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Created on 05.05.2023

Scammers’ tactics. What you need to know

Ever had a phone call out of the blue from technical support? Ever had an e-mail with an order notification, although you haven’t ordered anything? Ever been sceptical because an advert on the internet is simply too good to be true? Scammers are very creative when it comes to ripping you off or getting confidential data out of you. Find out more about their tactics and how you can protect yourself.

When we hear about people who’ve been scammed, we often think it could never have happened to us: the deception just seems too obvious. But scammers target and exploit human weaknesses like greed, naivety and a need for love. If we find ourselves in a personal crisis, are looking for affection or urgently need money, we can all be easy targets. By telephone, post or online, we let ourselves be deceived, convinced or unsettled enough to give up confidential data, be blackmailed or pay money. It’s so important to know about the different types of fraud and how they work, and to talk about them with others so that the perpetrators are unsuccessful.

Internet: a scammer’s playground

The internet provides criminals with endless opportunities so cases of fraud are continually increasing. Whether you want to grab a bargain or are looking for true love, scammers are lurking everywhere, trying to ensnare you with fake accounts and false websites, or offering you products that simply don’t exist in adverts with stolen images and content. So think carefully: if an offer seems too good, a discount too great or a partner too perfect – when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Three scam tactics to raise your awareness of the dangers of the internet.

  • These days, almost everything is traded using online marketplaces, such as Ricardo, Anibis and Tutti, or social media platforms like Facebook. In most cases, all goes well, but here too, criminals are trying to get rich. As sellers, they use fake adverts to offer cheap items that customers never receive, despite making a payment. Or a cheaper imitation is supplied instead of the branded product. Conversely, in the purchaser role, scammers like to issue uncovered checks for amounts higher than the sale price, with the seller expected to transfer the difference.

    How to protect yourself

    • Be sceptical if luxury products and sought-after items are offered very cheaply or you immediately win a bid for a rare product
    • Don’t pay any money as a seller and only send the purchased item once payment has been received into your account
    • Be wary if a customer doesn’t want to collect the goods themselves or accept the fee for an expensive delivery service
  • Resourceful scammers lure potential victims with professional, genuine-looking websites and promises of big discounts. The bait they use includes sustainable investments, cryptocurrencies or precious metals. With great knowledge and clever use of language, they present fake graphics with unrealistic profits. Those who are interested must set up a special account, into which profits are usually paid initially, to encourage investors to invest even more. But all too soon, the credit runs out and the investment is lost.

    How to protect yourself

    • Verify the provider on The link will open in a new window and also check their warning page. You should check out foreign providers especially thoroughly.
    • Be mindful that offers promising high returns are never genuine. Also, high returns always entail high risk of loss.
    • Never invest all your money in one product. You should always spread your money widely.
  • Singles clubs, dating sites and social media platforms are the hunting ground of love scammers. They woo their victims with compliments and build up a relationship. When love seems to blossom, they pull out all the stops, from meeting up very quickly to marriage proposals. Once trust has been established, requests for money for supposed emergencies will soon follow. But when the money eventually runs out, so does the love.

    How to protect yourself

    • Be sceptical if true love is mentioned even before a first meeting
    • Use a Google image search to check whether photos of your admirer can be found online in any other context
    • Don’t transfer any money to anyone you don’t know personally

E-mail: the victim-hunt in your inbox

Scammers like to use e-mail because this enables them to reach many potential victims all in one go. Especially popular are e-mails for phishing, for spreading malware, for making threats, for donation appeals and for what’s known as advance-fee fraud. With this type of fraud, a payment – an advance fee – must be made in advance for a later inheritance or a promised profit. Various methods are used here but the result is always the same: you’ll never see your money again. Three types of fraud to give you an idea of how things can start off with an e-mail.

  • Who hasn’t had one? An order confirmation by e-mail from a company or supplier for goods you never ordered. In this case, at least it’s obvious. It’s different though when you’ve actually ordered something from a company and then received a confirmation e-mail from precisely that company, in which you’re asked to click on a link or open an attachment. As soon as the recipient does this, malware is automatically installed on the computer which can copy, destroy, block or alter data.

