Help a friend or family member to recognise a scam.

Scams are usually carefully planned by the people who run them. A person caught in a scam could be unaware of what’s happening, even as they continue to give money to a scammer who is tricking them.

It can be difficult to recognise or understand it’s a scam when you’ve been promised an opportunity that could improve your life.

If someone you know is caught in a scam, use this worksheet to help them understand it and take action. The worksheet takes you through steps to confirm the scam and advice on what to do next.

Help a friend or family member worksheet [PDF, 401 KB]

Ask these questions to help confirm it's a scam and what to do next.

Questions to ask to help confirm it's a scam

Think back to when you first heard from this person or about this opportunity. How did it happen?

Scams almost always come through cold contact. An unexpected letter, email, visit, text message, phone call, friend request or other approach from someone you didn’t previously know, is likely to be a scam.

Sit together and look through the very first contact from the person or organisation. Scams usually come through unexpected contact. A scammer’s story and requests can change and intensify over time.

There are ways to find out if the person you’re communicating with is where they say they are. To check where an email was sent from, use Google to find websites that look up the IP address of the sender.

Copy and paste the first paragraph of the initial message from this person or organisation into Google to check if anyone else has uncovered a scam

Why are you certain this person or opportunity is legitimate?

Scammers invest a lot of time, effort and money in building people’s trust. They can convincingly imitate the logos, websites and communication style of real companies. Some scammers even intentionally imitate companies they know you do business with. Scammers can go to great lengths to build personal relationships that feel genuine before they ask for anything.

Use Google to search the person or organisation’s name followed by the word ‘scam’. This shows you if anyone else has had bad experiences.

Use Google Images to upload photographs you have been sent to check how else they are being used. This is helpful if you have built a relationship with someone online and you want to know if their photos are genuine.

There are ways to research whether a website has been used to scam people. Use Google to find websites that can determine whether a website is fake.

What have you given or lost to this person or opportunity so far?

Scams usually seem very appealing at first. Scammers might promise an advantage if you act fast — whether this means giving money, paying for a product, investing, or giving personal information. If you give anything to a scammer, it is likely they will ask for more.

If this person or organisation asks you to travel overseas, contact the police.

Money given to a scam is difficult to get back — scammers quickly turn it into cash and cut contact.

If you’ve invested money, have you tried to withdraw any returns?

Stakes are high in an investment scam. The people who run them spend a lot of time making their websites, communication and documents as convincing as possible. Investment scams will often send updates showing a person’s money growing. But when it comes time to withdraw funds, the scammer can’t be contacted.

The Financial Markets Authority keeps a regularly updated blacklist of fake or suspicious trading companies. Visit their website to check if the investment company is legitimate.

If you think you have been scammed, one of the best things you can do to prevent others becoming victims is to tell your story — report the scam and talk openly about what has happened

What to do if you think you have been scammed

1. Stop all contact with the scammer

Once you realise you are being scammed, do not continue the conversation. Hang up the phone. Don’t reply to emails or letters scammers have sent you. If you have been scammed online, block the scammer from contacting you.

2. Do not make any more payments 

Some scammers target people caught in recent scams, e.g by pretending to be an enforcement agency that can return all of your money for a fee. Don’t give money to anyone on the promise they will get your lost money back

3. Contact the bank or service you sent money through 

If you are the victim of a financial scam, credit card scam or identity theft, contact your bank immediately. The sooner your bank knows about it the greater the likelihood of getting the money back.

4. Report it

If you have noticed or been caught in a scam, report it. 

Scammed? Take action