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Keeping safe online

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Become scam-savvy: Keeping safe online

The last decade has seen a huge shift in the way technology influences day-to-day life. Although these technological advances are designed to make our lives easier, there’s still a generation - who remember life before the internet – that feel unsafe and left behind.

Our recent Real Retirement Report1 unveils a growing tech-savvy generation, but there’s still people over 45 who worry about the risks of going online. More than a million people over 45 have been a victim of an online scam, and more than three quarters of retirees over 75 have been targeted by email scams – leaving them feeling vulnerable.

For those who feel worried or anxious about being scammed, we’ve put together this handy guide featuring common online scams, examples of what they might look like and tips for avoiding them2.

Common types of online scams

Phishing scams

Scammers may pose as a well-known company or brand through a website, online service or email, to convince users to hand over their personal details or money. Posing as a brand or company the user trusts means they’re more likely to put in those details. Once acquired, the scammers may use them to steal the user’s identity or withdraw money and disappear.

Types of scams include:

  • Holiday offers or rented apartments abroad at very low prices
  • Fake festival or gig tickets
  • Confirming bank details by clicking through to a fake website
  • Claiming tax rebates or paying tax penalties
  • Pharming’: where the user is encouraged to download a file to their computer, usually containing a virus or spyware that steals their personal details

How to avoid phishing scams

  • Real bank emails never ask for sensitive information to be confirmed through clicking a link. If in doubt, go onto the official website and call them to clarify the email
  • If the price they’re offering seems too good to be true, it’s most likely
  • Check spam filters are on, and keep an eye out for poor spelling, grammar or particularly odd ‘spe11lings’ or ‘cApiTals’ in the subject line
  • Look at the website or email address – does it look correct?
  • Be wary of emails that don’t address you personally, such as ‘To our valued customer’ or ‘Dear…’
  • It’s important to note that HMRC never send emails about taxes or payment information

Mass market fraud

This scam comes in the form of an email or online advert, suggesting the user has won a large sum of cash, goods or services; but will usually request a fee, taxes or donations (to collect winnings). The fraudster may pose as someone trying to sell goods using aggressive marketing techniques. Types of scams include charity donations and lottery prizes.

How to avoid mass market fraud

  • If the you didn’t enter a competition, don’t respond and alert the bank
  • Look out for payment requests, such as taxes, legal and banking fees to receive prizes
  • If it’s from a genuine charity, users can check the collection is authorised by calling the charity directly (but don’t use the number in the email)

Pension and Investment Scams

Since April 2015, retirees have been given more control over how they withdraw and when they receive their pensions3. The new pension options give people flexibility as to how they access their pension funds, such as a drawdown, annuity or even just cashing out the pot. Unfortunately, this means future and current retirees are being targeted for their savings.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) unveiled last year that victims lost an average of £32,000 when being scammed through a financial product. The FCA also revealed that one in eight (14%) spend little or no time researching investment products before handing over money.

For those who’re planning or coming close to retirement, it’s important to keep pension pots and savings safe. Here’s a few tips for avoiding the worst-case scenario:

  • Never give out financial and personal details in emails
  • Ask for a statement that explains how the pension or investment will be paid, and question who’ll look after the finances until then
  • Speak to an adviser outside of the plan for advice and a second opinion on the situation
  • Don’t be rushed or pushed into making a decision or money transfer
  • Spend time researching various financial products and see what’s on the market
  • If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is

What if I’ve already fallen victim?

  • If money goes missing from your bank account, contact your bank immediately
  • Any scam or fraudulent activity should be reported to Action Fraud so appropriate action can be taken
  • If the scam is mimicking an existing company or brand, contact them and inform them of the situation, so others can avoid falling victim
  • Only contact the police if they’re in any immediate danger, or the crime is about to happen4

Being scam-smart and safe online

Being constantly connected to the internet has become the norm, so it’s important all users are confident with the tools and applications they use. Our retirement report highlighted the biggest concern for the older user is being hacked or involved in a scam or fraudulent activity. In a time of financial difficulty, seeing cheap clothes or ‘winning’ a cash prize is often too good to be true.

Reconnecting a lost generation

More retirees are getting connected through social media everyday. We looked into this trend and how it can be beneficial to our health.

Read our guide

Additional Sources

[1]Aviva’s Real Retirement Report – Winter 2016 – Page 8-11

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