Scammers use every form of digital communication to weasel their way into your life. From emails to social media posts – nothing is off limits and everyone is a potential target.

But you can protect yourself. Most scammers have a common purpose – to steal something valuable from you, like your personal details or money. This means that there are a few common signs you can watch out for.

Phishing is where scammers send fraudulent electronic messages to con people out of their personal information. Typically, these are sent by email (phishing), text (smishing) or by phone (vishing). Scams on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (social media phishing) are also becoming more common.

Be on your guard

Regardless of how sophisticated the scam is or what method they use to contact you, scammers will often use tried and tested psychological tricks to deceive you. They might try to:

news gain your trust

Gain your trust

by pretending to be someone you know or a well-known business; they’re hoping you’ll let your guard down with a familiar name.

news trigger your emotions

Trigger your emotions

to cloud your judgement, appealing to your hope, raising your fears, catching your curiosity, or luring you in with a tempting offer.

news push you for time

Push you for time

using a sense of urgency and deadlines to get you to make quick decisions.

Spot the signs

Here are some things to watch out for and what you can do to protect yourself, depending on how scammers get in touch:

For emails or texts:

For phone calls:

For emails or texts:

Check who it’s from – especially if the message is impersonal. Check a sender’s details to see their email address (does it match the ‘From’ description?). Is the text from an unknown or odd-looking number? Look extra carefully, as scammers can use similar domains or can fake details and Sender IDs. If it doesn’t look right, don’t open it.

For phone calls:

Listen out for the unexpected – cold callers will often pretend they’re official representatives like the police, someone from your bank or the government and tell you there’s something you need to do. For example, they may say your account has been locked, you’ve been a victim of fraud, or you owe money. If the call is out of the blue, feels a little odd, or makes you feel rushed – just hang up. Never give out personal information.

For emails or texts:

Never ‘click’ if you’re unsure – be suspicious if the text or email asks you to follow a link or open a file – clicking the link may send you to a fake site or install dodgy software (malware).

Remember that even a simple “unsubscribe” button could take you somewhere you don’t want to go. In an email you can also hover over a link to see the destination web address.

For phone calls:

Watch for the ‘open line’. Some scammers wait on the line, keeping it open after you’ve hung up. Some are even sneaky enough to have a dial tone playing when you pick up the phone again. They’re hoping you’ll call your bank or whomever straight away to verify the call. They’ll then pretend to be that provider and the scam continues…

If you’ve received a suspicious call, try waiting 10-15 mins, calling a friend first, or using a different phone if you can, before making the call to the provider in question.

For emails or texts:

Do your own checking – if the instructions in an email or text suggest you ‘call this number’ or ‘follow this link’, take a moment to verify account details or other information – especially if it’s different to what you’ve done before.

Did you know: There’s an app for that?

There are apps that can filter spam and calls, or warn you about potential malware. Some providers also offer call-screening or blocking services for your home phone. This Ofcom article highlights how technology can help spot potential scams. It’s also worth speaking to your mobile or home phone provider too.

Report your suspicions

Scammers are smart and relentless. Everyone can be caught out. If you think you’ve spotted a scam or are one of the millions who’ve been tricked, don’t feel embarrassed to share what you know – your experience could help track and stop future scams. Here’s three ways to report a scam or suspected scam:

We don’t mind if you hang up on us…

WTW are the UKRF’s administrators, meaning they manage your Fund benefits. WTW will never ‘cold call’ you, but they may give you a call, if you’ve made a previous enquiry and there’s an ongoing issue being processed.

If you ever feel uncomfortable, suspicious or you receive a call out of the blue from someone who says they’re from WTW, take their name, hang up (keeping in mind our ‘open line’ tip in this article) and contact the UKRF’s helpline on +44 (0) 1737 227 567.

Stay informed

For more common signs of a scam visit this page, which includes a series of short videos where victims of common scams tell their stories.

You’ll also find more useful tips about keeping your money and personal data safe on this Barclays customer page and details about different types of scams on Action Fraud’s A-Z of fraud.

And remember, if something looks wrong, trust your gut – you’re probably right.

Please note, external links and content are selected and reviewed when the page is published. However, the Trustee and WTW are not responsible for the content of external websites.

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