When looking to buy a product or service from someone online, there are steps you can take to keep from being scammed. You can get an amazing deal on some items if you know where to look. But sometimes these deals jump out in front of you and are seemingly too good to be true. This is your first sign that the great deal is either not true, or deserves more investigation.
When an offer comes looking for you, you should become a skeptic and think through some of these points. There are plenty of scams on the Internet for you to stumble into, but many online scams come looking for their victims instead of the other way around. The fact that a deal comes to you is the first clue that something may not be completely honest.
Not all online scams will come looking for you though. It is possible that you are searching for a certain service and land upon the deal of the century. Remember that you probably found the offer as a result of an online search. Spend a few more minutes finding out more about the company or individual before diving in.
You may receive an email (or phone call) telling you that you have won a lottery in which you never bought a ticket. Or you may be contacted to help out a person in need. Usually these requests have a simple set of steps you have to go through to cash in your part for helping.
Steps to Avoid Online Scams
Credit: kahle @ MorgueFileTrust your instincts. Legitimate sellers concerned for their customers are not pushy and confrontational. Scammers don't have the time nor patience to give good customer service. They either won't answer your questions or won't answer honestly. If your immediate thought is that something does not seem right, it probably isn't. This concept is covered in detail in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink.
Research the seller or company online. Try to get an idea of their reputation. If it is a service, then ask for reviews and samples of their work. For example, online marketers should have plenty of examples on the Internet that they can point you to. This lets you see their production quality. Marketplaces which allow buyers to rate sellers are a good place to dig around for information about the person making the offer.
Be aware of high up-front payments. Con artists and scammers who try to make quick money will insist on doing a big transaction if possible. They are not willing to wait for you to get a sample of their work by ordering a smaller amount. But you should still be cautious even if you do a small transaction first. Online scams that are well planned may be willing to take their time to pull you in for a larger amount. With smaller transactions you risk little even if they do scam you for the smaller amount.
Don't let emotions alter your judgment. A good con artist knows how to play on people's emotions and passions. Try to explain the offer to someone else who is not emotionally attached to the deal. They can look at things with a greater sense of clarity and help you think through some of the pitfalls before you.
Don't make a hasty decision. If the deal is a good deal now, it will still be a good deal tomorrow after you think about the opportunity. Online scams play up the urgency of the offer. This does not mean that everything that has a time limitation is a scam, but many people perpetrating a scam are not patient.
Check out the prices for similar goods and services. Be wary if the offer you are given is considerably lower than the price other people are offering the same service. Knowing what you should pay for said service or product will help you avoid inferior goods. This is where seeing samples of the person's work will help you make a more informed decision.
Don't install any software at the person's request until you can completely vet the situation. Having to install software to get the information you need is a tip that something is not legitimate. Many online scams which spread through social networking sites like Facebook require that you grant access to applications to see a video or get more info. Is giving up your personal information worth being able to see a steamy video?
A person who is legitimate will not mind you asking lots of questions and insisting to get more information. However, someone trying to pull off an online scam will get uncomfortable or become impatient with your questions. Be insistent. If the one selling the service gets irritable, even if they are legitimate, they are proving that they aren't the type of person you want to work with.
The biggest thing to remember is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts. Do your research and insist on seeing reviews or samples of the person's work. Keep your wit's about you and take your time thinking through the offer. Then do your friends and family a favor by warning them of the type of online scam that someone tried to pull over on you. You could save them from some heartache.
DPeach, Certainly a well written piece about this historically large scale problem. The future doesn't look much better and due dilligance is the only safety net we have.
You offer a great deal of insight into the things we as consumers can do on line to protect our transactions.
Thumbs up all the way on this one from me!!
Thanks for the comment dreamaker! Scams have been going on for years. Whether it is in the mail, on the phone or through the Internet, people need to adapt and realize there are con men eagerly awaiting to take their money.
Thanks opamp. I appreciate your praise for this piece, but appreciate more your contribution to making it into an article.
For those who don't know, I got the original idea from a forum post by opamp. The foundational points of this article come from opamp.
Most of us should take a little time to think about the risk and to take dpeach's advice. If I look for it, then I can click on valid sites. If I get anything in the email, I don't click. I go to their site and initiate the process myself.
