How NOT to Get Scammed: Things to Watch Out For


How many times have you gotten a message like this? Probably quite a lot in your inbox or through text or even through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. You've probably also scoffed at them. “Who in the world is dumb enough to fall for this?” And rightly so, these are extremely obvious scams that most people intuitively ignore.

BUT, with the incredible advancements in technology and infrastructure and policy, also comes incredible advancements in everything else. This means that scammers have slowly evolved and grown to become more and more sophisticated. Nowadays, it can be hard for even the most observant to discern what is a scam and what is legit.

This post is intended to provide some insight on common scams nowadays and also some guidelines to follow that will help protect you and your hard-earned money. I can't promise that I'll cover everything, but I will share everything I know. Let's dive right in.

Different Kinds of Scams

Scammers are so creative nowadays. They can use phone calls, email, mail, social media, heck even in-game chats to trick you. So it's impossible to predict exactly what you might encounter. But here are a few common types of scenarios that might occur to you.

Government / Official Agency

white house; how not to get scammed
How not to get scammed: know the scenarios

I know that just in the last week I've received many calls from “government agencies”. These are usually automated and as soon as I hear them, I end the call. But just the other day, I decided that I would give it a listen (just for fun), and I'm not going to lie, it was actually a pretty convincing scam.

It went something like this:

“Hi, this is the CRA Canada Revenue Agency and we are calling to inform you that you have incurred a $2000 fine which you need to pay immediately lest we garnish…”

Now, some of you may look at this and go “obviously this is a scam,” but for others, it's the first time they are getting a call like this and they aren't sure what to do because it's an “authority” agency and they don't want to get in trouble. A quick rule of thumb: don't worry about hanging up the phone; any actual authority that needs to reach you will find other ways to do so and won't solely rely on a phone call. So when in doubt of whether something is a scam or not, hang up!

Some key indicators of these types of scams:

  • Phone call
  • Automated voice
  • From a “government agency” or “authority organization”


Similar to government agencies, bank calls can be scary because you don't want to get into trouble with them. Little known fact, however, banks will almost NEVER call you. Most of their contact will be through email or actual mail, so if there's someone on the phone claiming to be your bank and asking for personal information, just hang up the phone.

Remember, actual organizations like banks and government agencies have your address, so if you hang up, they'll just reach you another way. Anyone on the phone telling you “if you hang up, you will be in trouble,” is probably a scammer.

Some key indicators of these types of scams:

  • Call from a bank (not necessarily yours but just a bank)
  • Asking to verify your personal information
  • Over a phone call

Email from Someone You Know

These are probably the most convincing out of all the scams. You get an email from an elderly relative or a friend and start chatting with them. You make small talk and then they bring up that they haven't been able to get their hands on a gift card and need it for something. They'll either need it as a gift to someone else, or as a payment for something, and promise to reimburse you back. You follow up and in your kindness send them the gift cards. When you later inquire whether or not they got it, and when you are getting reimbursed: *radio silence.*

The danger of these kinds of scams is that they are from people that you know. Or at least, from people who you THINK are people you know. They come from email addresses that you've interacted with before and that you know and trust.

Another little known fact: scammers can and will hack into email addresses when they get the chance. Always always always triple check before sending any money to anyone. How? By going to different social media platforms and contacting them! Or, even better, get on the phone with them and ask “hey so why did you need that $200 Ebay gift card again?” I promise, if you check, you will save yourself a ton of misery and pain.

Some key indicators of these types of scams:

  • From someone you know asking for a gift card
  • Passive-aggressive tone of voice
  • Doesn't really sound like the person

Tech Support Scams

These can be scary AF, especially if you hold your computer near and dear to your heart. They often show up as a little pop-up saying that you need to call a certain number because your computer is broken. Or you need to contact a certain email address because your phone is broken.

Sometimes, there will even be a loud alarm sound that accompanies this scam: just to make it scarier for you. But don't worry. Most, if not all, computer viruses come in sneakily rather than blaring loud horns and alarms (which is both a good and bad thing.) For the sake of identifying a scam, anything that requires that you IMMEDIATELY call a certain number for tech support is almost certainly not legit.

Some key indicators of these kinds of scams:

  • Big scary pop-up telling you to call a number
  • Often looks like it's associated with Microsoft or some other IT service
  • Requires “immediate” action

Investment Scams

The last scams that are going to covered today are investment scams. These are typically quite subtle and hard to discern because not a lot of people come into contact with actual financial professionals so they don't know what to expect.

