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Avoiding Common Scams

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Scams are a large and growing part of the internet.
Sometimes people fall for common scams because the scams are so outrageous that the victims think "who would possibly make something this ridiculous up??"
I ask that you be far more wary than that.
Whether you are in:

I urge you to treat any internet connected device as if it were a large body of water in Florida.
If you see an alligator in a body of water in Florida, you know there is a very real threat from at least one alligator.
In Florida, if you do not see an alligator in a large body of water, that does NOT mean there is no threat from alligators.
An alligator may be well camouflaged, or perhaps years of sitting in front of computer monitors may have diminished your eyesight such that an alligator does not require elaborate camouflage to go unnoticed by you.
The same goes for internet scams.
I cannot provide you with a foolproof way to identify all scams, but I can help you anticipate some of the most common threats.
Other than traffic to my website, what do I get out of educating people about scams?
The less prevalent internet scams are, the less I have to deal with receiving them myself.
On this page I might not address a particular scam you have been confronted with for any one of the following reasons:

Fear Of Missing Out ( FOMO ) or Sometimes Just Outright Fear

A non-exhaustive list of common scams involving Fear Of Missing Out is:

Often combinations of the above are used.
If you are not extremely wary, not only will you lose whatever funds you gave to the scammer but you will also have lost time pursuing legitimate opportunities.
It does not require a particularly vivid imagnination to envision any one of the following:

Car Decal

You come across some solicitation to put some kind of advertising decal on your car.
It will almost certainly be some kind of fake payment scam.
The scammer will provide you with some kind of payment that will turn out to be invalid or fraudulent.
Before you realize that the payment was fraudulent, the scammer will ask for some kind of payment from you.
You lose whatever payment you give the scammer.

Employment Scams

Employment scams are very common on the internet.
You may receive an email saying that your resume was seen on Indeed dot com or some other website.
The scammer may or may not have actually have seen your resume your resume on an internet job site.
Performing a who is lookup can identify many, but not all, scams.
The following positions are among the most common advertisements for job scams:

Employment scams typically involve one or more of the following:

Engagement Scams

An engagement scam will typically begin with asking you to solve some kind of pattern, puzzle, or riddle.
You submit the correct answer, but wait you need to pay some fee before you may have your prize.
Either there will be no prize or it will be of far less value than what was suggested.
Internet engagement scams are an even more sinister variant of the advertisements that some car dealerships use.
The car dealership will send out a postal mail or email advertisement that you have won a prize "up to such and such".
Spoiler alert: If the such and such mentioned is really valuable, you probably won't be winning it.

Fake Retail Sites

Scams that are fake retail sites for clothing, electronics, and other goods are quite common.
Doing a who is look up can help you identify many but not all fake retail sites.

Home Rental

Attempting to rent a home while you are away from the location that you intend to live is incredibly difficult.

Internet Marketplaces

If you try to buy or sell something on any internet marketplace, be aware that there will be many scammers.
If you are selling an item, I strongly suggest stating in your ad that you will only exchange the item in person for cash.
Perform the exchange at some place such as a police station.
Ideally stating in the ad that you will only meet in person would eliminate most scammers, but it is not that simple.
Many scammers will still offer to buy your item, but then "unexpectedly" have some reason why they are not able to meet in person after all.

Investment Scams

Scams pretending that the scammer has some magic recipe for trading cryptocurrency or foreign exchange are very common.
They are scams.
Stay away from them.

Recovery Scams

If you lose money in a scam, you might seek out help from someone that can help you recover your money.
The sad fact is, the people that respond will almost cetainly be recovery scammers.
The recovery scammers may or may not be the same people that ran the scam that you lost your money in.
A recovery scammer will ask you for some amount of money to help you recover your money.
Whatever money you give to the recovery scammer will be losses in addition to whatever you lost in the original scam.

Romance Scams

Sadly, romance scams have really been increasing.
Online dating sites and scammers used to be extremely symbiotic, at least from the perspective of the dating site and the scammer.
A scammer would post a profile of a bombshell in a swimsuit then contact a large number of people.
If neither the scammer nor the contactee were a paid member, then the photo of the bombshell in the swimsuit would lure the men into becoming paid members so that the site would allow both parties to communicate with one another.
Recently scammers have become impatient enough that it is more common for them to become paid members.
This is less lucrative for dating sites, because instead of a dating site getting hundreds or thousands of paid membership per scammer, the dating site only gets the paid membership from the scammer.

Sugar Daddy / Sugar Momma

There are a large number of scams on the internet with the promise of being your sugar daddy or sugar momma.
Most of them are extremely obvious scams, but regardless of how obviously they are scams, they are scams nonetheless.
If you are a particularly attractive person, it is plausible that in real life someone might pay you for your companionship.
If you come across someone on the internet asking to be your sugar daddy or sugar momma, it does not matter whether you are or are not particularly attractive.
The person is not screening for attractiveness, the person is screening for people that he thinks he can scam.
The person is attempting to scam you.

Wrong Number Scams

The wrong number scam is when "someone" sends you a text purportedly intended for someone else.
When I said "someone" sends you a text, it could actually be "something".
The text from a wrong number scam might be initiated from an actual person, or it might be sent from an automated process.
A photo of an attractive woman is often part of the wrong number scam, but not always.
Personally, I appreciate it when an attempted wrong number text scam includes a photo of an attractive woman because that is an extremely strong indicator that a text is a scam.
How should you respond to a wrong number scam?
You should not respond at all.
The message of the text could ask you to click on a website address or call a number.
The number of the sender could have been spoofed.
In that case you would be responding to the random number that the scammer spoofed.
The only way to win is not to play.

