How can you spot a scam online?

With the advancements in current technology, it is more important than ever to keep your bank details safe online. With so much valuable information online, it might be challenging to notice when something is safe or is just a potential scam. How does one authenticate whether this is a clever marketing tactic, giving you great value – or is someone with sinister motives? Here are some common threads between most scams.

Tries to Gain Trust Quickly


An online scammer will frequently attempt to gain your trust in some way. It may appear from a reputable source, such as the government, a company you admire, your employer, or a family member. Before you respond to an email from your bank, Amazon, PayPal, a family member, or another trusted source, take a moment to confirm the sender’s identity.

It is often preferable to conduct a Google search for the company or entity’s contact information rather than clicking a link or dialing a number in a text or email. This simple step will shield you from most online phishing or catfish scams.

Uses Emotional Triggers

“Act quickly, or the IRS will threaten to sell your home,” “Otherwise, the water company will turn off your water,” or “your Amazon account has been hacked, and you must log in immediately or face significant consequences.” These are all common examples of online scams, as is an email from your bank stating that someone logged in using your credentials.

You log in to fix the problem, but you end up on a scam site that steals your password; you’ve been hacked now. Online scammers will frequently attempt to instill powerful feelings because strong emotions cause quick action. “Your Stripe account has been suspended” is a powerful message that can cause scam victims not to think twice before acting.

If you receive a text or email stating that your account has been suspended or your phone is about to be disconnected, don’t respond immediately. First, close the text or email, look up the correct contact information online, and reach out to verify the claim externally before acting.

Demands Action

Scammers frequently request that you call a number, click a link, or log in to an account. The problem is that you’re not logging into a legitimate portal; instead, you’re sharing your login information with the scammer via a bogus web page or form.

Never take the action specified in an email or text message request. Instead, take your own action. Most of the time, this entails exiting the text or email and searching for the appropriate website and contact information online.

Unexpected Contact

When somebody contacts you unexpectedly, it’s usually a sign that you’re being duped. If you receive an unexpected SMS, email, phone call, or even a paper letter, proceed with caution, even if the message appears to be innocent.

Demands Personal Information

If you receive a request for personal information over the phone, email, or text, proceed with caution. One simple rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you or they initiated the contact.

Never give out confidential personal information to anyone who contacts you first (vs. you contacting them first), such as your social security number, password, or PIN. Social security fraud is widespread in the United States, costing taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

Overpays You

Many people have fallen into a typical online scam involving the scammer overpaying for something and requesting a refund. In the latest overpayment scam, you win a cash prize or are paid in advance for a business project.

But the customer or business made a mistake and overpaid you. They demand the balance (perhaps they paid you $2,200 when they meant to pay only $2,000). Could you please return the extra $200? The problem is that the check they sent was a forgery. You’ve sent $200 in real money and are now holding $2,200 in counterfeit money.

Makes a Promise

If someone makes a promise that sounds like a dream and you don’t know who they are. For example, they might buy something you’re selling on Facebook Marketplace for twice the asking price or make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Be cautious. Once the scammer gets you to take action, you’re often greeted with a rude awakening.

Request For a Wire Transfer

Be cautious of anyone who asks you to wire money. Wire transfers are untraceable, and once the money is picked up on the other end, it is gone.

There is a brief window with many credit card companies where you can dispute transactions. This is not the case with wire transfers.

Pretends to Be a Member of The Family

“But cousin Patrick is in hot water!” One of the classic tricks in the online scamming world is pretending to be a family member in danger. You may receive a Facebook message from an aunt stating that she is trapped in a foreign country due to a robbery and requires you to wire money immediately.

However, after you wire the funds, you discover she’s at home watching The Handmaid’s Tale, and someone stole her photos, created a fake Facebook profile, and potentially swindled you.

Scams are pretty prevalent in the online world. At the same time, it’s not ideal to live your life in fear and never partake in the online world. One should remain shrewd and alert in the online world to avoid scammers.