/ Money, Technology

Could you spot a scam email?

scam email

The Office of National Statistics reports nearly six million fraud and cyber crimes are committed every year, with one in ten falling victim. So are you savvy at spotting scams or could a fraudster fool you?

If I believed everything I read in my junk folder I would be the lucky winner of countless competitions I didn’t enter, apparently several banks need me to urgently confirm login details and PayPal is threatening to close my non-existent account.

Many scam emails are easy to spot – any message addressing me as a ‘valued customer’ is immediately expelled to the virtual bin. But, so-called ‘phishing’ attacks (messages that attempt to trick you into revealing personal or financial information) have become increasingly convincing.

Spotting a scam

For the first time, the Office of National Statistics has revealed the true scale of people hit by cybercrime and fraud showing that people are 20 times more likely to become a victim of fraud than they are of theft.

When we asked over 1,000 members of the public if they could spot the difference between real and spoof emails, we found that many people were fooled by more sophisticated scams.

A quarter of them fell for a fake BT email asking customers to update their email addresses – the links embedded appeared as ‘bt.com/ linkemail’, but in reality these led to a bogus web page where scammers could potentially steal their details.

An Apple iTunes message asking recipients to confirm a specific purchase split the public right down the middle: 50% correctly identified it as a phishing attempt, but the rest were either unsure (27%) or convinced that it was a real message from the company (23%).

The public were on the ball when it came to a ‘NatWest’ email though, which 79% correctly identified as a fake. And a ‘PayPal’ email which 74% recognised as a scam.

However, in both cases a handful of people were duped by the forged sender addresses which appeared to come from the real companies. If they’d fallen for these messages in real life, they might have handed scammers everything they needed to commit ID fraud – or even raid their bank account.

Test your scam spotting skills

So how do you think you’d fare at spotting a scam email, why not put you scam spotting skills to the test in our quiz.

How did you do? The truth is it can be tricky to spot some scams as some can be very sophisticated and convincing. Fraud has reached record levels costing us £9bn every year. That’s why we’re calling on the government to take action and ensure businesses are doing enough to help safeguard us from scams.

So have you come across any dodgy looking emails recently? What did you do with them?


What a very silly quiz. I’d normally hover over email addresses and links, to detect dodgy emails, but can’t in this quiz. Waste of time.

Yes. Dreadful. 72 seconds down the drain. Whatever next?

Hi Dave, that’s good advice to do that. It’s hard to add that functionality into the software, so we’re just testing the visual cues to spot in emails.

Email received
“We are looking for UK residents to test the Dyson DC50 Multi floor Vacuum Cleaner against the Philips FC8810/01 Robot Vacuum Cleaner

Can a robot vacuum cleaner really do as good job as the Dyson? Does the Dyson even compare to the vacuum cleaner you currently use?
If you are chosen as one of our product testers, all we ask is that you provide us with an honest and fair review and in return, you can keep both products with our thanks.”

Is this too good to be true……….? Anyone know? I wonder how many will reply to it with what consequence. Just a hard sell? Or………

I’ve not seen that one. I guess its for suckers and they will take them to the cleaners.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

If it looks too good to be true………………… But I wonder how many people will respond?

I’ve also had a spate of emails offering 500 GBP vouchers for different supermarkets. Not from the supermarkets of course. Why should anyone want to give me 500 GBP………..?

And a “free” ipad – offer extended – with life insurance. Small print “* iPad Mini offered on selected insurance policies, requires a minimum monthly premium of £100 and a policy term of 12 years or more.* On selected products .

People need to learn just what “free” doesn’t mean. That “free” ipad mini that you could buy for £300 will come only when you agree to spend £14400 minimum.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

My score was 4/7 and I identified the fake emails 100%, but erred on the side of caution with 3 genuine emails. Despite my erring on the side of caution the commentary I received at the end of the test suggested that my score was simply “good” and that I had allowed certain emails to slip past me and that this showed how easy it is to be fooled by sophisticated phishing attempts. Who on earth compiled this test?? Surely the end result is to show that you treat all such emails with suspicion and access the sites through normal secure channels. The test appears to be telling me to relax my security and click on links if everything else seems OK.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’m with John and all the others who have highlighted the illogicality of this ‘test’. Fail safe rejection is better than taking a chance. I NEVER click on links in unsolicited mails but, if interested, separately go to the provider’s genuine website and investigate there. To give me a mediocre score for being careful seems to the exact opposite of all the warnings issued by anti-fraud agencies. Back to the drawing board, methinks.

