Skip to content

5 common online scams

Online scams are when criminals use the internet to try and con people into giving them money or their personal information. They usually do this through fake websites, bogus emails and even chat rooms, so be alert when using your computer, smartphone or tablet.

If you’re worried something might be a scam, don’t respond. Talk to a friend or family member or contact Age NI Advice on 0808 808 7575.

To help you stay alert while using the internet, read about these 5 common online scams:

  • Email scams - Beware emails pretending to be from your bank or another trusted organisation such as HMRC. These ‘phishing’ emails will direct you to a fake website where you’ll be asked to enter your account details. It'll look exactly like your bank’s website, but it is a fake and it's only set up to steal your personal details.

    Your bank will never ask for your PIN or password. Don’t reply to the email, open any attachments or click any links. Read our page onemail scams for more help with spotting phishing scams.

  • Computer viruses (sometimes called malware) are programmes designed to break into your computer. Fraudsters often hide viruses in email attachments, photos and other files you can download from the internet. The virus can take over your computer and give control to criminals, or it can for example, scan for your private information, send out spam email or host illegal websites.

    Ensure your computer has up-to-date antivirus software, and always use a secure site when buying security software online. Most computers come with a firewall, and turning this on will stop some viruses getting through. See our page on protecting your computer for more information about anti-virus software.

  • Online shopping - Be cautious when entering your credit card details and personal information on a shopping website. Read our information on safe shopping online to find out how to spot an unsecure website, so you don’t risk having your bank details stolen.

  • Relationship scams - Some people use social networks such as dating websites or chat rooms to scam people. Once they’ve gained your trust, they’ll start asking you for money, often by telling you an emotional or hard luck story.

    Trust your instinct. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Most sensible and logical people can fall for this kind of trick, so it’s always worth talking to a friend or relative about it, especially if things seem to be moving fast. Never send the person money or give them your account details. Be wary of moving from talking on a chat room or dating site to communicating by email. If you arrange to meet, make sure it’s in a public place, tell someone else where you’re going and don’t give away too much information too quickly. Read more aboutprotecting your privacy on social networks.

  • Health scams - Unrealistic claims may be made about medical-related products, such as miracle health cures, and fake online pharmacies may offer medicines cheaply. However, once bought, the medicine can turn out to be poor quality and some can even harm your health.

    Check whether an online pharmacy is legitimate by clicking on the ‘Registered Pharmacy’ logo on the website's home page – this should lead to the General Pharmaceutical Council website.

What to do if you fall victim to a scam

Fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to trick people – anyone can be a victim of a scam.

Don’t suffer in silence. Contact Action Fraud if you think you’ve been scammed. The information you give to Action Fraud can help track down the fraudster.

If you’re concerned about whether a scheme is legal, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice.

More information

Download the free Age UK guide Avoiding scams (PDF 722 KB)

Download the Little book of big scams (PDF 3.85 MB) from the Metropolitan Police website

If you need help using the internet, contact Libraries NI for dates and times of their free computer classes on 028 3752 0738 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm).

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575

This page was last updated:

Was this helpful?