35 ways to protect yourself from scammers –
What we're covering..
Getting scammed is expensive. 💸
In the UK in 2021, the cost to scam victims reached an estimated total of £9.3 billion pounds! (BBC news)
Not only is getting scammed expensive – it’s also a really common problem.
In just 6 months in 2021, 36 million British people were targeted by scammers. That’s over two thirds of adults! (Citizens Advice)
If you’re aged 34 and under, you are almost five times more likely to fall victim to a scam too! 🦹
This could waste a lot of your hard-won money.
So – if you want to be good at looking after your money, it’s important to learn how to protect yourself from scams. 🤓
Today we’re going to show you 35 ways to help you protect yourself from scams! ⛑️
Disclaimer: This website provides information for guidance and educational purposes only. The Grown-Up School does not provide regulated financial advice. You can seek independent financial advice from a suitably qualified and regulated professional advisor. Check out our disclaimer policy for more information.
What are scams? 🤷♀️
Scams are where people trick you – usually to get money from you. 🪄
In order to scam you – scammers need 3 main things:
1. Information 🎤
The more you know about someone, the easier it is to scam them. 😈
Information is the most valuable thing to a scammer! 📖
Scammers want to know as much about you as possible, to make you easy to scam.
They’ll want to know things like:
- Your full name
- Where you were born
- Phone number
- Email address
- Job title
- Social media handles
- Family and friend information
- Relationship status
- Passport information
- Pet names
- Bank details
- Loan details
- Favourite food
- How much money you make
- Favourite music
- What car you’ve got
- Favourite animal
All of this information could be used to help scam you! 🕵️♀️
And where is the easiest and best place to find information about people?
A lot of scammers will use the internet and social media to find out as much as possible about you.
It’s common for scammers to use social sites/apps like:
- Tinder (or other dating sites)
to learn about you!
2. Ways to get your information 🎤
There are lots of different tricks that scammers use to get your information. 🪄
This could include:
- Researching your profiles online 🔍
- Sending you fake emails
- Sending you computer viruses 🦠
- Asking you to fill in fake surveys, online quizzes, or social media games
- Tracking the information you send on free Wi-Fi networks
- Creating fake websites e.g. copying your bank website💻
- Blackmail (threatening you)
- Fake phone calls 🤳
- Pretending to be important or trustworthy people like the government, the police, your bank, delivery people, your boss, businesses, your friends 🥸
- Creating fake social media profiles
- Following your social media profiles 📱
- Visiting your house
- Asking people about you 🎤
- Trying to sell you things
- Sending you fake text messages 📳
- Taking videos or photos of you, your home, or the things you own
- Starting a fake relationship with you 💔
- Offering you a fake job
3. Ways to get your money 💳
Once scammers have as much information about you as possible – next is to use that information to make money! 💸
They could do things like:
- Using your bank details to buy things without your permission
- Convincing you to send them money
- Selling you fake products like fake tickets, shoes, or technology
- Getting you to “donate” money to them
- Taking out loans in your name by pretending to be you
- Breaking into your home to steal from you (especially if they know you’re on holiday)
- Locking down your computer with a “ransomware virus”, so that you have to pay them to get rid of the virus
- Borrowing money from you that doesn’t get paid back
- Convincing you to give them money for a “get rich quick” scheme
- Setting up regular payments to their bank account, from your bank account
35 ways to protect yourself from scams 🦹
1. Google yourself 🔍
Get your detective hat on!
If you were a scammer, how much information could you find out about yourself?
Google yourself to find out! 🕵️♀️
How easy would it be to scam you with the information that you can access from Google?
If you find anything on Google that could be used to scam you, find ways to hide/delete that information. 🤫
2. Check your social media privacy settings ⚙️
Can your posts and personal information be seen by just your friends, or can the whole world see it? 🌎
Check your social media settings to find out!
The less information you share openly online, the more difficult it will be for scammers to target you. 🎯
3. Check your social media friends/followers 🤳
These days, people have thousands of friends or followers online.
How many people actually know every single one of their online friends or followers? 🤔
Do you accept random friend/follow requests?
Scammers add people on social media, to learn about the people they’re targeting. 📱
Every person who follows you gets access to your information, and could be a scammer.
If you have lots of contacts you don’t know on social media you could either:
- Delete followers/friends that you don’t know or trust, OR
- Be super aware about the information you share, knowing that a lot of people you don’t know are following you (possibly including some scammers!)
4. Careful what you share! 🤐
As humans, it’s normal to enjoy talking about ourselves and telling other people about our lives.
But unfortunately, this is something that scammers will take advantage of. 😟
To keep yourself and your money safe, it’s important to be really careful about what you share with other people!
