Online Scams & How to Avoid Them

In this article, learn all about the most dangerous Online Scams as well as tips for how to avoid them.

The internet is an ideal environment for scams. Online, people interact with each other in relative anonymity. Skilled investigators can use specialized tools to track down criminals and crime rings, but such tools and skills are beyond the reach of the average internet user.

The rise of cryptocurrencies handed online criminals another tool. They can now extract payment that’s theoretically untraceable and unrecoverable. People over 45 are the most likely to fall victim to online scams as they are not as internet-savvy as younger people.

Online scammers prey on the vulnerable. They bombard email addresses with unsolicited messages, send SMS messages to your phone, contact people through social media, etc. They cast a wide net, hoping that they’ll hook the right victim. And they always do.

As the internet skills of the population evolve, so do the methods of the scammers. Online scams represent an ongoing arms race, and scammers are always a step ahead of the public.

Online Scams are a Lucrative “Industry”

Knowing what you’re up against is the first step toward becoming savvy enough to recognize and fend off online scams.

According to the Australian Government, in 2022, people lost more than half a billion dollars to online scams. This number may be impressive, but 2023 will probably see people lose even more money to online crime. The more people go online, and the more sophisticated technologies grow, the more ways scammers find to steal money from an ever-growing pool of likely victims.

Over the last five years, internet scamming has been on the rise. And the trend is likely to continue.

For now, the majority of scam victims are people over 45. Presumably, this age group is less internet-savvy, but that will change in the future. As more and more tech-savvy people grow older, scammers shift their tactics, adapting to the new realities.

We are all would-be scam victims. And as a possible scam victim, you may want to know these additional facts about online scams.

  • Your email and phone are the most likely channels for scammers to contact you. Be very careful when receiving requests and offers through these channels from people you do not know.
  • Phishing is the most common scam. And your email is the perfect vehicle for it. Online criminals can target millions of email addresses without investing much time, effort, or money.
  • Romance and investment scams create the most losses for victims and the most generous revenues for scammers. Be extra careful with these. If someone contacts you with an opportunity to make easy money, know that you are dealing with a scam.


Phishing is the most common online scam. Criminals love it, as it is highly efficient and gives them many opportunities to steal sensitive information and money. Phishing-wise, scammers are endlessly creative. They fashion authentic-looking emails and hack into the emails of your acquaintances to send you more convincing messages.

Other phishing emails disguise themselves as messages you receive from organizations you trust. You may get an email from your bank or cryptocurrency wallet provider.

Emails masquerading as legitimate messages from your bank may direct you to pages that mimic your bank’s website. They may ask you to provide sensitive information to facilitate a transfer or prevent the bank from closing your account. The page is fake, and the information you provide ends up in the hands of the scammers. They may use it to access your bank account or facilitate further phishing attempts.

Scam emails always try to instill a sense of urgency. They urge you to act quickly to stop something bad or facilitate something good. Pressure may override your caution and reasoning, or so they hope.

Emails that purport to come from your cryptocurrency wallet provider usually require your private keys to stop an outgoing transfer. Scared of losing their crypto assets, some people are keen to provide the details the scammers want. And when they do, they give scammers access to the very assets they were trying to protect.

These are but a couple of examples of phishing emails. Scammers are endlessly creative in this regard.

Some time ago, a Google Docs scam made the rounds. Scammers invited victims to edit a legitimate Google document via email. When people accepted to edit, however, they gave third-party software permission to read their emails and contact information.

You may receive a seemingly legitimate email from the IRS, telling you that the Service will fine you for underreporting your income unless you move quickly and provide some vital information. Scared victims often rush to avoid the purported fine and provide their information to scammers without thinking twice about it.

Sometimes, criminals are not after your money or personal information. Instead, they know you have access to privileged information, and they will settle for gaining access to this information through you.

Online Scams - Warning Security Alert Warning Secured Website Concept

Shopping Scams

You may think shopping scams are no longer a threat, but a new version of this timeless classic is making the rounds. You may receive an email from a seemingly legitimate e-commerce operation offering to sell you some luxury items for an attractive price. These emails usually re-direct you to a third-party e-commerce site. And they will likely require payment through an electronic transfer method.

Once you pay the money, the scammers send you a confirmation email and never mail you the merchandise for which you pay. If you give them your credit card information, they use it to make further purchases in your name.

