Fraud and scam emails: how to avoid being conned

Overview of types of email scams and fraud, and details of who to contact if you have been a victim of email fraud.



Mass-marketing fraud, when you receive uninvited contact by email, phone or letter to con you out of money, is a multi-million pound industry and new scams are emerging all the time.

Fraudsters often use the names of genuine people and organisations to make their deceptions seem more credible. Recent examples of scam correspondence have cited Home Office ministers or have claimed to be working on behalf of the Home Office.

The Home Office and its agencies will never contact you asking for money or personal details.

Types of fraud

Many scams are advance-fee frauds, where a fraudster asks for payment in advance for goods, services, or a prize.

One type is romance fraud where fraudsters will make contact on an internet dating site or chat room, and show interest in a potential victim and build up a bond and a level of trust. When they feel confident with the relationship, they will ask the victim for money to help them out - usually with funds for travel. Once the money has been sent, more requests follow.

Another example is where victims may be told that they are eligible to receive a pay-out for money lost in overseas property developments or timeshares. This is called recovery fraud.

In these types of fraud, the scammers will usually ask for payments to be made by insecure payment methods, such as money transfer, Ukash voucher or Paysafecard; these methods do not allow the recipient to be traced.

Other suspicious indicators are requesting bank account or credit card details, or confidential information. The fraudster may also demand secrecy and push for an immediate response to their request.

Have you been a victim of fraud?

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or perhaps targeted for fraud, you should inform Action Fraud either on 0300 123 2040 or on their website.

Action Fraud provides a fraud-reporting and advice centre, where people and small businesses can report fraud, attempted fraud and scam emails. The information is forwarded to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, where it is analysed. If common links between cases are found, the evidence may be used as part of a law enforcement investigation.