Definitely don’t post about these:
- Photos of your ID – passports, driving licences 🛂
- Your bank details – if you get sent paper bank letters, shred/destroy them instead of throwing them away!
- Passwords and “memorable words” – try to avoid writing these down!
- Home address 🏡
- Contact details – email address, phone number
- Things that could be used for your bank security questions, like –
- Where you were born 🍼
- Name of your favourite pet
- Mother’s maiden name
- Your high school
- The name of your first school
- The make/model of your first car
- Favourite food as a child 🍕
- Where you met your romantic partner
- Your favourite book
- First job 💼
- Favourite holiday
Did you know?
Scammers often create “fun” social media posts, to get you to reveal your bank security questions! ⬇️
Be very careful when posting about:
- Your pets
- Valuables that you have in your home
- Going on holiday or being away from your home
5. Get antivirus and firewalls on your computer 🔥🧱
If you’re using the internet on your computer, it can be quite easy to pick up nasty viruses from scammers. 🦠
You can accidentally get a virus from:
- Clicking on dodgy website links 🔗
- Downloading attachments
- Opening scam emails 📧
- Downloading free games and other software
- Sharing/downloading music, photos, and videos with other people 🎵
Viruses can do things like:
- Secretly send everything you type to scammers (including your messages to friends, passwords, etc.! – these are called keylogger viruses)
- Lock down your computer so you can’t get onto it 🔒
- Make your computer run slowly and crash
- Delete your data ❌
- Make pop-up adverts appear everywhere on your computer so scammers can make money from them
- Give scammers access to everything saved on your computer – including photos, videos, important documents🚪
Installing antivirus and using firewalls will help to keep your computer protected from viruses. 🔥
If you’re not keen on paying for antivirus, you can get free antivirus software from AVG! ⬇️
6. Scam calls – don’t be tricked! 📲
It’s always good to be suspicious when you get random phone calls, because scammers use these all the time to trick people. 📞
In particular, be suspicious of calls who claim to be:
- The government – including tax calls
- The police 👮
- Your bank 🏦
- Debt management companies
- Investment companies
- Computer repair companies 🧑💻
- Loan companies – including student loans
- Insurance companies
- “Anti-scam” agencies telling you that you’ve been scammed
- “You won!” competition phone calls 🎁
If anyone calls you randomly, it’s totally okay to:
- Ignore calls from phone numbers you don’t recognise – let it go to voicemail! 🙉
- If you’re ever in doubt about whether it’s a scam call from someone important e.g. from your bank, tell them you’ll “call them back” via the official phone number listed on their website (hang up and wait 5 minutes, then call the official phone number) 👋 (Remember scammers can create fake business websites though!) 💻
- Refuse to share any information with the person on the phone, because you don’t know who they are! 🤫
- Refuse to prove who you are, because you don’t them! 🙊
7. Scam emails/messages – don’t be tricked! 📧
Text messages and emails are one of the biggest tools that scammers use!
Here are some clues to help you detect scam messages/emails. 🕵️♀️
It could be a scam if it:
- Appears to be from someone important – a business, your bank, the government,
- Has spelling errors or is badly written 😬
- Makes you feel emotional – scared, suprised, intrigued, pressured, sad 😱
- Doesn’t use your name or any personal information – e.g. instead it says dear sir/madam/customer or uses your email address
- Is urgent ⚠️
- Makes you want to act quickly
- Sounds too good to be true 🦄
- Sounds too bad to be true
- Asks your for login details, money, or personal information
- Has a weird email address 📧
- Has attachments or links
It is really important to:
- Avoid opening spam emails
- Avoid clicking on links or attachments in emails – they could contain viruses!
- Contact the organisation directly – e.g. go to google to visit their website, if you need to speak to them
8. Use spam and junk filters 🗑️
It can be hard work sifting through all your emails, trying to work out which ones are scams or not.🤷♀️
To make life easier you can use spam/junk email filters to block unwanted emails!
These filters will try to automatically detect scam emails and remove them from your inbox.
BUT -if you use spam filters, that doesn’t mean that some emails won’t slip through the net, so always stay on the look out for scam emails! 🥅
Make sure to only use trustworthy email spam filters (with good online reviews!) – some create fake spam email filters!
9. Use pop-up blockers 🚫
When you’re browsing the internet, it can be annoying if pop-up advertisements get in the way.
Not only this, but pop-ups can lead to scam websites, and even give your computers viruses! 🦠
Installing pop-up blockers on your internet browser can help stop you from getting pesky pop-ups!
