a new career, where you’re asked to pay up front for training or materials, to being offered non-existent jobs abroad where you are then asked to pay a fee to organise visas and accommodation.

You might also get caught by a work at home scheme where you are told you'll make easy money. You may have to pay a fee up front to register, buy products to sell or recruit other people to take part. However, the ‘leads’ or products turn out to be worthless and your registration details may be sold on to other scammers.

To avoid ‘business opportunity’ frauds, look out for:

  • business opportunities that seem too good to be true
  • adverts that suggest you can sit back and the business runs itself
  • contact details that include mobile phone numbers starting with 07
  • email addresses that end in web mail addresses such as @gmail, @yahoo and @hotmail
  • people who are difficult to contact, who you have never met and you are unable to prove who they are


Money mules

A mule is a person who transfers stolen money between different countries.

Fraudsters may use fake job adverts for example, which promise large amounts of money for little work in order to lure potential recruits. They will then ask you to transfer illegally obtained money between different bank accounts.

You could unknowingly end up breaking the law and helping criminals by using your bank account to take delivery of, and then forward, stolen money and be paid a commission for helping. You would be breaking the law by money laundering.

Online auction fraud / fraudulent adverts

With the growth of online auction sites such as eBay and Gumtree, there are fraudsters who will pose as fake buyers. These criminals appear to pay for the goods that you then send to them. The problem is that the payment bounces. Or there could be fake sellers who take your money but don’t send the goods, or send something that’s less valuable or very different from the description.

Fraudulent adverts online may be advertising a genuine article, having simply copied the advert or by impersonating the fraudster.  It is often very difficult to tell that for example, a concert ticket is not genuine until it is rejected at the venue.

Always conduct background checks on the sites to establish their authenticity.  Check their history and reviews – obtain as much information as possible before paying for any item.


This is when hackers redirect the traffic from a genuine website to another, such as a fake ecommerce or banking site. This is a difficult scam to protect yourself from as although you've entered the right address to bring you to a particular site, you're still sent to a fake one to try to get your personal information.

To protect yourself you should:

  • make sure that you’re using a trustworthy internet service provider (most are)
  • make sure that, once the page has loaded, the URL (website address) that you have entered hasn’t changed to a slightly different spelling, perhaps with additional letters or with the letters swapped around
  • make sure, when you reach the point at which you are asked to type in banking passwords and usernames, that the http in the website address has changed to https, as the ‘s’ stands for secure
  • keep your antivirus software up to date


Phishing is where someone tries to trick you into revealing personal information like your bank account details.

A common trick is to send you a fake email pretending to be from your bank or another organisation you trust like HM Revenue & Customs or PayPal. This email will ask you to visit a website and log in with your account details. The site looks just like your bank’s website, but is really a fake site set up by criminals to get your details.

Email is the most common way of doing this, but you might be targeted by text message or by phone. If you’re suspicious, ask to call them back and see if the number matches your bank’s real phone number. Make sure you get a dial tone before you call, in case the scammer has stayed on the line.

Scams are fraud - fraud is a crime - report the crime!

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