Top 10 Ways to Spot an Online Scam
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
This includes the most obvious scams offering windfalls from out of nowhere. Examples are: offers for “unclaimed money” in your name, an inheritance from a mysterious dead relative, being approved for a loan you never applied for, winning a sweepstakes or lottery, or being selected for some kind of high dollar prize that requires that you pay “shipping and handling” only.
For anything suspicious, DO A GOOGLE SEARCH FIRST. Chances are you’re not the first person to get targeted, and other people have discussed it online. Search name of the offer plus the word “scam”, and you’ll get an idea pretty quickly if it’s legit or if people have been ripped off.
If someone says you can make enormous piles of money fast, or with no effort, they’re wrong.
Think about. Why would anyone give away “secrets” that let you get incredibly rich incredibly fast with no effort? There are a ton of scams online like this, and these scammers are the lowest of lowlives looking to profit from people who are desperate. Usually they’ll say just enough to get your attention, promising you instant wealth. After they’ve hooked you, they’ll ask for a “small” start-up fee for the next level, usually hundreds or thousands of dollars. They promise this money will be refunded if their fool-proof system doesn’t work. Guess what? It won’t.
This just isn’t realistic. Scammers like this are selling a fantasy, and taking money from people who really need it. Again, if you have questions about a “method” or special class or system, google the name plus the word “scam” and you’ll see what people really think.
Miracle Cures Don’t Exist
Magic crystals, miracle elixirs, life-saving potions, energy-charged candles and magnets, and other overhyped and unregulated medical products aren’t going to fix you. The vast majority of this stuff is completely unregulated by the USDA. If you’re worried about a supplement or treatment, google the name and “scam”. You can also google the name and “experiences” to read about user experiences.
It’s true, some people experience things like miracles in their lives. Unexpected recovery, narrowly escaping danger….I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, I’m just saying it’s not something you can buy. If a medicine or supplement works, it’s because of something biological and scientific, or the placebo-effect.
Unprofessional Email Domains
If the business or opportunity uses a free email address like hotmail, aim, yahoo, or gmail, it may be spam. Especially if it’s an email from someone saying you’ve inherited something – that should always be from a professional, not personal, domain, like an attorney’s office.
Grammatical Errors Everywhere
You don’t need to be an English major to see bad grammar. A lot of scammers are in different countries (like Nigeria and India), and English is not their first language. That means their emails and websites will have more errors. This is a very clear red flag. If an email or website is from a supposed professional source, it should be free of grammar and punctuation errors.
Emails Asking For Private Information
Many scammers are trying to get their hands on your bank account or actual identity. They will typically ask you for personal information. A common scenario is an email asking you to click on a link to confirm your bank details and password. The catch? It’s not from your bank. You’re better off calling your bank than responding to the email.
Emails with Mysterious Attachments
Never click on a suspicious email attachment, especially if it’s from a sender you don’t know. This is one of the main ways scammers hack into your computer, with viruses, malware, and trojans. Luckily most email programs pre-scan attachments, but some still manage to get through. NEVER click on an .exe file attachment unless you’re absolutely sure about it.
Penny Stocks and Binary Options
A binary option is a financial option where the payoff is either some fixed amount or nothing at all. Binary options are investigated for fraud in the US all the time, and outright illegal or classified as gambling by some countries. A penny stock is a risky kind of stock where the value per share is less than $5. Each of these kinds of trading is unregulated and a scammer swamp! If you aren’t an investor and know nothing about investing: AVOID these get rich quick schemes. They might work for a few people but are a losing bargain for the vast majority of players. You’re better off investing in an index fund of the entire stock market, a tried and tested form of investing, than anything that promises to double or triple your money overnight.
A lot of time scammers will hype their secret “method” or magic formula, and when it’s time for the reveal, it’s nothing more than penny stocks or binary options.
Don’t accept cashier’s checks & bank drafts when selling stuff online
Many scammers prey on sites like Craigslist, on sellers who are usually just ordinary people trying to sell their stuff. These scammers will target someone selling an expensive item, ask the seller to hold onto it for an additional fee, and then offer to pay in a bogus cashier’s check. Craigslist has a very helpful guide on what to look out for when buying and selling.
The offer or opportunity is on a timer
Scammers put pressure on potential victims to ACT NOW. This is true whether they’re trying to sell you something, or trying to get you to act on an opportunity. People make bad, impulsive decisions when under pressure, and legit salespeople and scammers BOTH capitalize on this fact of human nature.
What this means is that if you see a big TIMER or a COUNTDOWN or are even just getting a ton of pressure in your communication with someone to act fast, you need to do the opposite. Slow down. Think about it. What’s so important that they would need your action or response right now? Is it because they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes, so they can scam as many people as possible and vanish with the cash? When you see ACT NOW, you need to do exactly the opposite and think more about your choice. Most legit opportunities and products will be there tomorrow. The sun will rise tomorrow, too. If someone really wants your business, or your services, make them wait. This will help reinforce the legitimacy of the offer, and help protect you from the all-too-human inclination to fold under pressure.