What is a Scam?

“A dishonest scheme; a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation”

The art of deception is as old as time itself but since the advent of the World Wide Web, fraudsters are becoming more cunning and adept at targeting individuals and businesses with their scams.

At any one time, there are thousands of scams circulating around the globe. It is impossible to list every single one. However, they ultimately all have the same goal - to make you part with something of value to the criminal, for example, cash, valuables or data.

Cybercriminals, scammers will try various channels and techniques to get information from you:

We will help to guide you through how to spot a scam, how to avoid becoming a victim of one and what to do if you do, unfortunately, become a casualty of one. Absolutely anyone can be taken in and even more so as scams become ever more sophisticated.

Scams are not always obvious and are becoming more elaborate. Sensible and intelligent people have been conned out of life savings, had bank accounts cleared and identities stolen, quite often ending up for sale on the Dark Web . The first mistake is thinking it will never happen to you - it can happen to anyone and may even be due to something out of your control, such as a data breach.

So, how do you spot a scam?

“If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is”

As a rule, the above statement holds up well. Most of us will have had, or heard of, the circular email from the Nigerian Prince sitting on millions of pounds who wishes to share his fortune! Or the well-known supermarkets giving away hundreds of vouchers if you simply click, tag a friend and share.

But, scams are evolving and rapidly so. Due to digital advances, many take the form of an email scam aka ‘phishing’, designed to mimic the genuine company it is alleged to be from and appear to be authentic. The email advises you that your account has been suspended, hacked or they have noticed suspicious activity etc. There is a link in the email that you are urged to click, taking you to another page, where you confirm your personal details (email address, password and such) in order to prevent any further problems.

These links can install a virus on your device that can collect further sensitive data. Many of us use the same email address and password combination across various websites, so once the fraudsters have them, it is no stretch for them to hack into other accounts you own and sell on the Dark Web.

Some prominent companies have been used in this way, for example:

  • Amazon
  • PayPal
  • Royal Mail
  • DPD
  • HMRC - income tax and National Insurance fraud
  • Television licence

Scammers frequently send text messages, asking for similar details to ‘confirm’ your accounts. They may tell you that they have a parcel waiting that needs a surplus payment before they can deliver it or pretend to be from your mobile phone provider informing you that your payment hasn’t processed successfully. Many have received messages allegedly from the DVLA regarding change of payments with car tax.

Phone scams have always been around, however scammers are using new technology to look like genuine calls from your bank or credit card, showing their name or number when they call on your phone. When you answer the call, the scammer will pretend to call from a well-known institution, such as a bank or HMRC for example, and may even be able to provide you with some of your own details for authenticity.

The caller may inform you that suspicious activity has been flagged on your bank account and ask you to move your money to a ‘safe’ account. No bank would ever ask this of you. The caller tries to manipulate you based on fear and panic, not giving you time to think about it. When it comes to concerns about your money being stolen, these tactics frequently work.

Dating sites are also prone to scammers. ‘Catfishing’ is becoming more common, especially so during the covid-19 lockdown, when people were looking for companionship and human contact. The fraudster sets up a fake profile with bogus pictures and a fictitious bio. Preying on any vulnerabilities, the scammer will charm the unsuspecting victim, maybe with promises to meet, weekends away and exotic holidays. This can also happen through Facebook Messenger, a stranger will contact you looking for a date, often claiming to be in the US Marines if you are female.

Once the unsuspecting victim becomes entangled in this idyllic view of their future, the calls for money may start. A little to pay a phone bill so that they don’t have to lose contact. A little money to help towards a train ticket etc, or for an emergency. Many have fallen victim to such scams.

With the fear surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been conned out of thousands of pounds of goods, such as PPE, or fabricated ‘cures’ etc, most of which has never materialised. If you have seen these things advertised on social media, you have to ask yourself if that is really the place you would hear about genuine remedies etc first.

Door-to-door scams are now seeing a resurgence due to people being at home much more. They may try to sell you something, try to convince you they are from a charity or prey on the vulnerable and elderly and force them into having work done on their property, whether needed or not. These opportunist scammers are not the most technologically cyber criminals, using traditional methods that can still be affected to steal from you.

How to protect yourself

Firstly, ensure you are using your free Fraudweb search that is a part of your Notty Account. The FraudWeb search will alert you if any details are for sale to cyber criminals, that put you at risk, and advises you on what steps to take next.

FraudWeb searches for your logins, passwords, bank account, debit/credit card numbers plus more.


Keep all device security up-to-date. Any software updates should be installed because they frequently contain security patches. Invest in a good antivirus software - McAfee Total Protection is one of the best around and you can get this for a discounted price with your Notty Account.

Remember - don’t panic! Scammers will use threats and scare tactics to ensure you make rash decisions. No organisation will do this, nor force you to make a payment there and then. They will never ask for PINs and full passwords. Hang up, wait for 20 minutes and call or email the company alleged to have called you in the first place. Do not move money to another account on such a call. You may find you are not refunded and will be liable if you do so.

Check the email address from which a suspicious email was sent, eg if it is ‘no-reply@bank.co.uk’ rather than a generic one. Also, the majority of official emails will be addressed to you personally, rather than a vague Dear Customer etc. If you have the slightest suspicion, visit the official site via another method outside of the email.

What you need to do if you’ve fallen victim to a scam

Contact your bank, building society or credit card company as soon as you realise that you have been, or may have been, a victim of a scam.

Inform Action Fraud here or call 0300 123 2040 as soon as possible if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. If you live in Scotland, call 101 to contact Police Scotland.

Use your Notty Account to your advantage and utilise the FraudWeb search that will identify if any of your details are on the Dark Web.

You can inform Ofcom about nuisance calls here , or sign up for the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) here . This blocks the majority of suspicious unknown calls.

Scrutinise any statements you receive to ensure there is no suspicious or unknown activity on your accounts.

Join Notty today and get your FREE FraudWeb check