Top 10 Ways on How to Spot an Online Scam

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There are virtually an unlimited number of opportunities online these days. It’s hard to figure out which ones are legit and which are simply out to scam you. This post is meant to help you spot various signs of a scam before you spend your hard-earned money or provide information that can be used for nefarious purposes (i.e. identity theft).

Please note this is not a comprehensive list but more of a top 10, providing insight into the most common scam approaches. If you’re considering an online opportunity, run it by the list below to help determine if it’s legitimate or a scam.


Ways on How to Spot an Online ScamWays on How to Spot an Online Scam

Some scams may be obvious where others may be more difficult to detect. Actual legitimate opportunities can be mistaken for a scam. In the end, it’s hard for many to figure out what’s what. Some of the following signs will help you to determine if an “opportunity” is really just that or if it’s trying to get something from you.

Please note, a legitimate opportunity may still test positive for one of these signs, so take this advice with a grain of salt and be sure to use common sense to make a final determination. That said, if such an opportunity tests positive for several of these signs, you can be almost rest assured that it is a scam and you should move on.

Let’s take a look at some tings to look for…

Fake ReviewsFake Reviews

At first, this can be difficult to detect. You may not know this already, or maybe you do, but people can be hired to provide a fake review. Many times this may come in the form of a paid comment, the scammer pretending to be someone else or even video testimonials.

There are services out there where you can hire an individual to act as if they succeeded in the program or service being offered, and it looks totally believable. Your best defense for this is to do some research before-hand. Don’t rely on just a single source of information. Get out there and practice your Google-fu. Chances are, if you only see one site providing this great review, it may not be on the up-and-up.

I was shocked one day to see the same actor, almost using the same script, provide a review for two completely different products. You can actually hire an actor for around $50 on fiverr and they’ll read whatever script you give them. That’s not to say services such as fiverr are bad, it’s just the nature of things. If someone can make money by acting, great. Just be aware that such tactics are used.

Unrealistic PromisesUnrealistic Promises

Be cautious of any product, program or service offering unrealistic promises. Things like “Make $1000 a day from home”, “Make money with little to no effort”, or, even better, “Make $1000 a day from home with little to no effort”. Can it be done, sure. Is it common, no. Chances are, they just want you to sign up, give them money and then turn around and tell you, see I just did it, now you go do it to someone else.

Such “programs” are ultimately unsustainable and should be avoided. You might find some great opportunity that’s just being developed (ground floor if you will), but that’s rare and more just the luck of the draw. Realistically, any legitimate offering will have been around for a while and you should be able to find something online to help substantiate their claims.

Demanding Money Up-Front and/or Constant Up SellsDemanding Money Up-Front and/or Constant Up Sells

Any program that demands money up-front, with little detail as to what you’ll get out of it or is vague on how it works, is a definite red flag. Before handing your money over for someone that says “I have a program that guarantees you’ll make X dollars within 30 days” is not a sound business decision. Make sure to research the program, see how it plans to help you accomplish this. Find out what the guarantee actually is and so on.

One the other side of this, be wary of the constant up sell. Joining a program that then has multiple levels of tools and services at various prices with claims such as “to really succeed you need this” is more likely to simply be a mechanism to get more of your money. Most of these will have a very small disclaimer somewhere saying something to the effect of “results are not typical” or “very few achieve these results, your experience may vary”, etc.

It’s one thing if the program has a free and a premium model or maybe 3 different levels, offering the same tools but with use limits like x searches per month, depending on the level you choose, but it’s quite another if the level you select or the price you pay is to reflect the success you’ll have in such an endeavor (i.e. if you join our Gold level, you’ll earn $5000 per month but if you join our Bronze level, you’ll only make $500 a month, etc.).

Constant References to UrgencyConstant References to Urgency

Constantly being hit with ads or people pushing you to upgrade or buy some add-on by a certain time, can indicate that the program is really about getting your money. Don’t get me wrong. People are in business to make money and giving the client a sense of urgency can be a great motivator but, constantly hounding you to pay more or sign up before a certain date should be a warning sign.

Now if that suggestion or warning comes as a counter, a pop-up or a single email, don’t read too much into it. That’s a legitimate business practice. Just be cautious if you see it everywhere or are constantly being hounded.

Fear MongeringFear Mongering

If you start to get notifications that you need to buy this or upgrade to that or risk losing it altogether or not being able to advance to another level, take a closer look at the offering. If you’re seeing things like “if you don’t join by X, you won’t be able to reach Y”. This is a fear tactic at it’s core. Basically they’re telling you “If we don’t get what we want, we’re going to prevent you from getting what you want”.

