Common types of scams: factsheet

Information on some of the most common types of scams to look out for.

The information below lists some of the most common types of scams to look out for.  Please note this list is not exhaustive as it is simply impossible to cover every scam.

For a more comprehensive list of common types of scams please see the EKOS Preventative Spend Research 2018.

Scam type 1 - doorstep

Defining characteristics/tactics

Doorstep scams happen when someone calls at the door, often unexpectedly, and offers services, such as roof repairs or work on driveways, in order to scam people or gain access to a property.

They will often have no identification and may pressure people into making quick on the spot decisions. While doorstep scammers can sometimes be aggressive, others may appear polite and friendly.

Doorstep scammers can even come to the door and offer to drive people to a cash machine or bank to take out or transfer money (in these cases, scammers will often have made initial contact via telephone). 


Examples of doorstep scams include:

  • rogue traders selling overpriced or substandard home improvements such as roof repairs and patio work
  • bogus officials claiming to be from a utility company or internet provider to try and gain access to a property
  • fake charity collections who may ask for a donation of money, clothes or other household goods
  • made up consumer surveys which asks people for personal details

Scam type 2 - telephone

Defining characteristics/tactics

Telephone scams occur when someone calls via telephone. They often claim to be from a trusted and legitimate organisation such as a bank, HMRC, internet providers and so on. Their aim is to extract personal information from a victim and will often ask to confirm bank/card details as well as other personal information. 

A common tactic used by scammers is to illicit fear, by telling people their accounts have been compromised, that their device may be at risk and also that they may face penalties, including jail, if they don’t act now. 

A telephone scammer may ask a potential victim to:

  • transfer money into a different account (which belongs to a scammer)
  • download/install software to a device or computer, which allows them access to the device and potentially personal information


Examples of common telephone scams include:

  • Amazon Prime Scams – scammers might tell you as a pre-recorded message that subscriptions are due for renewal or that there is an issue with a payment
  • HMRC Scams – examples include an automated message which states that HMRC are filing a lawsuit and asks the victim to press 1 to speak to a caseworker
  • bank scams – scammers claiming to be from the bank and may ask for personal information or to move/transfer money
  • computer repair scams – where scammers state they are from an IT firm such as Microsoft and tells people their computer has a virus and will ask people to download ‘anti-virus software’

Scam type 3 - text/smishing

Defining characteristics/tactics

Text message scams are sent to peoples’ mobile phones, often telling them there is a problem and will usually include a link to click on to confirm details, or have a number to call to resolve the problem.

This text may sound urgent and alarming, which is an attempt to make people act quickly.  

Smishing – or SMS phishing is when fraudsters obtain personal details by SMS text message – similar to phishing scams online. 


Examples of text message scams include:

  • council tax scams claiming entitlement to a council tax refund
  • HMRC texts again claiming a refund is due
  • text messages which appear to be from bank/phone providers which advise of issues or to update payment details – often with a fake link

Scam type 4 - online

Defining characteristics/tactics

Online scams take place over the internet and can take many forms including:

  • email (phishing) – with links to fake websites
  • fake websites
  • brushing scams – this is when fraudsters send free parcels in the mail and then leaves fake reviews of the products online in a bid to improve their seller ratings
  • social media – fake/scam advertisements
  • other platforms such as dating apps/WhatsApp – which help scammers to commit romance scams/frauds
  • banking scams – see below (bank transfer and APPS)


  • TV licence scam emails – problems with payment or stating a refund is due
  • streaming services scams such as Netflix – problems with subscriptions 
  • HMRC scam emails which claim you are due a refund

Scam type 5 - bank transfer (authorised push payments)

Defining characteristics/tactics

A bank transfer scam (or more commonly known as Authorised Push Payment APP) occurs when someone knowingly or unwittingly transfers money from their own bank account to another – which belongs to a scammer. 

The scammer makes contact with their victim, for example by telephone, and tricks them into transferring money from their account to another.


An example of this type of fraud would be a scammer pretending to be from a bank’s fraud team, or another trusted organisation, and tells the victim that their money is at risk and they need to move their money into another account

Scam type 6 - mail/letter

Defining characteristics/tactics

Scam mail or letters may include junk mail, advertising material and letters claiming that the recipient has won a prize in competitions not entered. 

They will often ask for a small fee and/or personal information to claim winnings which don’t exist.


Examples of scam mail/letters can include:

  • lotteries and prize draws - Letters which state the recipient has won a prize, in a competition or lottery they did not enter
  • clairvoyant scams – can be in the form of a letter telling people that for a small fee they can provide details about the recipient’s future
  • pyramid schemes – chain letters or investment letters that offer profits for little or no risk
  • unclaimed Inheritance  - letters may appear to be from legitimate law firms claiming someone has been left money in a will
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