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Avoiding scams

Scams are operated by criminals whose sole purpose is to identify victims and exploit them.

The average victim loses over £1000 to scams. Some have lost life savings and even re-mortgaged their home to pay off scam debts. The best way to protect yourself from the scammers is to be able to recognise and avoid their scams. It's estimated that only 5% of scams are ever reported so it can be difficult to know what's current and what to look out for.

  • was the offer unsolicited
  • did you actually enter the competition or lottery the prize is from
  • is the offer from overseas
  • do you have to respond at once, so as not to "miss out" and if so, what's the rush
  • do you have to buy something or send money to win a prize
  • do you have to give your bank account, credit card or other personal information
  • why does your bank need you to confirm your account details or PIN number
  • do you have to send money to a PO box number
  • are you being asked to keep it confidential
  • do you need to ring a premium rate telephone number to win a prize
  • can you afford to lose the money if everything goes wrong

If it seems too good to be true it probably is!

We all like a bargain but is the offer too good to be true? Online advertising can make us think we need that new designer handbag. We’ve all been drawn in by adverts for luxury clothes and accessories, but a closer look often exposes a scam.

Here’s some tips for avoiding shopping scams online:

  • Make sure the website is secure by checking for a URL beginning with https, along with the padlock sign
  • Avoid bank transfers. Although this is a legitimate payment method, a request for payment by bank transfer should be treated as a red flag. You don’t get the same protection on your payment as you would if you used a credit card, debit card or PayPal
  • A quick look at the website’s terms and conditions can help you decide if the site is legitimate. There may be spelling mistakes and half-finished sentences, along with references to laws that would not apply - the website may claim to be in the UK but makes references to laws covering the USA

The best way to avoid shopping scams is to take a minute to think, “is this too good to be true?” Is it likely that the latest Michael Kors bag is only £60? Probably not. 

We've published a directory of the latest scams notified to us by the Trading Standards National Scams Team. This will become a resource for you to help yourself and help others (who may not have access to the internet) to avoid becoming victims of the scammers. 

In addition, there is a Scams Alert Network, emailing people directly to provide general consumer advice and to alert them of possible ongoing scams in their own area. The people who have agreed to receive the emails also spread the word among their friends and family.

For more information on the Scams Alert Network or to report a scam please email