Hey there fellow sea changers and welcome to my latest post outlining 10 ways to spot an online scam. This post was prompted by a discussion that I had with some friends of mine the other night over some birthday beers. The conversation started when one of the guys showed us a text message he received telling him that he had won 10,000,000 pounds in the Great British lottery (which is interesting considering we live in Australia). He was given a number to call – which he didn’t – and we joked around for a while about how they will need his bank details etc. so he had better call. The conversation then went to how people could be silly enough to be caught in these scams.
I was then explaining that some of the scams you see in the online world that weren’t as easy to identify as they are not as overt as those text messages. In many cases, it is not until you have spent some cash that you realise that you are not going to get what you have been promised, or paid for. They are not as easy to spot and easier to fall for so how do we identify them? So I have done some research, thought back to my own experiences and come up with some things we can look for.
It should be noted here however that the following information is not designed to stop you making online purchases. And in many cases, programs that fall short on one of the following tests can still be worthwhile and provide exactly what it is that you think you are purchasing. So let’s have a run through of the things to look for before you get that credit card out…
1. Wild claims
We have all seen these – “Click below and earn $1000 in your first week!” Those sites that claim that they can help you make thousands immediately are ones where great care is needed. By all means you can make large amounts of money in this online world but those of you who have read some of my other posts will note that I often comment that earning money online is a long term process that takes consistent input over an extended period of time.
What to look for:
- Outlandish claims of instant wealth – These are always a red flag.
- Sites offering to sell you their super secret ‘system’ that will guarantee you to start making immediate cash. The system does work, however it only works by getting as many people as possible to give them money without providing anything of any value. I mean, if these systems worked, we would all be millionaires…
- Survey sites that harbour claims of earning $1000s per hour – these are not necessarily a scam, but you generally have to do a LOT more surveys than outlined to make any money – i.e. at a couple of dollars per survey you are going to be there a while.
2. Focus on recruitment not products
This is a common focus of some – not all – Multi Level Marketing (MLM) sites and is a major hurdle for affiliate marketers. MLM sites (essential oils, Tupperware, Arbone etc.) work as a hierarchical process where you can join, then promote a product that others can purchase as a subordinate of yours meaning that you get commissions for their sales, and those underneath them (pyramid anyone?). There are usually minimum monthly spend amounts to get commissions however most, whilst difficult to get a good footing in, are fairly transparent and legitimate. However, there are many others that are not so above board…
What to look for:
- Sites that promote the opportunity to make money via on selling rather than the product itself.
- Sites that threaten to cancel your membership if you don’t recruit a certain number of new members.
- Sites where the product being offered is of little value or non-existent.
- The receipt of emails or phone calls within seconds of signing up telling you how to recruit others.
3. No value in low cost options
Value ladders are a common online marketing process – especially where sales funnels are involved. The idea is that you offer a reader a low cost entry into your site and then offer higher value up sells as they run through the sales process. For example, you might offer a book for $17, then an online course for $57, then higher level focus group activities for $197 all the way up to your uber high quality mastermind group for $1997. This is a very effective method as long as there is value at each step. Sadly, this is not always the case.
What to look for:
- Bait and switch programs where access to the mastermind group training is offered for $17 only to realise that once you pay you are then given a super ‘special’ price for that level of training. I.e. the $17 was only to get you in and does not offer what was advertised.
- Poor quality initial offer – If the initial offer does not provide clear value, then chances are that the rest will not either. Look for quality all the way.
4. Spelling mistakes and bad grammar
We all make typos from time to time, but constant spelling mistakes and bad grammar – especially in opt in emails – should be a big warning sign that all is not on the up and up. This is mostly due to the fact that the people who write these emails do not speak English as their first language and therefore make basic English errors. Now, I am certainly not saying that everybody who creates an English website from a non-English speaking country is looking to scam you but if you do see this, check out the website and maybe send an email to the main contact and see what you get back. If you get a real person who can elaborate on the questions you have about their product then they could be good. If not, walk away.
What to look for:
- Too many spelling mistakes – especially with the nuances of the English language – There instead of their, weather instead of whether etc.
- Writing that is not grammatically correct- again, if we can all write a bad sentence, but if the whole email/site is written that way, then do some further research.
