S.C.A.M - how to tell if someone is scamming you

Rate this content

Are you unsure how to keep your personal or financial information safe from scammers? Want to know how to tell if someone is scamming you? Knowing what to look for and what steps to take if you suspect a scam can help save you from some potentially devastating consequences.  
If you’re unsure what to look out for or what to do if you think something could be a potential scam, our useful acronym will help you identify a possible scam.

how to tell if someone is scamming you   

The golden rule of avoiding scams is to be vigilant. So, you should know what kind of scams to look out for. These are the most common forms of scams:

  • Phone scams: Fraud over the phone, commonly known as vishing, is when a scammer calls and claims to be someone from the bank asking for your PIN or to transfer money. 
  • Text message scams: This is when scammers pretend to be a legitimate company or even someone you know to try and get hold of your personal information through text messages.
  • Email scams: Commonly known as phishing scams, this is where you’ll receive an email asking you for online banking passwords, PINS or other account details or even to send across money. 
  • Online scams: This can include fake pop-ups, websites and updates which can include hidden malware or tactics to make you input your financial or personal details. Common online scams can include scammers using social media sites, setting up fake profiles on a website or posing as a family member to gain access to your personal or financial information. 
  • Postal scams: a mail scam is a deceptive letter sent with the sole purpose of getting your money. Postal scams usually look like letters or important documents from trusted organisations or people.

how to tell if someone is scamming you online, on the phone, or via phishing:

think S.C.A.M

If you find yourself in a situation where you think someone might be trying to access your financial information or something seems too good to be true, our helpful acronym can help you identify any potential scams and remember what to do if you’re unsure.




If you receive a message out of the blue, ask yourself these questions: Is it a complicated email address, or one that's familiar yet not-quite right? An unknown phone number? Scammers will often use email addresses or phone numbers which emulate organisations you might know and can be very convincing. 
Don’t assume that an email address, postal address, website or phone number is always authentic. Unfortunately, scammers can now change the caller ID number displayed on your phone to make it look as though they’re a legitimate bank or company.
They might even know your basic details and information, but it doesn’t mean it’s genuine. Always stop and check the sender’s address or number.




Is there a sense of urgency? Time pressure can be an obvious red flag as scammers might use tactics to convince you to make a hasty decision without thinking through things. However, a trusted organisation would never rush you to make an important decision such as transferring money or sharing credit card numbers. 
Some scammers will also try to convince you not to tell others about the "offer". This is another sign that you're being coerced into a decision.
Remember to stop and take time to think through your decision and question if it seems like suspicious activity.




What are they asking you to do? Do they want you to click a link or wire money? These are common signs of scammers. An online scam, phone scam, or fraudulent letter will likely try one of a variety of ways to get you to send money or personal information. But it’s important to remember that a genuine bank or organisation would never ask you for your passwords to security questions, PIN or other security details, especially out of the blue.   
Equally, if you receive news that you've won money or a prize, for instance, it's important to assess whether there's a fee to pay to receive your winnings. If you receive a message about a reward in exchange for your money, it's likely a scam.




Are there typos or peculiar phrases? If you receive an email or text with spelling errors or strange wording, then these are tell-tale signs which can be a big giveaway that a request is a scam. Scammers are hoping that people might overlook typos. Sometimes they even use typos to bypass security filters.  
Another thing to look for is visual clues such as logo design. Phishing emails can feature strange versions of logos in the signature, and online scams or postal scams likewise can feature logos that don't entirely resemble the official company or government organisation’s version.

how can I spot a scam?

By thinking S.C.A.M, you can carry out a quick checklist to help you work out if a request for financial or personal information is genuine or not. If you're asking yourself 'what are the red flags of a scammer?', these are the top signs:

  • Scammers contact you out of the blue. Consider the Sender. Is this a method of contact you've received before? Is the 'company' or 'organisation' contacting you unexpectedly?
  • Scammers want to pressure you. Consider the Chase - do you feel that you're being rushed into a decision? Do they tell you to keep your communication a secret?
  • Scammers often offer something that's too good to be true. Consider Action. Does there seem to be a catch, such as sharing your bank or personal information, or sending money? 
  • Scammers impersonate trusted companies, organisations, and even people. Look for Mistakes. If you spot a website URL that looks slightly different or a poorly executed logo, for instance, this is a sign of a scammer.

Knowing what to look out for and feeling confident to check or challenge what you're being asked to do, especially where something doesn't feel quite right, is very important. If you’re still unsure or worried that you might have been scammed, reach out for support.  

what if I fall victim to a scam?  

It’s important to remember that anyone can be a victim of a scam. If you’re worried that you've been scammed online or through another method, or your financial security has been compromised, or you spot any fraudulent activity on your bank account, it’s important that you reach out to your bank directly and immediately. 
Report what’s happened, and your bank can act like blocking or freezing your bank account or credit card so no money can be taken from it.  

how we can help  

We help the ICAEW community thrive through everyday situations to exceptional life-changing circumstances.

Falling victim to a scam is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you have concerns about your personal finances, our team are here to help, and all our services are free and strictly confidential. 

further reading

understanding uk benefits system - 664656133 - resized.jpg

understanding UK benefits

Our in depth UK benefits list explores the different types of benefits and who's eligible to receive them.

View more


View more

coping with stress

Stress can creep up on us when we least expect it and leave a lasting impact. Use our advice to help notice stress and what you can do when it appears.

View more

help with anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression can affect anyone in every walk of life. Here at caba, we're here to help whenever you need us.

View more

training and events

25 June 2024

power up your LinkedIn profile

Log on to this practical, three-hour session and put what you learn into practice as you update your profile. Discover how to optimise your …
enhanced webinar
26 June 2024

espresso strengths for a positive later life

Explore and identify your strengths, positive attributes, and abilities, which can not only support you but also guide you in discovering …
espresso series
2 July 2024

caring for elderly relatives

Are you one of the 3.1m carers of elderly relatives in the UK? Are you navigating the complexities of the care system while balancing work and …
espresso series
3 July 2024

thrive in retirement

Retirement is a major milestone that can involve monumental change. It can be full of challenges, but also present many new opportunities. …
enhanced webinar

view all training and events 

your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students. 

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

view more questions

Not got the answer to your question?