Online Scams

Common Scams

Fraudsters use the Internet to scam unsuspecting consumers. If an offer, email, or message sounds too good to be true or just seems plain fishy, go with your gut and do some additional checking. Here’s a roundup of common scams:

Personal emergency scam: Scammers email or post social media messages that appear to be from someone you know saying they are in distress, such as having their wallet stolen or having been arrested. If you get such a message, find another way to verify if it’s true, such as reaching out directly to the person. If you get such a message from a friend, there is a good chance that their account was hacked and that it’s a criminal who is out to steal your money.

You owe money scam: Be wary of emails that claim you owe money. If you hear from a bill collector or a government agency about money “owed” by you or a family member, don’t respond unless you are certain it’s legitimate. It’s pretty common for scammers to send “bills” to people who don’t actually owe them money.

Online dating scam: Many people have found love via dating websites, but others have been scammed out of money by online con artists. For tips on safe online dating and a list of red flags, see “Meeting new friends and romantic partners.”

Charity Scams: Before you donate, make it’s a legitimate charity and be very careful before clicking on any links in email or a social media post. It’s safer to type in the name of the charity directly. One possible exception is Facebook’s Donate button. If a friend is raising money for a nonprofit on Facebook, you can safely donate as long as you are sure that you support the charity listed. Do be careful about the amount. Sometimes it will default to a specific amount so, if you’re not comfortable donating that sum, click on a different amount or enter the number yourself.

Infected computer scam: You might get a call from “Microsoft,” saying your computer is infected or vulnerable to hacking, with an offer to fix it for you. Hang up. Microsoft and other reputable companies never make these calls. These are criminals trying to steal your money and plant viruses on your machine. Also be suspicious of any messages in email or that pop-up on your computer, in your Web browser or on a mobile app warning you of a virus or a security risk. If you have reason to suspect that your device is at risk, consult a trusted expert but never download software or apps that you aren’t certain come from legitimate sources.

Speak out and don’t be ashamed if you’re victimized. Criminals are very good at what they do and there have been lots of very smart people who have been victimized online. If it happens to you, report it to a trusted person and, if appropriate, law enforcement. Even if you let your guard down, it’s not your fault if something bad happened to you.


Avoid charity scams

Beware of fake tech support scammers

FTC’s page on online scams

ConnectSafely’s Safe Online Shopping Quick-Guide

Top Online Scams (from Lifewire)

Dating and Romance Scams