These are people on the internet telling you to invest with them, or basically give them your money. Typically they will guarantee a return on your money and will boast of all the results they've had before. They are usually pretty charismatic and will lure the idea of making quick easy money with them.

A quick tip: if something seems too good to be true………… it is! In the world of finance, nothing is guaranteed. You should immediately be skeptical as soon as anyone brings up the G-word. Furthermore, the total stock market returns around 7%-10% every year, and there are millions and millions of people all over the world in multi-billion dollar financial companies whose entire job is to try and beat that metric. If you meet anyone promising or guaranteeing a return over 10% a year, run.

Some key indicators of these kinds of scams:

  • Promising/guaranteeing returns on money
  • Usually reach out via social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, even TikTok
  • Does not have any financial credentials

What To Do if You Do Get Scammed

panning photo of yellow car; how not to get scammed
If you do get scammed, you need to act with speed

Those are a few of the different ways that scammers can sneakily swindle you of your money. But what to do if you have already been scammed?

Don't fret. As fast as you can, cancel the transaction. If you can't cancel it, freeze it. This can often be done by calling whatever institution was in charge of the transaction. If you sent an e-transfer, call your bank. If you sent a gift card, call the gift card company. Whatever company it is, call them and cancel the transaction.

The next step is a little trickier: trying to recover the money. This can be really tedious, but if it's a large amount of money, it's worth it. You will have to again call the same institution that handled the transaction and talk to them. Spell out the situation and let them know that you have been scammed. If you are quick, you might be able to recover some of your money, but if the transaction has already gone through and the scammers are already using your money, it's going to be tough.

Final step: learn your lesson. It sucks to get scammed. To feel like someone else has taken advantage of you. But there is a silver lining to this if you never let it happen again. It's much better to pay a painful price now for a lesson than a catastrophic price later that will end you. If you've learned from your lesson, then it's all worth it.

  1. Cancel/freeze the transaction as soon as possible.
  2. Call the institution to try and recover the money.
  3. Learn your lesson and never let this happen again.

Big Universal Red Flags

Just like with destructive relationships, scams usually have some big red flags that would be wise to heed. If you see any of these, don't send any money! Here they are:

  • Asking to be paid in gift cards/cryptocurrencies
  • Guarantees that you'll make money
  • Someone saying that you'll be in big trouble if you hang up the phone
  • Asking for your personal banking or identity information

I heard on a podcast the other day that part of the reason Warren Buffett was so successful as an investor is because he surrounded himself with fantastic people. How? Well, if he ever sensed a single shred of duplicity in anyone he met, he would no longer interact with them.

Even though we might not have goals to be the next Warren Buffett, it might be wise to heed his advice. As soon as you sense ANYTHING suspicious, dive deeper. Double-check, triple check, and if worse comes to worst, hang up or stop contacting said person/scammer.

Rules to Live By

Here are a few rules to live by which will help protect you and your hard earned money from scams.

  1. Always know exactly where your money is going and who it is going to (get them on the phone and talk to them about it)
  2. Never ever disclose personal information online unless you know exactly who it is (banking information, social insurance numbers, credit card information)
  3. Triple check on various different platforms before sending any money
  4. When in doubt, ask a friend or colleague or even parent

Protect Yourself

ancient antique armor armour; how not to get scammed
How not to get scammed: protect your money!

Scamming is undoubtedly terrible and we may think that we can easily spot it, but that's not always the case. Nowadays, scammers are getting smarter and smarter, so it's important to know how to spot a scam and what to do if you do happen to get scammed. Here's a quick recap:

  • There are various different kinds of scams and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes
  • Make sure to always always always check before making any financial transaction
  • Take action quickly if you do happen to get scammed

Hopefully, this was a helpful post and will prove useful to you someday in the future. Protect your hard-earned money! Lots of people in this world want a piece of it.


Thanks for reading through “How NOT to Get Scammed: Things to Watch Out For”. If you're a student and want to learn how to build income opportunities, head over to this post here. If you want to learn more about me, head over to this link here. Finally, if you want to get exclusive updates and tips, drop your email in the “get updates” box (might have to scroll up a bit.) Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!

Jeff is a current Harvard student and author of the blog Financial Pupil who is passionate about learning, living, and sharing all things personal finance-related. He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys the pursuit of financial freedom. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.