How to Spot an Online Scam


Photo by Timothy Barlin on Unsplash

As we move into a new decade of relying on the internet for absolutely everything, some people have come to believe that the average person is finally becoming smarter than the scammer.

Scammers have been online since the day the internet first launched, and they’ll be there the day the internet is eventually shut down. But they’re not getting tired, they’re just getting warmed up.

Online scamming is moving to the point that the people running the scams are becoming multi-millionaires.

In an age when information about a person is so valuable, scamming has never been more lucrative.
But how can you spot a scam? What should you look out for?

Tell-Tale Signs that you’re being Scammed

The first thing you should remember is that absolutely nothing is free.

There are a million products online that are being given away for free, both physical and electronic.

Physical items can be skincare, fragrances, gadgets and toys. Anything small and inexpensive to ship can be bought in bulk from Ali Express and given away.

Electronic offers can be crappy online video games (usually pornographic), access to certain kinds of porn movies, and downloadable freeware.

Whether physical or electronic, all the scammers want are your personal details and your credit card numbers.

How do they get your details?

They usually get your details through one of two ways.
The first lie is that they’re going to ship you something for free, but all you need to pay is the very small and reasonable shipping cost.

The second lie is that they need to verify your age, so they ask for your credit card details so they can run a check on you.

Whichever lie they use to get your details will seem to make sense.
If they’re sending you a “RRP $200” bottle of perfume, is it unreasonable for them to ask you for $3 to pay for the shipping?

If they’re offering you access to a pornographic video game, shouldn’t they verify your age?

It will always seem reasonable, but the reason is always a lie. They just want your details because they know the value of what you’re giving up.

The first way they use your details

Once they have your credit card details they can bill you.

If you look at the fine print at the bottom of the page that’s scamming you, you’ll almost always see details of a subscription.

If they’re giving you a free cosmetic, they’ll only charge you $3 for the shipping on the day you’ve signed up.
It’s only once you’ve read the terms and conditions that you’ll see that they actually plan on sending you their crappy cosmetic every month, and that starting next month it will cost $80 plus shipping and handling.

But what if they’re doing an “age verification?”

They may not charge you right away, or they may charge you a “test charge” that tests whether the card is real, it’s usually less than a dollar.

They may still sign you up for a subscription fee that usually starts the following month, it’s all in the terms and conditions (usually).

The second way they use your details

They may only want your details for this second purpose because it can actually be more profitable than billing you directly, although they will probably do both.

The second reason is to sell your details to other companies and scammers.

Legitimate companies are always looking for names, ages, and email addresses (for marketing). These scammers will sell those details to everyone that wants them, and will collect a big profit from doing it.

Other scammers want your credit card details, so the scammers will sell those to other scammers.
Your details could be sold and re-sold millions of times before you get a chance to do anything about it.

Photo by Mark OFlynn on Unsplash

How do you avoid being scammed?

  1. Don’t sign up for any free trial of anything. Even for legitimate subscription services, it’s always smarter to go through an intermediary, such as PayPal.
    PayPal have a subscription mechanism that protects you and provides ease to the company that’s billing you.
  2. Don’t ever accept a free offer, even if shipping costs aren’t being added. Even if they don’t ask for your credit card details at all, they’re still going to want your address. Your personal details are insanely valuable, it’s not worth the harassment that’s coming your way once your details are out there.
  3. Don’t use a credit card as a form of age verification. Find another way to get your sexual pleasure. (No judgement).
  4. Don’t trust anyone that doesn’t have a solid reputation and a lot to lose.

If you’ve never heard of the company that’s billing you, that’s not a good sign. Even if the company has been endorsed by a celebrity or YouTuber, that’s not enough proof of legitimacy.

YouTubers are paid affiliate fees to recommend products to you, and most of them won’t turn down a sketchy offer.

If you’ve found a celebrity endorsement online and really trust the celebrity, check their official Twitter/Instagram/Facebook first.

If you’re only reading about the endorcement on a random online article, that isn’t evidence that it’s real. Check on their verified social media pages, and even then, shop through an intermediary like PayPal.

Common Sense?

A lot of people can be really mean to others who are the victims of scams.
They say that the victim should have known better and that they’re a sucker, but I disagree.

Scammers are really smart, and have really cunning ways to trick you. Their websites and articles seem really real, and they’ll entice you or scare you into believing them.

Their tricks are improving all the time, I’m sure there are hundreds of methods I haven’t mentioned because I don’t know about them. So stick to the golden rules.

  1. It’s always better to shop through someone like PayPal who can protect your details
  2. Nothing is free, you either pay with your money or your sanity
  3. Check your credit card statement often, and challenge suspicious transactions no matter how small.

We will never be rid of scammers, but you don’t have to be a victim. Be extra suspicious when giving away any details online, even when something is being endorsed. Even celebrities aren’t above a bribe.

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I’m a well travelled writer who loves nothing more than a well polished video game, an expertly crafted sandwich, and a hot mug of Milo.


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