What is it?
Also known as an advance fee scam, this is when you’re convinced to pay an upfront fee in order to receive a prize/service, high-value goods or loans which never materialise.
How to spot a payment in advance scam
- You’re asked to pay an upfront fee to receive money, a prize/service or goods that you weren’t expecting
- You’re asked to pay an upfront fee for a training programme or background check for a job that may not exist
- You’re told that fees are fully refundable and will be used as a deposit, administrative charge or for insurance
- There are follow-up fees you need to pay in order to secure the loan, prize/service or goods
- You are put under pressure to pay quickly by wire, bank transfer or cryptocurrency
- The domain name doesn’t match that of the sender of the email e.g. gov.uk
Examples of payment in advance scams
Leanne* responded to an advert online for a fast loan and her application was approved regardless of her poor credit history. She was asked to pay an administration fee to cover insurance for the loan. But once the fee was paid, there was no further contact from the ‘loan company’ and payment of the loan was never made.
Bernie* was contacted unexpectedly by a ‘lawyer’ from overseas who claimed that a person sharing his last name had left him with an inheritance and that if unclaimed the money would go to the government. He was told that he needed to pay several fees to release his supposed inheritance. He was sent seemingly genuine legal documents to sign. Once the fees were paid, no ‘inheritance’ money was received, and Bernie was unable to contact the ‘lawyer’.
Akhil* was contacted out of the blue and told that he’d won a large amount of money on an overseas lottery he hadn’t entered. He was asked to pay a fee to cover government taxes and courier charges. Once payment had been made, and contact stopped and he received no winnings.
Elsa* received an email informing her that jewellery she wasn’t expecting to receive was held up at customs pending clearance in the United States. She was told that her package wouldn’t be released until the shipping fee was paid. Once the fee was paid, no jewellery was received, and she was unable to contact customs.
After being made redundant the previous week, Marcus* was searching for a job online when he came across an advert on a popular website for a job requiring limited experience with a high salary. Having registered his interest, Marcus received an email that included a link to follow to apply. The application form required Marcus to include his National Insurance number, date of birth and bank account details. Upon completing his application Marcus was asked to call the company to attend a “telephone interview”, not knowing that he was being charged a premium for using the advertised number.
Without any face-to-face meetings with his potential employers Marcus received an email from the recruiter informing him that he had been successful. However, he was asked to urgently pay an upfront fee for a background check before he could receive his job offer. Marcus proceeded to make payment to the bank details provided, desperate to secure his “new role” and unknowing that he had in fact fallen for a scam.
Trevor* had lots to think about when he was moving house, between packing, sorting out bills and his busy job he was dealing his solicitor over email. He was pleased that things were moving quickly with the new purchase and was unsurprised when he received an email requesting payment of the deposit.
The solicitors advised that they needed the deposit paid in full immediately and that there had been a change to their account details. Trevor went ahead and made the payment. A couple of days later, Trevor called his solicitor. When his solicitor advised that they hadn’t requested payment or changed their account details he realised he’d been scammed as the email he’d received had not come from his genuine solicitor.
*These case studies are based on insights from partners