Being online opens a world of opportunity.

It can help you keep in touch with people, develop new skills, keep up to date on the latest news and shop online. Plus, it can even let you know if you might need an umbrella by instantly checking the weather.

As with anything in life, new experiences bring potential new risks. At some point, absolutely everyone worries about the possible risks of being online. You are not alone. This is not a reason to avoid being online though. There are plenty of ways to make sure you can enjoy the benefits and stay safe.

This module will give you an introduction into the benefits of staying safe online and help with your awareness of the risks. Allowing you to navigate the online world more safely and protect yourself, your friends and family.


  • Know the importance of being safe online.
  • Be able to spot the main risks.
  • Understand some of the key terms in online safety.

Read time

9 mins

Chapter 1


Read time

3 mins

There are many benefits to being online:

81% say being online helps them to connect better with family and friends


67% said being online helps them save money


73% said the internet makes it easier for them to organise their life



With the benefits comes potential risk

The internet can be an amazing resource. It has already helped people across the UK to socialise, save money, organise their life and much more. In fact, 83% of people said the internet provides them with more benefits than disadvantages. This sends a really positive message about the benefits of being online. We also cannot ignore the risks.

People have always made attempts to steal other people's money and personal details. The use of the internet hasn't changed this. It has just given new opportunities for people to steal information and money. Let's take a look now at some of the terms we use to talk about these online risks.


Fraud, scams, and scammers – what are they?

  • Fraud - 'Fraud' is any wrongful act intended to end in financial or personal gain. People across all age groups can experience fraud. In fact, 80% of those who have lost money whilst shopping online are under the age of 50
  • Scams - 'Scams' are just another name for the types of fraud. You'll often hear people use them both. If someone has been scammed – they have been tricked out of their money and/or personal details
  • Scammers - 'Scammers' are the criminals who do these. Sometimes known as 'fraudsters', they attempt to deceive people into giving them their money or personal details. These aren't just an online issue. This module will focus on online scams though


What we'll cover next

In chapter 2, you will learn about different types of scams like text and email scams. For now, let's focus on understanding the impact of scams and the importance of keeping yourself safe.


Protecting your money

As we said, scammers are usually after one of two things – money or personal details. People often worry most about loss of money. But you need to look after your personal details too.


With your personal details, scammers could:

  • Take out debts such as credit cards or subscriptions in your name
  • Gain access to your personal finances
  • Create fake social media accounts


Before parting with any money or personal details online, it's always a good idea to:

  1. Stop - Taking a moment to stop and think before taking any action regarding your finances or personal details, could keep you safe
  2. Challenge - Does the request seem too good to be true? It is ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you
  3. Protect - Contact your bank immediately if you think you've fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud

Chapter 2


Read time

6 mins

What is a scam

As we learnt in chapter 1, a scam is an attempt to trick you into sharing your money or personal details with someone for their gain. In this section, you will learn about different types of scams, how to spot a scam and what to do if you think you've been scammed. Let's start by understanding a bit more about them.


How scams work

Some scam messages are sent to thousands of people at once. Often, they ask you to click on a link. Or they can ask you to enter your personal details like bank details, passwords, or PIN numbers. Once they have gathered this, they may use these details to steal your money by, for example, accessing your bank account and taking money out, opening new accounts or taking out debts like loans or credit cards in your name.

Spotting scam messages, text messages and phone calls can be tricky, and many scams can even fool the experts. To help, here are some common themes that may indicate you have been the target of a scam:



Some scammers will pretend to be a well-known organisation. This could be your bank, the police or even government departments like the HMRC tax office. They do this to make you think that the message is important and official. This means you are much more likely to believe them and do what they ask.



If the message contains mistakes, this may be a sign that it is a scam. It's very rare that real emails will contain these kinds of errors, so if you see them – it's best to be cautious and to not interact.



