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Top 10 Online Scams and How to Prevent Becoming a Victim

With the difficult economic times, throughout the globe, people are more easily fooled when there is a chance to receive extra income. Nowadays, people spend more time online and find themselves flooded with offers that seem to be a godsend . Nevertheless, work from home or the classic pyramid schemes are still as shady as they were in the seventies. With dwindling bank accounts and the rising cost of living, we all can be easier pray for the foes that seek the little money we have left.  It is easy to label a scam victim as ignorant and uninitiated but in most instances it is not the case. Scam artists are constantly perfecting their craft as this black industry is removing billions of dollars from the world’s economy.

The fact is that people do fall for these scams and I will highlight the top ten most notorious scams found online.

1) Fake checks Scams

Being a job seeker, like a great deal of people today, I take to the online career sites such as the notorious craigslist. Applying for a web designer position, more often then not, I only to receive an email telling me that the job has been filled. But wait. My resume was so impressive that I would be the perfect fit as a personal assistant. All I have to is pick up things from the post office and send them to him. This is the classic check fraud. The scam artist sends too much money in the form of a check. Checks take time to clear. He requests the difference refunded. You happily do it for such a kind person. The check bounces and then the bank takes the whole amount from you. In a nutshell the scammer sends bad money. You send him good money.

2) Advance-fee Scams

This is a extremely popular scam that has originated in Nigeria. In fact, this is what is known as a 419 scam, the section of the Nigerian penal code which prohibits gaining money by false pretenses. Unfortunately, Nigerian authorities seem not to be very interested in enforcing this law.

Almost everyone I know received an email from a Nigerian prince who has ten million dollars in frozen assets and has chosen you to help him get the money out of the bank. After speaking to the kind person, one discovers that a fee is required for the paperwork. So the victim sends a small amount of money only to find that another glitch in the system that requires additional fees. This cycle continues until the victim is  out thousands of dollars and in too deep to quit.

Despite the very poor English contained within the email, people continue to fall for this scam. It is not unheard of for people to loose hundreds of thousands of dollars taking out second mortgages on their house and advancing fees on their credit card to feed the hungry scam artist.

3) Mortgage Foreclosure scams

Get out of debt. Avoid foreclosure and fix your house while your’e at it. Sounds good and they are just in the nick of time to help. Therefore, one corresponds with a person claiming to be a mortgage banker or consultant.

Overlooking the often less then perfect English, in this scam as well as many other scams, is something one that should be a huge red flag. Although many disingenuous Americans are jumping on the scam train, this one is found to be prevalent in Russia, India and Nigeria. Personal information is what they seek and they even went as far as getting people to sign over their house.

4) Credit Repair/Debt Consolidation/Negotiation scams

Banking institutions, mortgage companies and a maraud of other institutions, that could provide credit to everyone with an empty wallet, over extended themselves when the economy was stable. Unfortunately, bubbles burst and it left a huge number of people in debt. Enter a new market niche for the scam artists. They present offers to restore one’s credit. Unfortunately, it is a way for them to get personal information and take money stating that they are settling debts while nothing is done as the scam artist, one’s pride and their money disappear into oblivion.

Beware of those that promise that your credit can be fixed immediately. That is impossible.

5) Work at Home Scams

This is a swindle seen in every category on craigslist and. when I checked my spam folder, a huge percentage of the unwanted emails where there as well. Housewives, retired people and an increasing number of people who just can’t find work are the targets of this billion dollar industry. They promise large sums of money for only a few hours of work. The advertisements may be for data entry from home, secret shopper jobs or meerly exclaim “legitimate work from home opportunities.” They often ask for  a fee to get started and promise all the materials will be sent. In twenty years I haven’t seen a legit work-at-home opportunity. This scam began way before the conception of the internet and it works well for the scammers. Unfortunately, legitimate work from home jobs do not exist.

For a more in-depth look at the the “work at home” scam, please visit

6) Phishing scams

Here is a relatively new scam that seeks out your personal information. It is usually done from eastern European countries. Often they setup websites to look like a reputable institution such as a bank, retail chain or mailing service ,such as; UPS, USPS and FedEx. The spam emails usually contains a company’s logo. What they seek is vital information containing passwords, credit card numbers or even social security numbers.

No established institution on the planet (although, one may be found in a far-away galaxy) will ever ask you for personal information through email. Never click on a link to a website from these emails and always look at the URL (displaced in most browsers when hovering over the link. Usually on the left-hand bottom corner of your screen,) and one will discover a very strange address.

Also note that companies do not send out emails full of grammatical errors and misspelled words.

7) Mystery/Secret Shoppers scams

Another scam that targets job seekers, stay at home moms and the elderly. You can find this scam all over career websites such as: Monster, Craigslist and CareerBuilder. What one can expect is a fake cashier’s check and a request to shop for a few items. Pay no attention to free money in the mail. Scoff and toss it in the garbage. Just like a check scam it may take a while before the bank catches on. The lost money will have to be returned to the bank which is sure to charge exorbitant fees for the trouble.

8) Yellow pages or Directory service or SEO(search Engine optimization) scams

This is one especially targeted at webmasters and business owners. Back in the early ninety’s there were companies that offered to register your website with numerous search engines. Since Google has taken over the world swindlers can’t use this claim anymore. A greater sophistication to this pre-Google serpent has slithered into the world of local directory registration and SEO optimization.

This type of scam comes from hackers using worms to gather information from web hosting services.   I see this one so much in WordPress’s junk mail box but also receive email spam and even phone calls. They will take your money but will do nothing and vanish back under their rock.

Please note, if you have a website, remove what is called “footprints”. They are the named links; such as, “contact us”, “leave a reply”, “Just another WordPress site” etc. If you are comfortable removing these yourself be careful and backup beforehand. Otherwise, it will be worth it talking to your webmaster about this.

9) Government Job Finder Websites scams

According to the FTC the US government will never charge money to access employment opportunities. Yet, this a very profitable industry for scam artists. They set up websites, post on job boards or even send out spam emails. The catch is that you have to go to their website and enter personal information and sometimes they are so bold as to charge a fee.

Try checking the legitimate online sources and see if the same jobs are there. I would bet they are not.

10) Weight-loss Product scams

Americans love fast food. Unfortunately, it does not reciprocate that love in anything other making the scale sigh when we get on it. Baseball is no longer america’s favorite pastime. It is eating. The FTC states that if a company makes claims that two pounds or more per week for a month without dieting is absolutely a scam. Quickest way to lose weight, weight loss aids, acupuncture for weight loss, drastic weight loss. These phrases are just a few that emails and web pages contain that try to lure a person that wants to shed weight and their poor self image quickly.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all scams and with every blink of the eye a new fraudulent scheme arises. My rule of thumb is: Everything is a scam until I can research it and prove otherwise. Scams are costing consumers billions of dollars a year, so please do not feed this animal.

Unfortunately, once you are scammed, unless your loses are in the millions, you will receive little help. To report internet fraud is one thing. To have success in recovering money is near impossible. Everyone has a reaction to fraudulent emails and other solicitations. Some get angry, some laugh at the puerile attempts at lifting money from us and, then there those like me. The scam baiters, who will relentlessly waste a scammer’s time and getting a trophy. This is often in the form of funny picture of the scammer or a death treat (they are empty but very funny.) Nevertheless, just don’t get scammed.


About the Author

About Thomas

Thomas Duda is a web designer who lives in Bakersfield, CA with his wife and dogs. He is also interested in: Blogging, Writing, Vaping, Fishing, Swimming and Drawing.


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