Hallmarks And Common Traps

Below are some of the hallmarks and common traps involved in internet scams.
Some sections on their own are not overwhelming evidence of a scam.
For example regarding declined payments, it is possible for you to have made a typo or to have forgotten that you had locked your card on the card issuer's website.
In contrast, any refences from a stranger regarding Zelle are on their own overwhelming evidence of an intended scam.

Bank Wires

According to actuarial tables, I have lived through a significant percent of a human lifespan.
In all that time, the number of times that I absolutely needed to send a wire to accomplish some task is zero.
If you find yourself needing to send a wire, proceed with extreme caution.

Coaches And Mentors

People running investment scams will often say that they want to act as your coach or mentor.
It is nonesense.

Credit Checks

Employment scams and home rental scams often refer to credit checks.
In some cases, the credit check is just to collect information for conducting identity fraud.
In other cases, the employment or home rental ad is just a pretense for collecting leads for affiliate marketing for credit reports.
There is no job.
There is no home to rent.

Declined Payment

A scam website might:

  1. Prompt intended victims for their credit card or banking information.
  2. Store the information in the scammer's database.
  3. Regardless of whether the information entered was correct or not, present a message saying that the information was incorrect.
  4. Prompt the intended victim to enter information for a different account.

Fake Payment

In the bullets above, I covered "Declined Payments".
In the typical declined payment scam, you provide a valid payment but the scammer tells you that it was declined so that you will provide additional accounts.
By a fake payment, I mean that scammer gives you a fake payment.

Gift Cards

If you are interacting with someone not absolutely known to you in real life and the person wants you to send gift cards to him or anyone else, it is almost certainly a scam.
Would a scammer prefer to have physical cash or gift cards?
A scammer might prefer physical cash, but in seconds gift cards can be sent across the planet.
Even if the scammer is only able to sell the gift cards for 10 cents on the dollar, whatever percentage he retains is that much new money to him or her.

Junk Email Folder

Your email user interface will quite likely limit the links and graphics for email in the Junk folder.

Long Game

Sometimes scammers will spring their trap immediately
Other times they may invest weeks or even months of time in communicating with you before pivoting to the scam.

Off Platform

If someone is trying to move you off whatever website you and someone met on right away, that is a sign that the other person intends to scam you.

Padlock Icon

The padlock icon in a browser's address box on its own does not mean that a site is legitimate.
The padlock only means that there is some level of encryption between your browser and the site.
A website can have a padlock icon in the address box and still absolutely be a scam.

Please Do Not Train Your Scammer

A great many interactions online are scams.
Whether at the very beginning of an interaction or much, much later you may conclude that the other party is a scammer.
Often victims feel the need to bring the evidence that the scammer was in fact a scammer to the attention of... the scammer.
Best case is that this serves nothing.
A less desirable case is that the scammer uses that information to hone his or her craft going forward.


I have had personal and business dealings with people that were very religious.
They did NOT bring up their religion in casual conversation.
If someone shoehorns religious references into a potential transaction on the internet, that is a very strong indicator that there is an attempted scam in progress.
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."

Scam Baiting

Scam baiting is attracting scammers and using either their time or to scam the scammers.
Unless you are not merely in law enforcement but you are specifically in law enforcement regarding investigating internet scams, I would stay away from scam baiting.


When see the term "script" in relation to scams it can possibly refer to:


From time to time you may even receive a call from someone saying that you called them to scam them.

Stockholm Syndrome

Sometimes you may have a family member that has been scammed.
Your family member is unwilling to see the obvious signs that he or she was scammed.
Sometimes the family member will come to understand that he or she was being scammed, but he or she will want to understand the scammer's side of the story.
In that case, your family member is making it far more complicated than it needs to be.
The scammer took your family member's money because of the following sequence of events:

  1. The scammer was a scammer yesterday.
  2. The scammer is a scammer today.
  3. The scammer will continue to be a scammer tomorrow.

Too Much Information ( TMI )

Often internet scam ads will have information that has no place being in an advertisement, but it will be there as part of an attempt to explain why something extremely unlikely is plausible.


If you receive an email that is not merely unwanted marketing but is rather an outright scam, please do NOT click "Unsubscribe".
Clicking on an Unsubscribe link just let's the scammer know you have read his or her email.


Verification scams have been with us for a while and show no sign of going away.
You join a dating site.
You are contacted by a "woman".
After a few minutes to a few hours of internet chatting, "she" reveals that "she" works as a cam girl but she is genuinely romantically interested in you.
She suggests that you join the webcam site that employs her.
You two can use the site to communicate further.
She tells you that the site will ask for your credit card information, but that later she will have the charge reversed.
Spoiler alert: The charge will not be reversed.
If you are fortunate, maybe you just get billed for the duration of the cam girl subscription before you get it definitively cancelled
If you are less fortunate, the scammer may go on a shopping spree until your card's limit is reached.
The person that contacted you may or may not be an actual performer on the cam girl site.
In either case, it does not matter because the person was just a scammer.


If you decide to use Zelle, it is to be used by people you are ABSOLUTELY certain who the end recipient is.
Zello is NOT to be used with internet stangers and it is NOT to be used with internet strangers pretending to be people you know.

My Takeaway

If every literate person in the United States would read this one page, there would still be many scams, but the country would be a less target rich environment.
If I were presenting this information in front of a small room of people I would find some scams on the internet and dissect what makes them clear scams.
However, such a presentation on the internet would only help the scammer hone his or her craft.
Despite my taking the time to create this page, in the years to come however many scammers will still succeed because either the victims never read this page or the victims read this page and thought somehow their potential sugar momma was going to be legitimate.