The Most Common Types of Online Scams

The Most Common Types of Online Scams

The internet can be a blessing for most of us, but there are some cybercriminals who threaten to ruin its usefulness for shopping and information gathering by trying to scam unsuspecting online victims. There are a number of common scams to watch out for. Here are seven of the main ones.

1. Phishing

Phishing is when a cybercriminal contacts you to try to get you to hand over your personal information or money. It might also try to get you to download a virus that infects your computer with malware or opens up a back door so they can steal sensitive data such as your usernames, passwords, account numbers and so on. Phishing happens most often via email, but it can also happen over the phone, via text, and on social media.

In particular, beware of online quizzes on social media. They will often try to get your passwords by asking you common questions so they can then guess your passwords in order to access your accounts and so on. Many people base their passwords on birthdays, children and pet names, and so on, so beware.

Phishing emails usually look legitimate, but pay attention to any landing page you might be sent to. They will usually try to make the site appear the same as the original, such as PayPal, but comparing the two side by side will usually demonstrate which is the scam.

2. Keystroke Software

One form of malware captures all your keystrokes, so it can pretty much log every site you go to, your username, and password. This could be a real disaster in terms of identity theft and money being stolen.

3. Sad Nigerians

Believe it or not, this scam still works on some people. It usually involves an email from a desperate Nigerian asking for help in getting a large amount of money from the bank. Those who get hooked in pay small amounts to get paperwork for the transaction and then finally get the money, but all they are doing is putting money in someone else’s bank account, and possibly even revealing their sensitive financial information.

The scam relies on greed and getting lots of money for very little effort, so remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

4. Greeting Card Scams

There are lots of free greeting card sites online, but they can be very dangerous. The images can carry malware that will attack the recipient’s computer and it will often open up a Trojan horse for them to get more information. If you do have to send an eCard, use a reputable site and watch out for spoof sites, such as clones of

5. Great Loan, Credit Card and Re-Fi Offers

These also play upon greed and/or desperation, especially when people are struggling financially. But no reputable bank is going to send you these offers via email. And if you have a bad credit score, there is also no way you would be offered the best deals, which are reserved for the best customers.

6. Lottery and Contest Scams

These have also been around for some time and still fool people. The email tells you that you are a winner and need to pay a small fee to get your cash or prize.

7. Ransomware

This is a very dangerous scam that is hard to overcome. The ransomware locks your computer until you pay them in bitcoin. The longer you wait to pay, the more money they ask for. So far, even top computer security pros have not been able to restore data or track down the criminals. Note that if you have a backup hard drive connected to your computer, the ransomware can lock that up as well. Back up all your data in a reliable cloud storage system and avoid clicking on anything that does not look legitimate.

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Online Shopping Scams

Online Shopping Scams

Everyone loves to get bargains and enjoys life being as convenient as possible. Online shopping can offer both. However, it can also be a double-edged sword due to the number of online shopping scams that have sprung up. Here are several to keep an eye on.

1. Copied Sites

Many name brands’ sites are being copied in order to trick shoppers into buying from them instead of getting the real deal from the genuine site. At best, you might end up with knockoffs from China. At worst, you might have your identity stolen. Knockoffs cost companies almost one trillion dollars a year, so check out the sites you shop at carefully to make sure they are real.

2. Huge Discounts

Sites that offer huge discounts all the time are suspect because brand-name goods should sell for more and these supposed bargains are more than likely either knockoffs, or lures to spend money but no goods will ever be delivered. Go to Google Shopping to compare prices and then shop around until you find the right item. Avoid the bargain basement — you get what you pay for.

3. A Bad Website

If you see spelling and grammar errors and the whole site looks like it has been thrown together, this is not a site you should be shopping at.

4. Not a Secure Socket Layer (SSL)

Sites with https:// in front of them have an SSL certificate, which is a higher level of security than a regular website. Most scam sites will not bother to get certified.

5. Suspicious Domain Names

In terms of URLs, the brand name and .com extension are preferred and usually a sign of a legitimate site. However, many new extensions have become available, meaning scammers can use the brand names for a time until they are eventually caught. Extensions such as .net, .us, .info and more are all used to create sites that look like the real ones, but aren’t.

6. The Site Was Just Created

Search for the URL at and check the creation date. If it is recent, chances are the site has been started for the express purpose of scamming unsuspecting shoppers.

7. They Don’t Accept Credit or Debit Card Payments

Beware of any site that requires you to pay by wire transfer, pre-paid gift cards, bitcoin or other cryptocurrency. These are not secure methods and in most cases, you will not be able to get your money back.

8. They Ask For Too Much Personal Information

No site should ask you for your social security number or other details that could be used to steal your identity.

9. Their Physical Mailing Address Is Not Legitimate

Thanks to Google and, you can pretty much find any address in the world, see a map of it, and get a Google satellite image of it. If the address does not exist, or the building looks suspicious, don’t shop at that site.

10. No Clear Terms for Doing Business with Them

The site should have terms of service and a refund policy. The refund policy should usually be to refund in full within 30 days. Some states, like Florida, give only 20 days. Full details should be provided on how to return the item and get the refund. Beware of charges like credit card transaction fees and restocking fees, which can take a big bite out of your refund.

11. Bad Reviews

Type in the name of the site or the product you are thinking of buying, and then add the word “scam”. Take seriously all the feedback you find before doing business with that site.

12. Delivery Problems on EBay and Amazon Marketplace

Beware of individual sellers who don’t send your goods. They have either mixed up their inventory levels, or they are running a scam.

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