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Email scams

It’s not unusual to receive emails in your inbox from people or companies that you don’t recognise. Be very careful what you choose to open and read, as email scams are common.

Different types of email scams

‘Phishing’ emails

Phishing is where scammers try to trick you into giving them your personal details. A common phishing scam is for a fraudster to send an email claiming to be from your bank or another trusted organisation, which directs you to a fake website where you will be asked to enter your account details. The website will often be cleverly designed to look like the real organisation’s website. They may threaten to close your account if you don’t provide your details within a certain time period, in order to put you under pressure to do it.

Stranded traveller emails

Scammers often send out emails saying they are stranded abroad and need you to send them money for help. Be aware that they can hack into a person’s email account and send a message from that email address so it can seem like the email is from a friend in trouble. If in doubt, don’t reply and contact your friend by phone.

Emails with damaging attachments/links

Some emails will have an attachment or link to open which will allow viruses onto your computer. The best rule is not to open anything from anyone you don’t know, even if the subject line may seem like someone getting in touch and being friendly.

Common signs that an email is a scam

  • the sender’s email address doesn’t match the organisation’s real website address
  • the email uses a general greeting like ‘dear customer’ instead of your actual name
  • there’s a sense of urgency, e.g. threatening to close your account if you don’t act immediately
  • there’s a link that may look similar to the proper address but is in fact slightly different and will take you to a fake website
  • you’re asked for personal information, such as your username or password.

Banks and other financial institutions will never ask you for your personal information in an email.

Never reply to scam emails, even to say ‘no’. This will let the sender know that your email address is active and it is likely to encourage them to send more.

Most email accounts can be set up to block spam (i.e. unwanted emails), so check your settings or the help pages of your email account.

If you’ve lost money through an email scam, report it to Action Fraud.

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

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For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081

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