How to Spot an Online Scam with these 7 Warning Signs

Online Scam Featured

The Internet is full of useful information and various sites offering a host of services to make your life easier, but then there are also many types of scammers patiently waiting online to catch you unaware with a new Internet scam. It can often be difficult to distinguish honest online transactions from the scammers. Here are seven warning signs that you are getting scammed.

1. Fishy Email or Site

The first thing you should check on an email from an unknown sender is the site they claim to belong to. If the domain name at the end of their email address does not exactly match the name of their site – for example, the address has an extra dash or special character – the mail sender is a scammer.

Internet Email Virus

Similarly, check out the site that the sender claims to be communicating on behalf of. Was the domain registered for the site only a few months before? Is the domain registered offshore or with a privately hosted site? These are warning signs that the sender of the email has set up a fake Web presence.

2. Fake Contact Number

Sometimes a scammer will include a phone number in their email for you to talk to their organization directly. Most recipients of such emails never bother with this number. Don’t be one of those people. Call the number to find out if it is legitimate. Nine times out of ten, the number is fake or has no connection to the contents of the email you received.

3. The Offer of Money

Internet Lottery Fake

Nothing gets a person’s interest quicker than the offer of money. Scammers are aware of this fact and make sure to offer some means of getting rich quick. This often takes a form of the classic “You’ve won first prize! Complete the registration to get the money today!” But the bait can also take the form of the offer of a lucrative job, an easy loan payment system, etc.

4. Asking for Personal Information

All of the above lies are usually meant to do one thing, which is to get you to share your personal information. The information can take many forms, such as your passwords, your home address or your social security number. This is the valuable information that most scammers are after. Once they get this info, they can sell it to the highest bidder or use it to commit crimes in your name.

5. Sinister Consequences Are Implied

Sometimes the promise of money is not enough to move people. That is when the scammer changes tactics and tries to play on your fears. Since most people who use the Internet are hardly experts on how computers or the Internet work, they are likely to believe the lies told by the scammer.

These lies include telling the recipient that there is a virus in your computer that will delete all your information if you don’t download their antivirus or suggesting that you have partaken in some illegal online activity and need to produce your personal details to avoid jail time.

6. Add Some Urgency

Internet Phishing

In many cases, scammers will put some sort of a time limit on their offer. This is to allow less time for you to cross-check their claims. They might tell you that their offer is only valid for a few hours or that you are competing with many other participants and need to act quickly to get the prize, whether it’s a job. free money or to avoid jail.

7. Too Good to Be True

If you get the feeling that the sender’s offer is too good to be true, it probably is. A lot of scammers prefer to lay it on really thick, hoping the promise of an absurdly large amount of riches will do enough to cloud your judgment. So you may get the offer of a job that only require a few hours of work from home a week to earn a six-figure salary, or you may be offered access to a wondrous, unheard-of new medicine that promises to cure all your ailments completely and without the need of going to an actual doctor.

In Conclusion

The Internet is full of quick fixes and easy solutions, and it is up to you to use your common sense to understand when an online merchant is offering you a scammy deal. Be careful not to open any files or documents sent over by such people, since these attachments almost certainly carry some sort of virus or malware.

Image Credit: Michael Holdcroft via Flickr

Neeraj Chand Neeraj Chand

Content writer with a keen interest in global technology and pop culture trends.


  1. All seven are red flags. However, #1 is the most important. If you do not recognize the sender’s name, especially if the URL is convoluted, it does not matter what the body says, it is a scam. You should declare the email as SPAM and delete it permanently. There is no point in doing any detective work. It is a waste of time.

    “2. Fake Contact Number
    Call the number to find out if it is legitimate.”
    Under NO circumstances call the number provided in the email. If you do, you are only confirming for the scammers that they have found a live one. The scammers are looking for ANY kind of response. If you simply delete the email in question, the scammers will not know what happened to the email.

    “3. The Offer of Money”
    If you’re greedy enough to believe that some random entity in a foreign country is willing to give you money just because they like you, you deserve to be scammed.

    “4. Asking for Personal Information”
    There is a reason it is called “personal information”, it is for your personal knowledge only.

    “5. Sinister Consequences Are Implied”
    If you let the charade go on this far, you are very naive. Report the threat to the police. Are the scammers going to send out a hit squad after you???

    “6. Add Some Urgency”
    Do you run out and purchase every product whose ad screams “The sale ends TODAY!!!”?

    “In Conclusion”
    If you do not recognize the sender’s name, do not bother to even consider the other six points.

  2. Latest scam I received involved their having downloaded a video of me watching porn which they’ll send to everyone on my ‘contact list’ if I don’t send them 995.00 US dollars … Except I do not have a camera on my desktop, and my laptop camera eye is firmly taped over and especially I have never, ever watched porn on the internet.

    1. PhotoShop is a wonderful application. :-)

      Have you actually seen the video or are the scammers only claiming that they have one? I assume you have contacted the authorities?

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