7 tips for avoiding scams

Never send money via telegraphic transfer to someone you don't know personally

Facilities such as Western Union are untraceable. They are designed to send money to people you know personally, such as family and friends. If you unwittingly send one to a scammer, you will never see your money again.

Emails can be easily faked, are untraceable and generally don't require any form of ID to acquire.

Beware of name@yahoo.com, hotmail.com, btinternet.com etc. or other general domain email addresses. They require no proof of identity to establish and should NOT be regarded as a valid identity without further assurance.

Telephone numbers beginning 070 can be routed to anywhere in the world (including Nigeria) !

Though they look like UK mobile numbers, they are designated for "Personal numbering", allowing calls to be routed to almost any other number including international numbers. They can be used for a genuine purpose, for instance where an advertiser does not wish their home number to appear in a newspaper but this also makes them ideal for fraudsters. Always ask for a fixed landline number or at least a UK mobile number if you are looking for a genuine transaction. See our special guide to 070 numbers.

Cheques never actually clear!

Even after funds have appeared in your account, the money can be recalled years later if the cheque is stolen or fraudulent. This is the basis of the most common and most frequently successful scam. Often referred to as the Overpayment scam because the first request is for a 'cleared' overpayment to be returned by Western Union (see above). If you are suckered into this the next request is for the return of all funds because of a change of heart or family disaster. Don't do it. It is your money not theirs that is being requested!

Read emails very carefully, often you can tell from their first email that someone is a scammer.

There are often many clues /giveaways in there. They will often misspell common English names and/or mistakenly put a surname as the Christian name or vice versa. Sometimes they get the item wrong eg. 'your motorbike' when you are selling a caravan. It is also common for a respondent to ask you for the 'Final Price' of your item - a sure sign that they are sending the same generic email to many people. Suspect any email that offers to buy an expensive item 'sight unseen'. Beware any email where the level of literacy/English/punctuation changes dramatically after the first response. In some places scammers can buy a generic first response but then have to do the rest themselves. See our special guide for spotting scam emails

Expect tantrums or guilt trips if you don't play it their way

There is no need to feel threatened or guilty, they are almost certainly based outside the UK and are only trying to scare you into going along with the scam. This is especially true of Dating Site scams. They will play with any emotion to get your money. See our special Sweetheart Scam section for more information on this and where to find names of common scammers.

Don't let temptation/tempting offers cloud your judgement

The old saying has never been truer - If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is!