Offering a discount that expires at a certain time is OK. This is just another sales tactic. It doesn’t prevent you from obtaining that item, level or whatever it is that’s being dangled in front of you. Saying that you won’t be able to get it at all after that date is another matter. If you’re presented with, what I consider to be an ultimatum, drop that opportunity as quick as you can.

Popped Up Overnight/No HistoryPopped Up Overnight/No History

Do your research. Many times an “opportunity” will pop-up overnight that’s really just a knock off or simply reselling some other program, usually at a premium, but packed up pretty to get your attention. Do a little due diligence and check it out. Are there reviews. Are those reviews across multiple sites (or just one)? How long has this opportunity been around?

If you can’t find anything showing that the company or opportunity has been around for a while, be very cautious. It does not have a proven track record and it could be a fly-by-night operation. They can collect your money and be gone before you know it.

This isn’t true of all things but it’s a good metric for most.

Sounding Too Good to be TrueSounding Too Good to be True

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unless you’re at the right place at the right time and just happen upon a truly great opportunity, chances are, you’ll never hit that over-night success you only read about on rare occasion.

It’s easy to get swept up by the hype. Try to fight the urge to jump in blindly. I can’t tell you how many MLM programs I joined because it was all hype and excitement but really little substance. Research, take the time to think and make a decision based on facts and not feelings.

Stop and think to yourself, does this sound realistic? Is this really achievable? A legitimate opportunity will rely on facts and honesty. If it says “this will take hard work and dedication”, I’d say that sounds more legit vs “all you need to do is get up in the morning and press a few buttons then you can take the rest of the day off”, I’d laugh and move on.

The You're a Winner Pop-Up or NotificationThe You’re a Winner Pop-Up or Notification

These are so annoying. I go to a website or open my mail and I get some sort of “you’ve won” notification. Sometimes it’s an iPhone, other times it’s money, etc. Here’s the truth, I didn’t win anything. Many times, this is just a tactic used to gather information from you. It might be your name, your email or even your credit card (after all, the only thing I have to cover is shipping, right?).

Other times you may actually get the item but you have to go to various sites, and buy at least one thing from each to qualify. In the end, you pay more than the item you supposedly one is worth, if you get the item at all.

Unless, the notification comes from some actual contest you’ve entered, close it or delete it, just don’t give it the time of day.

Blackmail or AltruismBlackmail or Altruism

These have been around for quite a while. How many times have you received an email stating some relative has died and you’re in the will, a prince is donating a sum of money or that someone needs your help to cash out some winnings or transfer funds? Don’t believe it. Junk that message as soon as you see it.

A different type of scam has been circulating recently. This one claims to have caught you going to scandalous sites and even goes as far as to say that they have recorded your actions when you visit these sites. The message goes on to threaten to embarrass you in front of friends and family by sending this damning evidence to them if you don’t pay up. Total SCAM. I actually laughed at the allegation and then sent it to the trash.

Requiring Personal InformationRequiring Personal Information

If the opportunity is asking for personal information beyond basic contact info (i.e. social security, mother’s maiden name, etc.). Steer clear. Chances are they’re just phishing.

An exception to this rule is, if such information is actually needed in order to pay you a commission. Such information is common if you join some affiliate programs. Companies such as Amazon may request your tax ID or social security number for tax purposes. That said, if it’s asked for right up front, be careful.

Stop and think, is this information really needed or is this some sort of phishing expedition. You should also consider the reputation of the company asking for such information. Are they well-know or some place you’ve never heard of before?


These are just a few Ways on How to Spot an Online Scam. Some scams can be identified simply by matching up with one of the things to look out for above. Others might not be easily identified until they match several of them. Either way, this post should have given you some ideas of what to look for before signing up for anything.

If you’re looking for a legitimate online business opportunity check out My Number 1 Recommendation here!

What do you think of my list here? Do you have any items that should be added but I missed? Do you disagree with what I’ve provided? Do you have first-hand experience and wish to share it with others here? Please let me know by commenting below.

Thank you,

Scott Hinkle


2 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways on How to Spot an Online Scam”

  1. Nate MC says:

    Good post. I also love the sales pages that have a fake countdown and saying that once that countdown is up, then the program won’t be available any longer. But, then you go back to it the next day and the countdown has started all over again or you refresh the page and it restarts it.

    1. Scott Hinkle says:

      LOL, I know, some are just laughable.  Those are definitely ones to skip.

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