- Emails with large blocks of text pasted from another site or book – usually waaayyy down the bottom where people don’t usually scroll. This is to try and avoid spam blockers that check for grammar and word quality. – Same goes for emails with Latin sentences included.
- Invalid or non-existent address or contact information within the email signatory block
5. Payment details wanted immediately
This is another tricky one as many programs will obviously want payment for their services. However, many (but not all) companies will offer free trial periods or low barrier entry options without the need for immediate payment. That is not to say that companies that don’t offer this are shonky (I have purchased some extremely good packages without a free option) but if you think they are asking for $$ too quickly, then maybe look into things a little more…
What to look for:
- Requests for payment without the ability to review a demo or example documentation.
- Payment pages that continuously pop up on the screen.
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6. They want you to download software
If you are actually purchasing software, then you can probably skip this one. However, if you are looking at online courses, information or products and you are asked to download a piece of software that seems irrelevant, then it probably is.
What to look for:
- Sites that ask you to download executable files so that you can access their ‘system’.
- Downloads that don’t seem relevant, or unnecessary for your purchase – such as a special PDF reader etc.
- Sites that ask you to download a special browser so that you can view their online materials.
7. Websites with little substance
Again, we have discussed in a number of posts about the time taken to build a website and have it rank effectively within search engines. Some operators however are able to ‘trick’ search engines (usually not for very long) into higher rankings just long enough to draw you in to their money making scam before they are shut down. These websites usually have very little substance to them apart from the screens you have found in your search and payment options.
What to look for:
- Websites without any privacy, ‘about me’ or personal information.
- Sites with very few pages and little information.
- Sites with lots of ‘filler’ pages with text that makes little to no sense.
- No other online presence – i.e. no social media, online reviews, individual post rankings etc.
Note: As soon as a website has been created and published, it can be found in search engines. If you happen across a new site, then obviously it will be ‘light’ on content. In this case, look for the personal contact information and send an email or internal message and see what response you get.
8. No one to talk to
As per above, if you cannot get in contact with anybody, then there is a good chance you are not on a good page.
What to look for:
- Too much automation – Automation is a great thing on a website but if everything you receive is automated – then dig little deeper.
- No personal contact at all – Especially if you ask for it and just get more automated emails.
- No response to questions about the product or service.
- Invalid or no phone details.
- Invalid or no address information.
- No interaction with on-site comments.
9. Reviews and feedback
The internet can be an unforgiving place and there are many who are willing to let others know if they are not happy. If you are unsure about any purchase, look for reviews and feedback from others.
What to look for:
- A very high rate of poor reviews – most companies get some, but you can usually tell where there are issues.
- Lack of response to online reviews from the company/vendor.
- A high rate of reviews where customers complain of poor quality, being ripped off, no personal response or being scammed.
10. Gut feel
And the last one – what does your gut tell you? I know for me this is usually the first sign that I am not somewhere where I really want to be in terms of online purchases. Usually it is to do with one of the signs outlined in items 1 to 9 above, but it is my gut that makes me look that little bit harder.
Scammers are good at hiding their craft and some of the things we have discussed here will not always stick out until you take the time to look. If your gut doesn’t;t feel right, do not enter your credit card until you have looked a little deeper.
So there you have it, 10 things you can look into to make sure you are not about to be the next person scammed on the internet. And I repeat, please don’t take this post as a reason not to purchase online as there is a whole raft of valuable, helpful and downright awesome packages out there… Just take some time to be careful first.
Have you been scammed or is there anything else that you look for? If so, please comment below and I can add it to the post.
Are you looking for a program to help you build your website that is definitely not a scam?
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Until next time
Note: If you make a purchase from this page, there is a very good chance that I make a commission from it – these commissions do not increase your sale price.
16 thoughts on “10 Ways to Spot an Online Scam”
I totally agree with the ways listed here to identify these scam sites. There has been a growing amount of these fake sites today, so I see the urge to enlighten everyone on how to identify such sites as important. Recruitment, wild claims are constantly noticeable on these sites. There is also the issue of false owners and testimonies as well. I hope people learn from the article. Best regards.
Hi, thank you for the information in this post. I agree completely, there are many scams out there that need to be filtered out from ‘real opportunity’ and it is very easy to fall for well-presented scams. You have provided some great actionable steps here to help & enable people to protect themselves and that is valuable.