10. Check for HTTPS instead of HTTP 🤓
HTTPS stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure“. 🔒
The “S” means that the website has a security certificate and is safer to use than other websites.
If the website is just HTTP, it is less secure, and could even be a scam site!
Avoid using HTTP websites because they don’t have a security certificate. 📜
Whenever you visit a website online, look for HTTPS instead of HTTP (or the little padlock symbol! 🔐)
11. Be careful with free/public Wi-Fi 📶
Have you ever used free Wi-Fi at a:
- Coffee shop?
Did you know that hackers can “sniff” Wi-Fi networks, to try and see what information you’re sending to the internet? 👃
If you were using your online banking whilst connected to a free Wi-Fi network, a hacker could try and “sniff” your password and steal your login details.
Using your phone’s mobile data or your private Wi-Fi at home is usually safer than connecting to a free Wi-Fi network. 🔐
12. Use AMAZING passwords (or use an amazing password manager) 🔑
Did you know that scammers use software tools to try and work out your passwords?
This is why it’s really important to make your passwords really difficult to hack! 🔏
You can make a password really secure by:
- Making it longer than 12 characters 📏
- Using a mixture of numbers and symbols, upper case and lower case letters
- Not including personal information in your password e.g. your date of birth, nicknames, pet names, your address 🏡
- Making your password unique (not using the same passwords for different accounts)
- Using song lyrics or book quotes to make your password longer and more memorable 🎶
- Making your password difficult to guess so friends or family can’t guess it
- If you have to write your password down, make sure to hide it really well, away from your computer! 🤫
If you struggle to remember all of your passwords, you could consider getting “password manager” software that will manage your passwords for you. 🤔
However, you need make sure that you check reviews for password managers, and make sure that you get one from a really trustworthy business. – Some scammers create fake “password mangers” to trick people into giving them password details!
13. Protect your accounts with “Multiple Factor Authentication” 📱
These days, there are soo many steps you have to go through to log into an account!
Remembering usernames and passwords can be really annoying – but it gets even worse when you have to sit and wait for a “secret code” to be texted or emailed to you. 📧
The problem is – the extra “secret code” step is super important when it comes to not getting scammed. 🏆
If you get text messages every time your accounts get logged into, it’ll be super easy to spot when you’ve been hacked! 🕵️♀️
Setting up multi factor authentication can make it more difficult for scammers to get into your account, and also make it easier to tell when they try. 🔒
14. Be wary of online strangers – or even your friends, or your own account! 🧑💻
“ChEcK oUt tHiS vIdEo oF YoU! Lol! Just click this link! –> Muahaha www.evilwebsite.com “
Ever received a weird message like this from your friends online?
Scammers often hack people’s accounts to send you scam messages! 📩
Sometimes the messages can be weird like the one above, other times they can be subtle and sneaky – like your friend just asking to send them £50 to a random bank account. 🥷
Some scammers will even go as far as copying profile pictures to create fake accounts, pretending to be your friends! 🥸
Always be suspicious when anyone online:
- Asks you for money
- Sends you things to download
- Sends you website links
Double check that it isn’t a scam first!
On top of this..
Did you know that scammers can also pretend to be YOU to try and scam you? 🪞
One tactic that scammers can use, is to “spoof” your email address, to make it look like you’ve emailed yourself! 🔁
The email looks exactly like you’ve emailed yourself something, but could contain dodgy website links or attachments.
So basically.. trust no one online, not even yourself! 😱
15. Be careful with your relationships 💔
Sadly, it’s really common for people to get scammed by their romantic partners – especially from online relationships. 📱
Be careful if your romantic partner asks for:
- your bank details
- you to take out a loan for them
- to see your ID documents e.g. passport or driving licence
- you to invest money for them
- you to transfer money or buy something for them
16. Keep your personal documents safe 🔐
Lock and key safety box?
Hidden folder? 📂
Very often scammers will steal your important documents!
Make sure that you keep them safe and hidden, so that only you know where they are.
17. Too good to be true? It might be! 🦄
One way that scammers trick you, is by making you feel excited, intrigued, entertained, or special.
They might offer you things exciting things like:
- A job 💼
- Miracle health cures 💊
- Money – get rich quick, money hacks, investments, life changing side hustles, insurance claims 💸
- Prizes 🎁
- Discounts 🛍️
- An amazing long-distance relationship online (where they ask you for money!) 💘
- Funny videos or pictures of you 📸
- Cool free games to play 🎮
- Free music, films, or entertainment 📽️
- Free products to test 🪥
- The opportunity to be a hero by giving them your money 🦸
Don’t fall into the trap!