    How to protect yourself

    • Check the sender’s e-mail address. On closer inspection, there’s usually a cryptic address there.
    • Be sceptical if you’re told to click on links or open files. If you hover over the link without clicking on it, you can see that something isn’t right.
    • Check the supposed parcel or consignment number directly on the sender’s website.
  • Criminals lure potential victims with a supposed inheritance. To do this, they simply send any number of people an e-mail explaining that a distant relative has died and only the recipient stands to inherit their entire fortune. However, the supposed inheritance investigator must initially be sent money to cover the administrative costs. But these advance fees go to waste because there’s actually no inheritance at all.

    How to protect yourself

    • Don’t trust any promises of money where you have to make a payment in advance. With genuine inheritance, the costs are deducted from the inheritance.
    • Be sceptical if the name of the deceased person and the amount are mentioned right at the start. True inheritance investigators would never do that.
    • Remember that genuine inheritance investigators would never contact you by e-mail, only by post. But physical letters aren’t automatically genuine.
  • In an e-mail, scammers tell countless victims that they’ve won millions on the lottery. But to cover fees and taxes, they must first transfer some money – usually to an account abroad. Alternatively, the supposed winner receives a check that bounces after payment.

    How to protect yourself

    • Think about whether you actually took part in this lottery. No participation – no win.
    • Don’t transfer any money if you’re supposed to have won something. Genuine providers would never ask you to do this.
    • Never send personal data, bank details or a copy of your identification documents because of an e-mail like this.

Telephone: scammers calling

They pose as an employee from technical support or the immigration authorities, as a lawyer, doctor or police officer, and are pursuing the same goal, but under different pretexts: they want to frighten you into transferring money or giving away your personal data and passwords. With telephone deception too, tricksters are very resourceful and are constantly adapting their tactics. Three scam tactics to show you the patterns to look out for.

  • Scammers love to disguise themselves as support staff. There are different ways they do this. Either they try by telephone to obtain personal information or credit card details or they say they have to fix a non-existent problem with a device or software. If the trickster ultimately gains access to the computer, they install malware that steals data so they can then blackmail their victim. There are also criminals who demand money so that they’ll “fix” alleged problems or perhaps they foist virus protection software on their victims.

    How to protect yourself

    • Be aware that staff from companies like Microsoft will never call you out of the blue.
    • Never give callers like this access to your computer. Reset your device if you have allowed this.
    • Don’t pay for unrequested support services. Payments using cryptocurrencies or gift cards aren’t genuine.
  • On the telephone, criminals say they are police officers and claim, for example, that it isn’t safe to keep money or jewellery in the house because of a series of break-ins nearby. For this reason, someone from the police in civilian clothes will collect your valuables and store them safely. Other tactics: scammers claim that the victim is implicated in a fraud case, that their help is needed in an investigation or that family members are involved in an accident. Ultimately, every scenario means providing, depositing, collecting or transferring money or valuables.

    How to protect yourself

    • Don’t comply with these types of request. The police will never contact you and ask you to hand over your money or valuables.
    • Be sceptical if callers do not speak English fluently.
    • Be aware that a call can come from abroad, even if a Swiss telephone number is shown.
  • In emergency scams, criminals prey on our human fears when family members or friends are in crisis. They pose, for example, as doctors, lawyers or prison officers, and claim that someone close to you is in an emergency situation and must immediately pay a deposit or medical treatment costs. One form of emergency scam is the grandparent trick. In this type of scam, a supposed grandchild calls and claims to be in an unfortunate situation and to need money urgently.

    How to protect yourself

    • Don’t be put under pressure – or be blackmailed
    • Don’t disclose any personal data or account details
    • End the conversation if you aren’t sure who is really on the telephone


Show a healthy dose of scepticism when online and on all communication channels. Listen to your intuition, don’t ever conclude a transaction if you have a bad feeling and keep these valuable tips in mind. Don’t give criminals a chance.

Good to know: ten tips for the fight against criminals


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