That is a good point. Never click on a link in an email that will ask you to log into a website like your bank. You should go to your bank's website because you typed in the address yourself. Links in emails can be masked and used to trick you into giving your login information to the bad guys.
I agree that there are a lot of scams online and if you are a newbie in making money online you can fall for everything. Most of these scams look the same, they all are the best options available and they all have just few places left. And the price is always mentioned as Amazing and Limited offer. I always make deep review of the site before I join the system. The first thing I do is google keywords site.com+scam and see what others are saying.
Add my vote for featured article as well. People can also fact-check with snopes.com regarding suspicious emails that are hoaxes just trying to get your personal information when requesting that, for example: "you forward this email to everyone in your address book" for whatever reason...a missing child or some horror like breaking into your vehicle just to get the "Home Info" from your GPS or being snatched up at the gas pump. The world is not an innocent one anymore.
Great information which should help prevent someone from being caught out. Although some online scammers are so clever we have to really be on the ball. Thanks for sharing this important subject and bringing it to many more peoples attention
I am normally very alert for online scams. But some time back, I was casually surfing and all of a sudden a warning box popped up saying that your computer is infected with a virus and that you need to download this extra security add-on. At first I ignored it and then it came up again and again.
I thought maybe it is my anti-virus software that is giving me this message and asking me to install a security patch.
So I clicked it. Guess what... Immediately after clicking it, I knew I had done a grave mistake... Something just downloaded too fast for me to notice
And then my problems started. Warnings started popping up here and there everywhere... I had to shut down the internet and my computer... It was mentally torturing..
Finally I called the tech guy. I was lucky my computer was booting... I don't know what I'd have done if it was not booting at all...
I had to format my hard disk and re-install everything... It was a very hard time...
So thanks for this article... and guys beware... Don't click anything that is unfamiliar.. Better safe than sorry
Those pop-ups can look very convincing. I see them on occasion on my computer, but I always know they are fake. Because I use Linux as my operating system, and those pop-ups look just like Windows, I know it is a scam. But every time I see one, I think about my parents. I fear that they will be duped into the mess that you experienced.
It is good to point out that these types of scams exist.
Sorry you had to go through that mess.
HI NetBizTips, I had exactly the same problem with my computer; it was supposed to be "home security 2012"; trying to pass as an antivirus but requesting money to clear all the virus on my computer. I have friends who work in IT and they managed to cleared it without having to format my hard disk; it took them just 5 min.
very helpful considering the high risk of getting conned online. many people especially in this part of the world (Africa) have fallen victim to this mainly because of a limited knowledge base and their naive outlook to the internet. Thanks so much, great article
Scammers are getting cleverer and cleverer. I received emails from what appeared to be facebook telling me i havent logged in in a while and that I had 44 new notifications( I logged in that morning and I knew I didn't have that many notifications) Thing is the link looked like a facebook link.
Another one to look out for is calls. I got a call from my mobile phone service provider asking if I wanted to avail of better deals. Now this could have been legitimate and it probably was but like you said in the article "trust your instincts". The girl seemed a little pushy and after ringing me sheasked me to confirm my name and address??!!!?!. At this point I said i was busy and would call them back.
I just wasn't sure so better safe than sorry and trust your instincts.
I had a similar phone call a couple of years ago. It was a legitimate problem at my bank, but to make sure I wasn't getting scammed I asked the lady to give me the phone number to the bank and what I needed to do to get connected with her when I called the bank back. She gave me the number and I was able to confirm that it really was the phone number to the bank and was able to get reconnected with her to straighten out the problem. But when people call me I tend to be leery of the call.
Some good tips here - especially about big up front payments. I've found that many people have been scared off "making money online/from home" simply because they were ripped off by someone selling the information that they could've got from a Google search.
I think it is best to get your feet wet with all the free information you can get when starting a new venture. After you learn how things work on a basic level then you can start looking at buying products and services that will help you. But jumping in immediately by buying a high-dollar product is often a mistake. The product may not even be a scam, but also may not be necessary.
Thanks for the comment.
My problem is that my instincts tell me everything is a scam.
The phone is easier because when you call out you know who you called but when someone calls you you don't know who they are.
The internet is different, in that even if you found them it could very well be a scam. Good thoughts in your article of things to think about.
Of course not everything is a scam, but if you treat everything as if it were, you will probably be better off. I know some people who trust too much for their own good. That is what the scammers are hoping for.