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Being Scam Aware

What is a scam and how can we avoid them?

by Hannah Knight

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4


To make the pupils aware of different types of scams and how to avoid them.

Preparation and materials


1. Does anyone know what it meant by a 'scam'?

Listen to a range of responses.

Put your hand up if you or a member of your family has ever received a phone call or email saying that they have won a competition that they did not enter.
This is an example of a very common scam. Scams come in many different forms and are usually sent via the post, email, internet or through advertising; others are phone calls.
Scams are schemes designed to con people out of their money, particularly the more vulnerable members of our community. The problem is that scammers will go to extreme lengths to obtain money and sometimes they can be very convincing.

Today we are going to think about the question 'What is a scam?'

Imagine this scenario. The phone rings when you are at home and the person on the line explains that they are calling from a bank. They say that they need to transfer some of your money to another account due to a security breach.

Would you believe them?

Pause for reactions/responses.

Unfortunately, many people do believe these callers. They assume that if someone claims to be an authoritative figure then the call must be genuine. Sadly, this is not always the case.

2. Put your hand up if you have heard of a 'suckers list'. Does anyone know what a 'suckers list' is?

Listen to a range of responses.

A suckers list is a big spreadsheet containing people from all over the world's personal information. A name is added to the list every time someone responds to a scam; this list is then sold to other criminals. This means that entering just one competition could lead to receiving hundreds of scam emails every day!

3.So, if scammers are so convincing, then the big question is 'How can we avoid being scammed?'

Normally, there are signs to look out for in these situations, which may help you to decide if someone is trying to scam you.

Email scams
Email scams usually have a different email address from the authentic organisation's website address. For example, if you received an email from Tesco and the sender does not have the word Tesco in their email address, this is likely to be a scam. If there is a sense of urgency about the email, such as 'If you do not respond within 12 hours your will no longer be able to shop with us' or you are asked for personal details, such as your bank number or password, then this is another sign of a scam.

Online scams
Some scammers will set up pretend websites to mimic popular websites to trick you into buying products. Make sure you use an antivirus system and change your passwords regularly to avoid scammers getting hold of your personal information.

Telephone scams
Over a third of scams are over the phone. The most popular calls include computer companies, telephone services, PPI, prize draws, banking services, advertising companies, energy companies and local government.
These fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crimes so as to appear more legitimate. You can avoid them by not giving out your number unnecessarily, buying a call blocker device or software, and by ticking that you don't want to be contacted with promotional material or offers when signing up to things. Watch out: even if your phone line is dead or abandoned you can still be charged money.

Postal scams
Postal scams normally target older people, as they are the most likely to respond by post, whereas young people are more likely to respond online. You should look out for prize draw letters, lotteries and catalogues, as these are the most common postal scams. People are regularly asked to buy something from a catalogue in order to claim their cash prize. These are scams and will result in people spending hundreds, sometimes thousands, to try and claim their prize. Some clues in scam mail can include bad spelling, an urgency to collect your prize and asking you for money.

4. Scams often target the more vulnerable members of our community such as the elderly, people with learning disabilities and sometimes children. Only 5 per cent of people admit they have been scammed as they feel embarrassed or ashamed. For this reason, it is important that we raise awareness of scams through word of mouth. We need everyone to shout about scams so that fewer people are affected.

How could you raise awareness of scams?
If you visited your grandparents and saw a scam letter on the doorstep you could explain what it is and the importance of not replying.
You could produce scam awareness posters and display them in public areas and around the school.
You could promote scam awareness on social media, following your local Trading Standards for alerts.
You could even create a scam awareness performance in school, which could be shown at school events.

5. Remember these rules:
- if you have not entered a competition, then you have not won
- if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is
- if you are unsure about a caller, hang up
- you shouldn’t have to pay anything to win a prize
- do not give out your personal information or respond to unknown message senders
- don’t suffer in silence: tell others about scams
- report scammers via the Citizens Advice Bureau:

Play video ‘Think Jessica’:

Time for reflection

Let us take this time to be thankful for our community, including our friends and family, our teachers, volunteers and everyone who contributes to our safety in some way. Let’s always strive to think of ways in which we can contribute to the community, whether it be by fundraising, raising awareness or even looking out for people we love.


Songs about unity can be found here

Publication date: January 2016   (Vol.18 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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