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 💔
18. Someone trying to pressure you/intimidate you? It might be a scam 😭
Another way that scammers trick you, is by making you feel scared, intimidated, or under pressure.
They might say things to scare you like:
- You have to pay a fine
- The situation is urgent and needs to be addressed immediately ⚠️
- Something has been stolen from you
- You’re going to be arrested 👮
- Your computer has been infected
- They’re going to hurt you
- You owe money 💸
- Your bank account has been hacked
- You need to move your money straight away 💰
- They’re going to share your secrets or embarrassing photos
- There’s a time limit – if you don’t do something right now you’ll get into trouble or lose money ⌚
- A debt management company is going to take away your belongings
Don’t fall into the trap! 🪤
If they’re being scary or intimidating, it could be a scam.
19. Is it a real product from a trustworthy website? 🤔
The hunt for good deals can take us all over the internet.
But often hunting for cheap deals can lead you to fake/scam websites. 👣
Before you buy something from an unfamiliar website, you should ask:
- Why is this so cheap? Is it because it’s a scam and they just want my bank details?
- Have any of my friends or family used this website before?
- Does this website look professional?
- Are there any review sites that will tell me how good this company is?
- Should I google to see if this is a scam website first?
20. Block email addresses instead of hitting “unsubscribe” ⛔
When you receive unwanted emails it can be tempting to click “unsubscribe from future emails” at the bottom of the email, to stop them from sending you more emails. 👋
BUT WAIT –
Did you know that scammers deliberately send you annoying emails with an “unsubscribe” link on it, to make you click on it?
They’ll then send you to a dodgy website, which is likely to make you download a virus! 🦠
Instead of clicking “unsubscribe”, block the email address or flag it as “spam” with your email provider. ⛔
21. Watch what you say/do in public 🤫
Are you someone who talks really loudly in public? 🔊
Maybe you chat on the phone when you’re on the bus?
Or maybe you go out for coffee with friends and speak loudly?
Think about who might be watching or listening! 👀
In particular, be careful when you’re:
- Doing banking on your phone
- Speaking to your bank
- Talking to people about your financial situations
- Verifying your identity over the phone e.g. telling your bank your address
- Buying things with your bank cards
Don’t let your actions or conversations in public become an opportunity for someone to scam you! 🤫
22. Be careful who you let into your home 🏡
A lot of scammers will try and find ways to to get into your home.
- Stranger who needs to use the bathroom? 🚽
- Builder who wants to evaluate your rof or windows for repair?
- Doorstep salesperson?
- Someone asking to borrow your phone? 📱
- Fake charity collections?
- Someone pretending to be in charge of your home’s gas or electricity? ⚡
Be wary of who goes into your house, because sometimes scammers will:
- Investigate your home for valuable things to steal later on
- Look for important documents to take from you e.g. your passport
23. Turn off location services 📌
When social media apps tell everyone your location online this could also tell scammers:
- When you’re not at home (so they can break in!) 🏡
- Where you are (so they can find you and contact you) 🗺️
Remove location services permissions from things like:
- Your camera
- Social media e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
So that your location isn’t automatically posted online!
24. Check your credit score regularly 📈
If a scammer steals your identity and takes out loans in your name, it’ll show up on your credit report!
Check your credit report regularly to make sure that it’s accurate, and that you haven’t been scammed! 👀
25. Set up text/notification alerts from your bank 🔔
If a scammer steals your banking information and buys things with your bank account, text alerts from your bank will help you to find out!
Set up text alerts from your bank so that you can keep track of your money. 👀
26. Shred letters and receipts with your information on them ✂️
Important documents like letters, bank statements, and receipts can contain important information on them, that could help out a scammer.
Some scammers will even check people’s bins for letters!
Shred your documents before you throw them away, to make sure that it isn’t easy for scammers to access your information. 🗑️
27. Read your mail! ✉️
Are you the kind of person who forgets to read their mail all the time?
Letters can actually be a great way of telling if you’ve had your identity stolen by a scammer. 🦹
If you receive in the post:
- bills for things that you haven’t bought
- letters from banks/financial organisations you don’t normally deal with
- receipts for things that you haven’t bought
- debt collection letters for money you haven’t borrowed
your identity might’ve been stolen! 🥸
28. If you’ve been scammed – be extra careful when people contact you about “recovering your money” 🦸
Did you know that a lot of scammers will go back to people they’ve scammed, and try to scam you again? 🔁
It’s really common for scammers to pretend to be an organisation that will help you get your money back from scams.
29. Read the “terms and conditions” 📜
Let’s face it – it’s really boring when someone gives you a long list of terms and conditions to read before you buy something or sign up to use something. 😴
BUT – if you don’t read them, scammers can sneak in cheeky terms that could put you at a disadvantage.
