\ ˈskam How to pronounce scam (audio) \

Definition of scam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation an insurance scam


scammed; scamming; scams

Definition of scam (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to deceive and defraud (someone) … the law firm had got the lucrative job of defending the corporate head of a savings and loan that had scammed another thousand or so people out of their savings …— Joseph Wambaugh
2 : to obtain (something, such as money) by a scam A Boston hedge fund manager who scammed millions of dollars from friends, family and other investors in what authorities say was a Ponzi scheme has been sent to prison for more than 14 years.The Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette

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Synonyms for scam

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of scam in a Sentence

Noun She was the victim of an insurance scam. a sophisticated credit card scam Verb The company scammed hundreds of people out of their life savings. I could tell they were scamming you and charging too much. They scammed a lot of money from unwary customers.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In California, dozens of people have been arrested for using identity theft to scam their state’s unemployment system. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, "Feds won’t say if anyone has been arrested for Ohio unemployment fraud," 25 Feb. 2021 By that time, the identity theft victim or the employment department may have caught on to the scam. Mike Rogoway | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "ID theft targeting Oregon jobless claims increased tenfold last year; state won’t say how much it lost," 24 Feb. 2021 Another Day, Another 'Elon Musk' Bitcoin Scam on Twitter Death, taxes, and people using Elon Musk's name to scam bitcoin from people on Twitter; at least life has its certainties. Brian Barrett, Wired, "Security News This Week: The FBI Has Made Over 100 Arrests Related to the Capitol Riot," 16 Jan. 2021 The naked photo scam appears to be a one-night-stand for scammers. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "There's a nude photo scam going around — and it's as bad as it sounds," 11 Feb. 2021 The rental scam: Fake property managers in San Francisco are taking advantage of the shift to digital rental transactions during the pandemic, authorities say. Susie Neilson, San Francisco Chronicle, "How to avoid these common COVID pandemic scams in California," 10 Feb. 2021 In 2019, Americans lost $201 million to romance scams, the costliest scam reported to the Federal Trade Commission that year. Mark Dunphy, San Antonio Express-News, "Valentine's Day, COVID-19 pandemic creating 'perfect storm' for scams, USAA fraud expert says," 10 Feb. 2021 Users are strictly advised to buy Meticore from its official website only while keeping away from scam and counterfeit products. Daily Health Reports, Chron, "Meticore Reviews (2021 Updated) Diet Pills Supplement with Real Ingredients or Side Effects?," 4 Feb. 2021 Russell was cordial but exasperated and told Gladstone the whole thing was starting to seem like a scam. Bridget Read, Curbed, "The Nightmare Share," 2 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The preening old matriarch tends her roses, while Coriolanus’ cousin Tigris scams fancy clothes from her boozy fashion boss. Darren Franich,, "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes review: Hunger Games prequel's darkly funny, way too long," 19 May 2020 Hackers are sending more and more bogus but legitimate-looking emails that seem relevant to the coronavirus outbreak but are instead attempts to scam people, according to research by cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "One tech company benefiting from the U.S.’s massive temporary workplace shift," 27 Mar. 2020 Attorney General Daniel Cameron also warned Wednesday of new charity and Medicaid scams his office is seeing related to COVID-19. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, "New scams emerging as coronavirus crisis deepens, COVID-19 fraud task force forms," 25 Mar. 2020 Investigate manipulative advertising and scams targeting youth. Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Tony Evers unveils sweeping plan aimed at combating youth vaping," 19 Jan. 2020 Two Mississippi men tried to scam the state lottery by submitting a losing ticket that had the winning numbers glued onto it, police said. Janelle Griffith, NBC News, "Two men accused of gluing winning numbers onto Mississippi Lottery ticket," 7 Jan. 2020 Trying to scam the system and make deals to rip people off is easier. Ariel Lebeau, Billboard, "Julian Casablancas Talks Music Industry Frustrations, Running a Label & Ignoring Spotify," 10 Apr. 2019 How to avoid commerce scams: Cybercriminals may take advantage of your need to self-quarantine to scam you out of your money. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, "How to Keep Yourself Safe From Coronavirus Scams and Fake Health Products," 16 Mar. 2020 According to authorities, some criminals are using the outbreak as an opportunity to scam unsuspecting strangers. Joseph Neese, House Beautiful, "Police Warn of Scammers Knocking on Doors and Pretending to Be From the CDC Amid Coronavirus Outbreak," 15 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scam.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of scam


1963, in the meaning defined above


1963, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for scam


origin unknown

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Statistics for scam

Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Scam.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for scam



English Language Learners Definition of scam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people



English Language Learners Definition of scam (Entry 2 of 2)

: to deceive and take money from (someone)
: to get (something, such as money) by deceiving someone

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More from Merriam-Webster on scam

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scam

Nglish: Translation of scam for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scam for Arabic Speakers

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