Romance Scams

Together with investment scams, romance scams are some of the most productive crimes from the criminals’ perspective.

Scammers pose as real people online, often using fake pictures. They lure in romantically interested victims through dating sites. They ask for money for various reasons.

Once they get the money, they disappear and repeat the scheme with a different victim.

Here’s what you should know about romance scams.

  • Online dating sites are magnets for romance scammers. One in 10 online dating profiles belongs to scammers.
  • Falling for an online dating scam is costly. The average amount people lose on relationship scams is $21,000.
  • Most relationship scams target Americans and Canadians but don’t consider yourself safe if you live in another country.
  • Fortunately, it is relatively easy to identify relationship scams as they unfold.

How to Spot a Relationship Scam

Relationship scammers love to use dating sites to contact their victims, but they don’t like to communicate there. Dating sites may keep a record of the communications taking place on their platforms. Scammers want to ensure that they don’t leave trails investigators can later use to track them down. As soon as he or she establishes contact, the romance scammer asks you to move your communication to a private channel.

Other telltale romance scam clues are:

  • The scammer claims to be madly in love with the victim despite never having met him or her. Claiming to be in love is how scammers try to spark emotional attachment in their victims.
  • The scammer promises the victim to meet him or her but never does. Whenever they agree on a time, the scammer comes up with an excuse to postpone.
  • The scammer always runs into an emergency that requires money to solve. Although initially “reluctant” to ask the victim for money, eventually, that’s what the scammer does.

You may think you can spot romance scams easily, but scammers know how to manipulate your feelings, sentiments, and hormonal triggers.

Cryptocurrency Scams

Although they have been around for more than a decade, cryptocurrencies are still novelties for many people. Some use them to speculate on price swings. Others get them so they don’t miss out on the “next big thing.”

Few people understand how they work. And cryptocurrency scammers are ready to cash in on this ignorance.

Although Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have great potential utility, scammers see them as opportunities to steal money from others. And by scammers, we mean petty blue-collar criminals who compromise your wallet, hack your exchange and trick you into giving out your private keys.

The crypto scene is attractive for white-collar criminals as well. From huge pump-and-dump setups to Ponzi schemes and massive organizations founded on investor gullibility and dishonesty, the pitfalls of the crypto world are many. Some of these crypto scams are big enough to send the entire industry crashing.

Navigating the crypto waters is difficult, although if you observe a few basic principles, you should be able to protect your assets and sensitive data.

  • Never share your private keys or the seed phrase that contains your private keys with anyone. Don’t even use an online messaging service to send such data to yourself from one device to another.
  • Use a hardware wallet and remove your digital assets from exchanges as soon as possible. Don’t let anyone hold your private keys for you.
  • Do not engage in get-rich-quick schemes. The crypto world is rife with “opportunities.” Many of these schemes produce highly visible winners, rewarding the early gamblers before they blow up. If you do not think of yourself as a gambler, stay away from ICOs, NFTs, and whatever other artifices people may cook up. Crooks are always quick to bend every new crypto invention and trend to their advantage.
  • Never send anyone you don’t know a crypto payment. Crypto payments are difficult to recover at best and impossible at worst.
  • Stay away from crypto investments promising lavish returns. If something appears to be too good to be true, it is.

In addition to these widespread scams, online crooks may target you in many other ways. Some other popular scams are:

  • Fake lotteries. Scammers email you that you have won the grand prize in some random lottery. They require you to pay some fees before they can let you have your “prize.”
  • Digital kidnapping. Hackers break into your social media accounts and tell you to pay a ransom if you want to regain access. They prefer cryptocurrencies.
  • Debt help. Some scammers offer indebted people help only to swindle them out of more money. Scammers love to prey on vulnerable, desperate people.
  • Free merchandise. Scammers offer to give you free merchandise to turn you into a brand spokesperson. Before you know it, you are paying hard cash for merchandise you never receive.
  • Fake charities. Scammers may ask you to donate to a well-known charity in the wake of a natural disaster. The charity to which you donate, however, is not the one you think it is.

Never give anyone your passwords and personal information. Don’t let anyone pressure you into anything involving a payment. Create red lines. Consider everything a scam the moment someone asks you to make a payment to someone you don’t know.

We offer complimentary consultations to determine if our Asset Tracing, Recovery Assistance, and Intelligence Services are suitable for your case.


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