Does the message ask you to do something quickly? This could be offers that end soon, or threats if you do not respond quickly. This can cause you to panic and click the link or send the personal details without stopping to think about it.



Some types of scams may offer you things at unbeatable value or tell you that you've won some kind of prize. Try to ask yourself - Is this product or service too good to be true? If you're being offered a reward, whether an unreasonable deal or some kind of prize, the chances are that it's a scam and you should be cautious.


Current events

Scammers can also exploit current events or big news in an attempt to make you think they are legitimate. For example, you may get an email asking you to book your COVID-19 booster jab, but you know you are not due to have this for another two months. This could be an indication this is a scam.

Always ask yourself:

Always ask yourself:

Was I expecting this message? If you're receiving a call or message out of the blue from someone unexpected, the chances are it's a scam and you should ignore it. Remember – stop, challenge, protect.

Types of scams

Scams can appear in many different ways. In this section you will hear more about the most common types of scams you may come across.

Scam emails and messages

This is a type of scam where the scammer pretends to be someone else. They will ask you to complete an action such as clicking on a link that can be used to gather your data or it will ask you to enter your personal details.


Examples include:

  • A message from a delivery company with a link to track a parcel you are not expecting
  • A message from a company/organisation saying you owe them money that needs to be paid
  • A message from a company saying they owe you money and to provide your bank details so they can send it
  • A message about a limited time offer which can only be obtained by clicking the link in the email. If you can't find the offer elsewhere on the internet, it may well be a scam
  • A 'friend' asking for money urgently. This may seem legitimate, but your friend's account could have been hacked by a scammer. Always double check through a second source you trust

Received a message you weren't expecting?

Received a message you weren't expecting?

If you get a message you did not expect, it is best to check before you respond or click anything. Contact the organisation using separate contact details to check if the message is real. Don't use the details they have given you in their message.

Dating scams

Scam messages don't always come from companies. There has been a recent rise in 'Romance Scams'. This is where the scammer will pretend to be someone else who is interested in you romantically. They will often use fake pictures to hide their identify. Once they feel they have built trust with you they may ask for money or for you to purchase things on their behalf and cease the relationship once done.


Purchase Scam

Another common type of scam happens when shopping online. The aim of this scam is to get you to pay for an item that doesn't exist. You may never receive the item, or it might not be as expected. For example, you may order a game console, and be delivered a box with the image of the console on it but without any console inside.

In these types of scams, the goods offered will often appear much cheaper than you can find anywhere else. They may also be sold out or hard to get.

Whatever form the scam takes, you need to be careful when shopping online. If you are buying off a large well-known company, it's unlikely they will ask you to make a payment directly into their account instead of taking payment from your debit or credit card online.

Look carefully at the website to ensure it seems real. Check the web address, the details of the page and if something seems suspicious – it probably is.

We'll cover more of how to spot a fake website later.


Stopping access to your personal details and files

Once a scammer has access to your device, they can take control of your files and data and hold them 'ransom', meaning they don't allow you to access the files and data and charge you a fee to access them again. You should never pay this fee, as the scammer will likely take your money without giving you back access to the file. Ensure you contact Action Fraud if this happens to you.

Test yourself

Test yourself

Do you think you can recall the five themes that can indicate that something is a scam? Try to recall them now or write them down and if you need to you can go back and check what they are before moving onto the next chapter.

If you think you've been scammed

The first thing to do is report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at If you're in Scotland, you can contact Police Scotland on 101.

Once you've done that, you should try to take steps to stop further damage. If the scam affects your bank account, you should contact your bank immediately. If you think someone has one of your passwords, take action to change your password immediately.


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now know the benefits and basics of staying safe online. We suggest you continue your learning with the next lesson in 'Staying Safe Online' – 'Ten tips for staying safe online'. This lesson will help you feel more confident about staying safe from the risks you learned to spot here.


Up next for you:

Next module: Ten tips for staying safe online

Back to: Staying Safe Online

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.