Definition of scam in US English:



  • A dishonest scheme; a fraud.

    ‘an insurance scam’
    • ‘Why can't they just content themselves with diet scams and insurance fraud?’
    • ‘Find out why the Feds are out to bust an insurance scam where the doctor pays the patient.’
    • ‘Whoever is behind the scam is a fraud and is attempting to collect personal information.’
    • ‘The combination of the two are highly effective at detecting scams, schemes and illicit practices.’
    • ‘The thieves run scams in two ways: outright identity theft and impersonation fraud.’
    • ‘He first forged signatures to get hold of his inheritance, then involved his wife's family in complex life insurance scams.’
    • ‘If there is an illegal immigrant scam or a marriage scam, then the department must be involved.’
    • ‘Many companies are plagued by urban legends, scams, and hoaxes delivered by e-mail.’
    • ‘The scam tries to trick customers into giving away confidential bank details.’
    • ‘From internet identity fraud to mobile phone scams, it seems there are now a myriad of ways in which crooks can strike against the unwary.’
    • ‘Whatever scams Jimmy has contributed to in the past have not caused so many to lose so much.’
    • ‘This does not mean expensive avoidance schemes or illegal evasion scams, or even disappearing from the face of the earth.’
    • ‘It will clearly show what many people have known for years - these investment scams are a massive fraud.’
    • ‘Then (of course) there are all the scams and frauds being perpetrated through the Net.’
    • ‘This will focus on mitigating the risk of fraud, hacking, identity theft, scams and schemes.’
    • ‘One need look no further than the daily newspaper to see that securities fraud is the scam du jour.’
    • ‘However these rules will not stop you from being scammed as a scam is more psychological than anything else.’
    • ‘Restaurants, in particular, have been hit by skimming scams, especially overseas.’
    • ‘Everything zips along at a brisk and comedic pace for the first half hour, with an elaborate scam to rip off a load of smuggled goods being set up.’
    • ‘I wonder how many hoaxes and scams are happening in that part of the world as we speak?’
    fraud, swindle, fraudulent scheme, racket, trick, diddle
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • Swindle.

    ‘a guy that scams the elderly out of their savings’
    • ‘I would say that I genuinely hope St. John Vianney had one of their students do the site rather than getting scammed by a web designer, until I realized that if one of their students had done it they would have to list them as an alumnus.’
    • ‘He tries to buy one on the street, but his naïvete and lack of street sense only see him get scammed by con artists.’
    • ‘Is your head saleswoman scamming you out of millions?’
    • ‘In fact, you would think that when more people came out to accuse you of scamming them after the plea bargain was set would make you shut up and take the punishment before things got worse.’
    • ‘It seems the scammers are trying to get increasingly clever, and it's an interesting social engineering trick to try to get people to let down their guard by first warning them about a scam - and then scamming them anyway.’
    • ‘Everybody thinks they know somebody who's scamming welfare because they can't see a wheelchair.’
    • ‘In this particular report, however, the researchers found about 2% of people admitted to be successfully scammed, with an average loss of about $115.’
    • ‘He's only scamming innocent shopkeepers to make enough money to pay off his father's debts.’
    • ‘Talia's an abusive foster mother, scamming the system, that's what she has to do to get by.’
    • ‘However these rules will not stop you from being scammed as a scam is more psychological than anything else.’
    • ‘This blog entry discusses getting a phishing scam e-mail, and then some further logistics behind what might stop these from happening (and how to avoid getting scammed yourself).’
    • ‘She suspects that he may be scamming her to gain Canadian residency.’
    • ‘They're basically just scamming people with this fictional concert.’
    • ‘And now investigators have to figure out whose claims are legit and who is scamming the system.’
    • ‘I'd read in a book once of people who were less intimidated by bankers who wore regular clothes and made house calls, even though they were scamming their clients.’
    • ‘The bad news is they were scamming us; the good news is they've stopped.’
    • ‘Proof that he is intending on scamming people out of money is what the Gardai need.’
    • ‘I won't be on any particular side; I'll just be out in the world scamming people for my own benefit.’
    • ‘‘I wanted him to stop so that he wouldn't keep scamming people,’ she says, although she doesn't buy or sell through online auctions herself.’
    • ‘White is also accused of stealing £10,000 worth of funds from an after-school club and a further £2,000 for allegedly scamming money from a charity which helped send pupils on a trip to New Zealand.’


1960s: of unknown origin.