\ 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

Definition of scam (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

2 : to obtain (something, such as money) by a scam

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Other Words from scam


scammer noun

Synonyms for scam

Synonyms: Noun

bunco (or bunko), con, fiddle [chiefly British], flimflam, fraud, gyp, hustle, shell game, sting, swindle

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Examples of scam in a Sentence


She was the victim of an insurance scam. a sophisticated credit card scam


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

Then thousands of initial coin offerings, which turned out to be mostly scams, took up space on the network. Olga Kharif, Fortune, "CryptoKitties Ran Wild on Ethereum First. Now Tether Is Clogging the Digital Ledger," 26 Aug. 2019 One common scam, Ortiz said, is a landlord disappearing as soon as someone gives them a deposit. Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Remain in Mexico: Tijuana rent scams target asylum seekers," 26 Aug. 2019 Consumers will face a catch-22: Click and risk a virus or a scam, or don’t click and miss potentially legitimate information about why a debt collector is going after you and how to dispute the debt. David Vladeck, WIRED, "The Consumer Bureau's Reckless Plan for Debt Collection," 23 Aug. 2019 Current and former investigators for health insurers and federal prosecutors said the simplicity of Williams’ scam, combined with weak oversight and enforcement, raises questions about what’s being done to combat rampant health care fraud. Marshall Allen, ProPublica, "Senators Call for Closing “Loopholes” That Make Health Care Fraud Easy," 14 Aug. 2019 Current and former investigators for health insurers and federal prosecutors said the simplicity of Williams’s scam, combined with weak oversight and enforcement, raises questions about what’s being done to combat rampant health care fraud. Marshall Allen, Vox, "Senators call for closing “loopholes” that make health care fraud easy," 14 Aug. 2019 Stock scams, like the pump-and-dump scheme detailed in the FBI search warrant, wouldn’t work without these supporters. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "The FBI thinks Long Island Iced Tea’s infamous pivot to blockchain was sweetened by insider trading," 25 July 2019 The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following tips on how to avoid package delivery scams: Be wary of unsolicited communications. Leah Napoliello, Houston Chronicle, "BBB on Homes: Scam alert — Don’t be fooled by fake package delivery scam," 14 July 2019 But in a 204-page FBI affidavit laying out the scope of Singer's scam, the first allegation of bribery comes in 2008, less than two months after The Key was incorporated. Gregory Korte, USA Today, "The rise of Rick Singer: How the mastermind of college admissions scandal built an empire on lies, exploited a broken system," 19 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Lopez starting getting positive feedback about the movie and her role as Ramona, who scams Wall Street clients with the help of her girls, after the movie's recent premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Marianne Garvey, CNN, "Jennifer Lopez gets emotional hearing 'Hustlers' Oscars buzz," 11 Sep. 2019 But, outside its relevant social commentary about suburban decay, On Becoming a God in Central Florida beats with a wicked streak humor, as Krystal begins to scam her way through the ranks of the illicit operation in increasingly bonkers ways. Ew Staff,, "What to Watch this weekend: More deaths and drama — get ready to binge 13 Reasons Why," 23 Aug. 2019 Venus’s Citroën arrives at a Burger King, where her gang scams the restaurant out of a free meal. Joshua Barone, New York Times, "Review: A New ‘Tannhäuser’ Brings Burger King to Bayreuth," 26 July 2019 Months after business owners and other taxpayers have filed their returns with the IRS, thieves try to scam people out of money or personal information. Fortune, "What the IRS Wants You to Know About Tax Scams," 12 Aug. 2019 But in Maryland a group of residents managed to scam the federal government out of $8 million in relief funds designated for those who needed it most, according to prosecutors. Lynh Bui,, "Group swindled $8 million designated for hurricane and wildfire victims, prosecutors say," 5 Aug. 2019 At Turner’s neighborhood cigar store, there’s a street hustler who scams passers-by into playing Pass the Lady, but Turner never gets drawn in. Constance Grady, Vox, "Colson Whitehead’s spare, riveting, horrifying Nickel Boys," 18 July 2019 Complaints about government imposter scams are skyrocketing, reaching a record high in May, according to a new FTC report: Since 2014, consumers have complained about imposter scams far more than any other type of fraud. NBC News, "Get a call from the Social Security Administration? It's the latest government imposter scam," 13 July 2019 If approved, calls and texts that use spoofing to imitate a different phone number would be unlawful and would allow the FCC to bring enforcement actions against bad actors outside of the country who are looking to defraud or scam people in the US. Makena Kelly, The Verge, "Ajit Pai has a new proposal to go after international robocallers," 8 July 2019

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

20 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for scam

The first known use of scam was in 1963

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with scam

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scam

Spanish Central: Translation of scam

Nglish: Translation of scam for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scam for Arabic Speakers

Comments on scam

What made you want to look up scam? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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