How to: Recognize online scams and fraud


  • Big Promises
    • Claims, such as "Make money in your spare time", "Earn thousands per week!" or "guaranteed income" are almost always sure signs of a scam.
    • Excellent opportunities sell themselves, they don't need to be sold to you through big time pressure and promises of riches.
  • High Pressure Tactics
    • For instance, "sign up now or the price will increase". Again, a legitimate deal probably isn't going to move as fast as your money.
    • Don't let yourself be pressured, think things through. It's no different than dealing with door to door salespeople.
  • Prizes
    • Promises of prizes and money almost always come with catches, or are blatant lies. Watch in particular for "prizes" where you have to pay something up front to claim it (that includes postage fees).
  • Requests for financial information
    • There are only a few real reasons anyone could need your credit card number, the main one being that you are making an online purchase.
    • If so, ensure it is a reputable merchant and that the information is being encrypted.
    • Some sites claim to need credit card numbers as proof of age.
    • A credit card number is not proof of age, and credit card theft on the Internet using these tactics is skyrocketing.
    • Do not give your number out if you don't know exactly who you are giving it to and have a means of recourse if something goes wrong. See the online shopping section for more.
  • The word, "FREE"
    • When you see the word "free", you should expect a catch, if not outright lying.
    • Always view this word warily, especially when it shows up in spam and on unreputable websites.
    • Some sites will offer you access to content for "free" if you provide a credit card number as proof of age.
    • As stated above, a credit card number is not proof of age and what the number could be used for once you give it up is probably not worth the risk.
  • Having to send money before receiving a product
    • This is particularly the case with "Online Auctions". Take extreme caution when participating in "Internet Auctions".
    • Be sure to use an escrow service.
    • Auctions comprise the most commonly reported method of Internet fraud.
    • For an excellent brief on other methods of Fraud and signs to look for, visit the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection pages.
  • Finally, remember the old saying, "if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is."

NOTE: The bottom line is that no reputable financial organization, corporation, or organization will request sensitive information from you via electronic mail. Your best defense is the "Delete" button and effective use of spam filters.