Imagine if someone snuck the terms “You have to pay an extra £5,000” into their terms and conditions!
Would you still click “agree” or sign up to them?
Get reading! 🤓
30. Sign up to the “Telephone Preference Service” ☎️
The Telephone Preference Service is a free “Do not call” list that you can sign up to, to stop businesses from calling you to try and sell you things.
This means that anyone else who calls you unexpectedly is likely to be a scammer.
People in the UK can sign up to the telephone preference service here:
31. Watch out for dodgy cash points 🏧
If a cash point looks like it has been tampered with, don’t use it!
A lot of scammers might do things like:
- Set up cameras by the cashpoint 🎥
- Tamper with the cashpoint to make it “eat” your card so that they can keep the card details
- Try to look at your PIN from over your shoulder 👀
To protect your money at cash points you should:
- Avoid using cashpoints that look like they’ve been tampered with
- Cover your PIN number as you type it with your hand 🤚
- Stand close to the machine
- Contact your bank to cancel your card straight away if the machine “eats it” 💳
32. Avoid paying deposits 💰
Very often scammers will ask for a “holding deposit” for things you’re trying to buy, and then steal the money!
Very often they could ask for a deposit for things like:
- Fake tickets
- Buying animals e.g. a dog or cat
- Viewing a house to rent (What is renting? 🏠)
If you can, try and avoid paying deposits, until you know that it is 100% not a scam!
33. Consider using Paypal or a credit card for big purchases 💳
It can be horrible if you spend a large amount of money on something, only for the item to be faulty, or not turn up at all! 😨
Paypal can be a great option for payments because:
- You don’t have to share your address
- Paypal has a “purchase protection program” that covers you for most items exchanged online. This means that if you don’t get what you ordered, you may qualify for a full reimbursement.
Credit cards can also be a great options for payments because in some countries they give you the right to a “chargeback“. 💳
This means that you can reverse the payment if there’s a problem with what you get or if you don’t get what you paid for. 🔀
Debit cards usually give you the right to dispute problems, but in some countries credit cards give you the legal right to reverse a payment when your purchase is not delivered. 🧑⚖️
34. Review the reviews ⭐
Review websites can really useful when it comes to checking if something is a scam or not.
You can check websites like TrustPilot, to see if you can trust the business!
Remember, some scammers will fake their customer reviews so try and find somewhere that has a lot of independent reviews.
35. Don’t pay until you’ve received the thing 📦
If you’re buying something off someone, it’s a good idea to try and wait until you’ve received the item you’re buying before you pay them.
Lots of scammers will ask you to pay for an item, and then never give you what you paid for!
So that’s it!
You can protect yourself from scams by following these tips:
- Google yourself 🔍
- Check your social media privacy settings ⚙️
- Check your social media friends/followers 🤳
- Careful what you share! 🤐
- Get antivirus and firewalls on your computer 🔥🧱
- Scam calls – don’t be tricked! 📲
- Scam emails/messages – don’t be tricked! 📧
- Use spam and junk filters 🗑️
- Use pop-up blockers 🚫
- Check for HTTPS instead of HTTP 🤓
- Be careful with free/public Wi-Fi 📶
- Use AMAZING passwords (or use an amazing password manager) 🔑
- Protect your accounts with “Multiple Factor Authentication” 📱
- Be wary of online strangers – or even your friends, or your own account! 🧑💻
- Be careful with your relationships 💔
- Keep your personal documents safe 🔐
- Too good to be true? It might be! 🦄
- Someone trying to pressure you/intimidate you? It might be a scam 😭
- Is it a real product from a trustworthy website? 🤔
- Block email addresses instead of hitting “unsubscribe” ⛔
- Watch what you say/do in public 🤫
- Be careful who you let into your home 🏡
- Turn off location services 📌
- Check your credit score regularly 📈
- Set up text/notification alerts from your bank 🔔
- Shred letters and receipts with your information on them ✂️
- Read your mail! ✉️
- If you’ve been scammed – be extra careful when people contact you about “recovering your money” 🦸
- Read the “terms and conditions” 📜
- Sign up to the “Telephone Preference Service” ☎️
- Watch out for dodgy cash points 🏧
- Avoid paying deposits 💰
- Consider using Paypal or a credit card for big purchases 💳
- Review the reviews ⭐
- Don’t pay until you’ve received the thing 📦
Hopefully you’re feeling more confident about protecting yourself from scams.
If you know any friends or family members who might benefit from learning about protecting themselves from scams, share this post with them!
Finally, don’t forget to check out our similar articles below!
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