Glad it was helpful – thanks for commenting
I think you have checked the most important one. The number one you mention is the single most usual claim when i look at a scam site. I don’t know if people still fall for it but it is so obvious when someone claims that you can make a bucketload of money in a few days that i think even scammers shouldn’t use it anyone. It’s like shouting out loud they are fake. But anyway I think you cover all the basic ones. Good read.
Youo are right Stratos, but they still do it – I found a new release product just yesterday that did exactly that. Sadly people must fall for them or else they wouldn’t exist.
Thanks for commenting
Thank you for this comprehensive guide on how to spot and avoid online scams. This will help a lot of people know what is good and what is not among the number of opportunities popping up online. Empowerment is the key to prevent people from falling prey to scams.
I recently joined a site that promises to teach people online entrepreneurship but when I get there inside their dashboard, all I see are sale pitches asking their members to invest in email safe list offers and solo ads. They even have their active members pressured me via Live Chat to upgrade from being a free member to a paid member.
Are you familiar with World Profit? Maybe you can also create a review of that site.
Hey Gomer, no, I havent heard of that one but will check it out for sure.
Thanks for stopping by
Great that you have outlined what to look for. I loathe sites that claim to have secret system yet we all know that there is no secret when it come to making real sustainable online income. It is sad that people, especially newbies fall for such claims. I have fallen for baits that promise high value insights only to be bombarded with more upsells into what I actually thought I had purchased in the first place.Thank you for these great reminder to help us avoid scams.
Sadly you are right, there are a lot of them out there.
Hi, This is a valuable article and one that I believe should be read by everybody who is considering joining an online program. There are indeed many scams out there and this post provides some great examples of what to look out for. While researching an opportunity a while back, I came across some very negative posts concerning the owner of a business. I dug deeper and discovered that these particular posts were not entirely correct and indeed it could be argued that they slandered the owner. In other words, we need to look both ways when looking at potential opportunities because comments can become distorted. While the writers of those negative posts may have been writing ‘their truth’, it may not always be factually correct. The only way to the truth is to dig deep and uncover the information needed to make an informed decision. I have found that legitimate opportunities enable deeper research while scams do not. There’s always going to be somebody out there who has a less than positive experience but that doesn’t necessarily make something a scam. Sorting the wheat from the chaff can be tricky 🙂
hey Steve, absolutely – and I could not agree with you more. I have reviewed a lot of programs – some good – some obvious scams but I always review them from looking within them and not ‘guessing’. I did come across an example of what you are talking about recently.
From the outside the sales page had what I considered over the top promises, there was no actual real identity on the site and there were actually paid testimonials. But once I got into the site, it was really good and helpful with the actual developer showing his face and providing content details. I sent him a message (privately) and outlined why I thought it was a scam and he was actually quite shocked. We have chatted a bit since then.
That said, in my experience, in 99 percent of cases if there are too many of those red flags, the chances of it being a scam are high. On the other side of the fence however, I have purchased programs with no red flags and they turned out to be worthless – not scams as such – just worthless.
In short, absolutely it can be really hard to separate the good and bad at times but I guess we just have to keep looking.
Thaks for your comments
The ways of stop an online scam you have illustrated on your blog, would definitely help many people to avoid being eager to spend money on scamy products or services. I was once unaware of these indications; then whenever there were emails or seeing an Eye-catching advertise I’d started to sing-up and buying the products that was not what in fact I was expected to get first. But now,by reading your helpful post I am confident that applying your tips and instructions into my online activity,It will absolutely helps me to prevent getting involved with scam programs.
The link you have provided about Wealthy Affiliate as a best offer is truly great and I so excited to being a part of this platform.because like you said, there is no Bank account required for registration and this is a clear sign of legitimate program that comply with your instruction laid out in your post. I will share it. Thank you
Let me kow if you need any help once you get in there.
Hello Paul, thank you for seeing the importance of putting this wonderful article up. Scam sites improving on how to hide loopholes which can be used to identify easily they are not legit. But there is always a means at which one can connect the various dots to point them out. I have been involved in so many scam online businesses and I have noticed these signs in almost all of them. They even go as far as paying for testimonies. I’ll share this post for other people to learn .
Thanks Bella, yeah, the paying for testimonies one always fascinates me – I mean, we can see them for ourselves on fiverr… Oh well – All we can do is educate.
Thanks for stopping by