Hello John, thanks for your comment. The quiz is simply to spot the fake from the real emails – considering some of the real ones aren’t great does show you’ve done a good job of being suspicious. I’ve tweaked the paragraph at the end of the quiz to reference that thanks to your feedback 🙂

To be fair, the quiz simply highlighted the convincing appearance of fake e-mails. It was not trying to catch people out. However I think Which should have given more importance to avoiding clicking on any link in an unsolicited e-mail, since such a button could just as easily be a download command to place a virus on the computer. If any genuine company, particularly my own bank, is stupid enough to send me a link in an unsolicited e-mail, then they deserve to pay out when fraudsters copy them convincingly but they shouldn’t then be passing the cost back to me and other innocent customers in the form of bank charges.

Jackie says:
27 July 2016

Fresh from a vishing scam I think it is important to share the method the criminals used on me. I got a call from Microsoft alerting me of a high level of alerts from my I.p address I questioned how they got my home phone number they said they are linked to the government and security is key to them and if I did not purchase a security package they would not allow me or any other device in my household access to Windows!
The engineer from Microsoft gained remote access to my computer there it showed me that a bug was duplicating and infiltrating my bank account and all of my activity. The polite man offered me a reduced security package from Microsoft the engineer created a safe online link.
I questioned everything I don’t think I am a gullible person my guard was down they new my computer was slow, my Facebook was hacked they showed me this and I knew this I foolishly finally relented and logged into my online banking the screen went black many times I saw and read the security verification before logging in but that page was created by the fraudsters the minute my summary page came up the polite man from Microsoft disappeared and a foreign language was spoken the man asked if I spoke that language (I am not going to say what there is too much hate in the world and this was a criminal) he then told me he was taking all of my money to pay for his daughters wedding the computer switched off the line went dead.

Talk about a kick in the gut! My Son got me to phone my bank the shut the online banking down and investigated. This slime of human paid the money into my biggest payee to create a familiar pattern in my banks eyes and would have lay dormant until a bigger amount was worth it to them. Sly, sleek and sick. My computer was cleaned but is beyond repair my bank were fantastic. But I feel distraught I was taken in.
They planted a virus a week ago I saw the icon never touched it but did intend on renewing my security package.
I am not greatly computer savvy just basics but I have learned a invaluable lesson for my children and I.
This has to be brainwashed into the world via media, 1 or 2 tv adverts is not enough it’s more important to protect good intentioned folk with computer / online advice than what car to buy or programme to watch.
I know people will think how could she fall for that! It was truly very convincing.
Take care

use PureVPN UK VPN Service to stay safe online

Yes i have had a lot scams on here and letters 4 which was from Habib Bank Scotia Bank Canada two different ones from south Afarica and this morning one Union Westerner which i got copy out and took to there office in Glasgow and it is the first one seen and was shock and one from a Linda Biggs the letters started from the Netherlands now thy come from St Margarita and now i send them to scamdex who are dealing with these complaints from all different poelpe who are having the same trouble i was surprise to read some of them

Linda Brown says:
30 September 2016

l have never been scammed by an e.mail but the quiz made me a little hesitant in some of them specially
the bank one l usually report to spam if in doubt

Alexander Holdom says:
30 September 2016

Natwest.com/online does not exist, so No.5 I think (the Natwest one) must be a con!!!!

In the last few days I have received this e-mail message and obviously have been wondering whether it is genuine or fake. There are one or two clues and I have decided on balance that it is unlikely that I would soon be in receipt of US$12.5 m.

This is a mail from the desk of the Director Funds Declaration Manager, Bank Negara Malaysia in person of Dato Li Ming Ong. We use this opportunity to apologies for the delay of your payment and all the inconveniences and inflict that we might have indulge you through. However, we were having some minor problems with our payment system, which is inexplicable and have held us stranded and indolent, not having the aspiration to devote our 100% assiduity in accrediting foreign contract Payments. We apologize once again from the records of outstanding contractors due for Payment with the federal government of Malaysia, your name was discovered as next on the list of the outstanding contractors who have not yet received their payments and as the Funds Declaration Manager of Bank Negara Malaysia, I Dato Li Ming Ong will do everything humanly possible to make sure these transaction is concluded in good faith. I wish to inform you now that your fund is in square peg is now and can be voguish, your payment is being processed and will be released to you as soon as you respond to this letter. Also note that from my record in my file your outstanding contract payment is US$12,500,000.00 (Twelve Million five hundred thousand United States dollars). Kindly re -confirm to me the followings: . . . . As soon as this information is received, your payment will be wired to your nominated bank account directly from our onshore bank of settlement or via Diplomatic Delivery of your fund in Legal Diplomatic Consignment Box to your valid home address. [etc, etc]“.

I also am now in square peg and feeling voguish.