Need to Know: How to Spot Online Scams


Some online scams are poorly executed and obvious to most people. You may have come across a pop-up screen telling you that you have won some prize and simply moved on with what you were doing, closing the screen in passing. Which ones of these pop-up offers are legitimate is hard to say exactly, but if you have had the good judgment to not fall for a scam that may be obvious, how are you to know that you won’t be so lucky next time or that you will not come across a more elaborate scam that seems like a perfectly legitimate business?


Do not leave avoiding online scams and staying protected up to chance. Learn what is necessary to be able to spot a scam. Scammers are often professionals at what they do. This means that the really good scammers are going to make every effort possible to blend in with all of the legitimate businesses. These high quality online scams, however, are not without flaws. There are still steps that you can take to ensure that you do not become a victim of even the toughest online scams.

Steps to spot an online scam so that you can stay safe and protected

Look for the web page security features — Online vendors have the responsibility of making sure that their sites are safe for their customers. There are reflections of these safety measures in both the company’s web address and in a padlock symbol in the browser box. In short, the address of the website should begin with “https” and scrolling over or selecting the padlock should give you the information regarding when the site was evaluated for safety and to what address the safety certificate was issued. Scam artists are often able to duplicate the appearance of these symbols but do not always replicate the detailed information in the padlock symbol.

Too good to be true — One of the most popular tools used by scammers is to offer products or services for free or nearly free. You may just happen upon such sites or pop-up boxes may redirect you to these types of scam sites. Who doesn’t like free stuff, right? Unfortunately, if you fall for one of these “too good to be true” scams you will pay dearly for it. Remember that no legitimate business is going to offer something worthwhile for free without asking for something else in return.

Check with the Better Business Bureau Online — If you are ever unsure as to the legitimacy of a site, you can always check with the Better Business Bureau Online. The Better Business Bureau Online is a huge database of online companies that also includes customer reports, a rating by the bureau and other recommendations. If you see that a company has a poor review by the Better Business Bureau, it is a good idea not to do business with that company so as to protect your assets.


Spotting online scams is becoming increasingly difficult. As technology evolves so too does the expertise of scammers. They are able to find loopholes in the security systems and are not only skilled at knowing what to say to entice people to visit their sites, but they have the computer and Internet knowledge to make those sites appear perfectly legitimate. The bottom line is that even the most cautious of online shoppers may become victims of fraud. Even if you never spend a penny online, you can become a victim of a scam that is based online. Your best bet is to make that possibility as unlikely as possible by making yourself a difficult target.

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Need to Know: How to Spot Online Scams." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 23 Nov. 2007. Web. 3 Sep. 2015. < >.

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By . Originally published November 23, 2007. Last modified November 23, 2007.

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