The unexpected money scam


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The 'Unexpected Money' scam

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What's coming up

In this activity, we'll look at a scam that is far older than the internet, the unexpected money scam. This type of scam uses a range of tricks to convince you to pay some money now to receive a lot more money in the future.

We'll cover how to spot such scams, and look at some of the most common types.

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How to recognise the 'unexpected money' scam

With this scam, you usually receive an email promising a lot of money for a small upfront fee. The opportunity will likely appear too good to be true, and any money you pay will be gone forever.

If you receive an email like this, just ignore it. Do not reply to the email or click any link in the email.

A sample email from 'Awesome Deals' with the subject 'Don't miss out' with the body of the email requesting that you send money now
A sample email from 'Lawyer' with the subject 'Claim your inheritance'. The body of the email says that you have inherited $1,003,460 from your Great Aunt and that you should click the link to get in touch to claim it

The inheritance scam

In this version of the unexpected money scam, you get an email from someone pretending to be a lawyer or banker, saying that you’ve inherited money. They will tell you that the cash is tied up in red tape, however, and you’ll need to pay an expert to free it up.

It may be tempting, but do not reply to the email, or click on any link in the email. Just ignore it.

The lottery scam

In this scam, you receive an email that you’ve won a lottery or competition that you automatically entered by visiting a website. You just need to pay an administration fee to collect your money.

You should ignore any emails like this. Do not reply to or click on any links in the email either.

A sample email from 'Biggest Lotto' with the subject 'Lucky You!'. The body of the email says that you have won the lottery and that you should click the link to claim your prize
A sample email from 'Prince of Nigeria' with the subject 'Request for assistance'. The body of the email starts with Dear Sir/Madam and says that the Prince needs help from you.

The 'Nigerian prince' scam

This famous scam is a story about money that is 'trapped' inside a country by political unrest. You receive an email saying that, with some financial help from you, it can be released and you will be generously rewarded.

You should not reply to the email, or click on any links in the email. Just ignore it, or delete it.

Spotting a scam

What do most 'unexected money scam' emails have in common?

They are completely safe and trustworthy

Click to flip

Incorrect. Unfortunately, they are not at all safe or trustworthy and should be ignored or deleted immediately.

They sound too good to be true

Click to flip

Correct. Yes, that's right. Sadly, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

They should be taken seriously and acted upon immediately

Click to flip

Incorrect. They should be ignored or deleted immediately.


Well done! Now that you've finished the activity on Unexpected money scams you know that they all have a common trick: pay a little bit now for a promise of a big pay-off in the future - that never comes.

You've learnt how to quickly identify them, and that there is a simple way to deal with them: just ignore or delete them.

The next activity looks at a different type of money scam, the Money for nothing scam.

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