An overview of the main types of scam we deal with and the basics of how to avoid being a victim of a scam.
#8 by Emma Jones Wed Jul 11, 2007 12:44 pm
Our top tips for keeping yourself safe online:

  • First and foremost, think carefully about what you are being offered and what you have to do in return, and if alarm bells are ringing, listen to them, do some checking and ask for advice.
  • Never give out your email address to someone you don't know.
  • Don't post your email address, phone number, or any personal information on the internet.
  • Don't click on links or open attachments in emails unless you are absolutely sure that they come from a safe source.
  • Never give any passwords or PINs over the phone or in an email.
  • Change your passwords frequently and never write them down.
  • Don't give out your bank account number, social security number, passport number or other personal details over the phone or in an email.
  • Don't supply anyone with a copy of your passport or other photo identification. It will be used by scammers to try to scam other people.
  • Look for information about security on websites you visit. Check what sites say about how they store your personal information. If you are asked to supply financial or other sensitive information, check the address bar at the top of the screen; it should read “https” or “shttp” at the beginning of the web address.
  • Don't accept deliveries, letters, or payments into your bank account from anyone you don't know. If you receive something that you are not expecting and you cannot be absolutely sure of the source, take it to your local police.
  • If you receive a scam email, delete it or report it to the mail provider. If you get a phone call from someone you think is a scammer, hang up.
  • Try these tests from LooksTooGoodToBeTrue to see if you could be at risk of fraud.

What to do if you think you have been scammed
  • Cease all communications with the scammer immediately. Delete any emails unopened and hang up if the scammer calls you.
  • Report the scam to your local police and to the Internet Crime Complaint Centre here if you are in the US. There is not much chance that the scammer will be caught, as he is probably overseas and certainly using false details. However, the more scams are reported, the more the authorities can tell how widespread it is, and the greater the effort that goes into stopping it.
  • If you have given the scammer your bank account, credit card or other financial details, tell your bank, card company or other provider immediately, and ask them to change your accounts and card numbers.
  • Do not accept any deliveries that are from the scammer or that you are not expecting. If you receive a check or something similar (such as a money order) take it to your bank or local police and tell them you think it is fake.
  • Do not panic. Whilst scammers are criminals and some of them are dangerous, the risks are negligible if you simply stop communicating with them. If you are in any doubt about your safety, report your concerns to your local police, who will be able to advise you.
  • Don't expect to get your money back. I am afraid there is very little prospect of that happening, and anyone who tells you they can get your money back for a fee is a scammer. Please see our section on money recovery scams for more information.
  • Spread the word. We know it's very uncomfortable to feel that you got conned, or nearly got conned, but if you fell for it, so will others. Talking about it may be hard, but the more you help educate everyone about scams, the less opportunities there are for scammers to defraud others
  • Ask here for help and advice. It's why we are here.

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