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Up-front payment scams

What is an upfront payment scam?

An upfront payment scam is a scam which asks you to send money upfront for a product or ‘reward’ later. The ‘reward’ may be in the form of a pre-approved loan or credit card application, a prize, a holiday or a cut of a profit from some activity.

You might be asked to provide your bank account details to the scammer or to pay fees to gain access to what the scammer is offering.. If you send money to these scammers you may find that you receive nothing in return, or that you don’t get what you expected.

Warning signs

  • You receive an unsolicited email, letter or telephone call promising you something exciting or valuable for a small upfront payment or fee.
  • You are offered a ‘reward’ such as a prize, a holiday or a pre-approved loan or credit card application.
  • The offer involves transferring money for someone else.
  • The scammer will tell you that you need to pay an upfront cost such as, an administration fee, taxes or postage and shipping costs.
  • The offer arrives out of the blue.
  • The ‘reward’ is much greater than the amount that you are asked to pay upfront.

Protect yourself from upfront payment scams

  • Use your common sense: the offer may be a scam.
  • Do not send any money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings.
  • Never send your personal, credit card or online account details through an email.
  • Money laundering is a criminal offence: do not agree to transfer money for someone else.

As well as following these specific tips, find out how to protect yourself from all sorts of other scams.

Do your homework

If you have been offered a pre-approved credit card, loan application or a fabulous prize or holiday, delete the email, throw away the letter or say no. Banks and credit unions will only approve you for a credit card if you meet their criteria. No one can guarantee these approvals in exchange for a fee.

If you are interested in the offer, you should check to see if there are any conditions attached to the offer or other fine print that may contain nasty surprises. You can also ask your local fair trading agency if they think the offer sounds genuine.


You should NEVER give out your personal or bank account details to somebody you don’t know. Remember that no legitimate credit card or loan provider will ask you to pay a fee to guarantee approval. Don’t let the fact that an offer sounds enticing or genuine trick you.

If you think the offer may be genuine, make sure you seek the advice of an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner before committing any money.

Report them

If you have received an upfront payment scam, or if you have sent money to one and you now realise it is a scam, you can report it through the SCAMwatch website. You should also spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues to protect them.


What to do if you've been scammed; Scams & the law; Report a scam.

Similar scams:

You are promised huge rewards if you help someone transfer money out of their country by paying fees or giving them your bank account details.

If you agree to transfer money for someone you don’t know, you let scammers use your bank account to ‘launder’ their dirty money. This puts you and your money in the firing line.

You are sent a cheque for something you have sold, but it is for more than the amount agreed. The scammer hopes you will refund the extra money before you notice that their cheque has bounced.

Fake lottery or sweepstakes ‘winnings’ to tempt you into sending money or your personal details.

Unexpected prizes that need you to send money to claim—you may never receive the prize or it may not be what you expected.

Scammers ‘guarantee’ you a job or certain level of income, tricking you into paying an up-front fee for a ‘business plan’ or materials.

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