Common Scams

This page lists common scam emails and phone calls we learn about, newer ones will be added as we encounter them. If you get emails or calls like these, you should ignore them.

A text message from the Royal Mail that says I have import duty or VAT charges to pay on a package

It's quite common for packages from abroad to be held at customs until charges are paid on it, however they will usually put a "Fee to pay" postcard through your letter box. There are fake text messages that appear to come from the Royal Mail, but they will link you to a fake Royal Mail website that tricks you into disclosing your credit card information. If you are expecting a package from abroad, go to the Royal Mail website directly and check if you have a fee:

Who gave you the rights to use my images for your website without my consent!

This email comes from a person identifying herself as Mel or Melanie, claiming that you have infringed on her copyright and stole her images. It contains a link a file on Google storage which supposedly contains proof. The file link contains a virus and this email should be ignored.

I got a phone call saying my National Insurance has been suspended for illegal activity

This is a robocall that comes from UK mobile numbers which will ask you to press 1 to be connected to an officer. They will attempt to get you to disclose personal information and send them money. This is fake. If you have broken the law they don't suspend your National Insurance, and they don't call you on the phone to ask you about it.

I got a phone call saying a warrant has been issued for my arrest because I owe money on taxes

This is another scam. If you play along (which we don't recommend) you will be connected to someone who wants you to send them money via Western Union, or even an iTunes gift card. You will be told the police are on their way to arrest you and that you must make payment immediately. This is to create a sense of urgency so that you don't stop and think straight. Just hang up. If the police are on their way to arrest you, nobody would call you and tell you that, and HMRC does not accept payment in the form of iTunes gift cards.

I got a phone call from Microsoft saying that my computer is being used for illegal activity

The person calling is not from Microsoft. He just wants to trick you into letting him remote control your computer. Afterwards, he will scam you into buying fake security software, or encrypt your harddrive and hold your data for ransom.

He told me my Windows licence key which proves he is from Microsoft

He probably just gave you a random string of letter and numbers. Even if he did manage to get some information about your PC from some infected website you visited, it doesn't prove anything about who he is. Microsoft do not call you out of the blue, even if your PC is infected or hacked. If you want support from Microsoft you have to call them.

Elon Musk / Bill Gates / Jeff Bezos want to share their wealth with me

These emails did not come from the person they claim to be. Also, people like Jeff Bezos didn't get rich by sending their money to random email addresses on the internet. Although Bill Gates has been feeling more philanthropic in later life, he does his good deeds through his foundation and vaccination programs, not you.

But he says that for every person I forward this email to, he will donation $10,000 to a children's hospital

He won't. There is no way for anyone to see how many email addresses their email gets forwarded to anyway. By forwarding emails like these you are just taking part in a chain letter. Be suspicious of any email that promises rewards for forwarding it on to others.

I got an iTunes receipt for a purchase I don't remember making

This is to make you panic and think someone else has accessed your Apple account. There will be a link in the email to check your account - this will take you to a fake iTunes site. By logging into it you have now given the scammer your iTunes password and now somebody really does have access to your Apple account. If you want to check your Apple account, instead open up a web browser and go to and login there.

An email from my bank says my account has been flagged for suspicious activity.

This is likely fake. Banks should not be asking you to confirm your details by email. If they do then they are a bad bank and you should complain and/or switch to another bank. Do not click links in emails that appear to come from your bank. If you need to check your bank balance and recent transactions, use the app on your phone, or however you usually check your bank account.

I received and email from Office 365 that says I must login to my Microsoft to view the message

This is tricky because Microsoft platforms like Sharepoint actually can send messages like this. However there are a lot of fake messages that link you to fake Microsoft sites. Be suspicious of any emails you receive from people you don't know that ask you to login to your Microsoft account after clicking a link. If it is someone you know, contact them and confirm that they sent you the document.

My account has been suspended and I must login again to reactive it.

Account suspensions are a real thing, but most emails like this are fake. If in doubt, go to the website / app in question and attempt to login there, do not click the link in the email, as it will probably take you to a fake site.

Someone has a video of me watching porn and will send my browser history to my family unless I send them Bitcoin

This is fake, nobody has accessed your computer. An identical email was sent to a million other email addresses, they are just hoping one person in a million falls for it.

But he sent the email from my own email account to prove he hacked me

He did not. He faked the "from" address of the email, in the same way that you can send a paper letter to someone and write a fake return address on the envelope.

I was on a website and a pop-up appear saying my PC was infected, and that I need to call the number on the screen.

The warning is fake. Websites can't determine if your PC has a virus or is compromised by hackers. If you did call the number listed you would be manipulated into giving a person access to your computer where they would sell you fake services to "fix" the problem.

I am Prince Awolowa Odusami from Nigeria...

I am sure you know that this is a scam. However, there are many variants of it. Basically be very suspicious of anyone promising a large sum of money in return for a little bit up-front "to release the funds" etc. A related technique is to claim to have exclusive access to some valuable goods (diamonds, gold etc) for sale way below market value. You send them the money, and get nothing in return.

Common Themes

We can't possibly list every known scam here. However there are certain themes / techniques that crop up often and if you learn to spot them, you can avoid future scams.

  1. Emails that come from someone famous - The email "from" address can be easily faked.
  2. Emails that come from someone you don't know - Why would they reach out to you for help / to send money to? They will often have an official title like "Prince", "Barrister", "Diplomat", "Investigation Office" to sound more trust worthy.
  3. Legal threats - If you are about to be arrested, you won't be told by an email or random phone call.
  4. A sense of urgency - The more exclamation marks and bold text a message has, the more you should ignore it. A sense of urgency is created by scammers to cloud your judgement.
  5. Horrible consequences - Jail time, massive tax fines, public humiliation, your head on a stick.
  6. Amazing rewards - You are the sole heir to the Kingdom of Zamunda and have 100 billion in inheritance waiting for you. Nobody is that lucky, and if you were, diplomats and government officials would be knocking on your door, not emailing you.
  7. Click here - be suspicous of any email that asks you to login to your account. It is trivial to create a web page that looks just like the login screen for Apple, Microsoft or your bank.
  8. Peaking your curiosity - You have a parcel waiting, you have unread messages etc. It's the psychological equivalent of a flashing voicemail light on your phone - it peaks your interest and makes you think you are missing out on something.

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