Common Types of Online Scams and How to Avoid Them

No matter your age, there is plenty of money lost to scammers every year. According to insights from fraud prevention firm SEON, being digital-first doesn’t make you immune to online scams. People younger than 20 had the biggest year-over-year increase in fraud reports between 2019 and 2020, with collective losses totaling about $70.98 million. On the other hand, older victims had much more financial assets to lose, with Americans over the age of 60 reporting $966 million in losses. 

Indeed, online scams are continuing to grow and evolve in sophistication. With much of our work and leisure connected to the internet, it’s crucial for individuals and businesses to stay on-guard against these fraudulent activities. In this article, we’ll take a look a common types of online scams and discuss how to avoid them:



We’ve previously discussed how phishing complaints are among the most commonly reported among all scams. In numbers, 90% of data breaches are caused by phishing and 3.4 billion phishing emails are sent every day. Phishing cases involve cyber criminals posing as an official source — such as a banking institution or a social network — then send you messages that your account is under threat. They will redirect you to a fake login access page, where they ask you to confirm your identity so they can steal your sensitive login credentials.

Online shopping scams:

Another common scam involves online shopping, as when you pay to purchase a product but receive a faulty or inferior quality item, or even nothing at all. A more sophisticated online retail scam includes formjacking, which happens when a legitimate website is hacked and shoppers are redirected to a fake payment page. Here, you input your credit card or bank account information, giving cyber criminals free reign over those accounts. One way to tell if you’re on the correct payment page is if its URL is the same as the website where you were shopping, as cybercriminals make small changes to the URL. 

Romance scam:

While most of us are unlikely to experience extreme catfishing cases like that of the Tinder Swindler — where a man conned women on Tinder for millions of dollars by posing as an Israeli diamond tycoon — this type of scam is still common. Scammers create fake profiles on legitimate social networks or dating sites, where they try to begin a relationship with you to access your personal details. In many cases, these scammers also ask for money to “help cover costs” for travel, injury, illness, or family crisis. Victims often fall prey to romance scams as these swindlers exploit your emotions after building rapport over a few months.

Travel scam:

There are many scams that pose as too-good-to-be-true offers, like emails congratulating you for winning the lottery (even if you didn’t buy lottery tickets) or receiving a pre-approved bank loan. One of the most common versions of this scam is the travel scam, which is expected to increase alongside leisure travel by 80% through text messages and robocalls. Victims are offered an amazing package deal for traveling to an exotic destination, which expires in a short period of time. However, the cyber criminals usually take your money without sending you anywhere. Sometimes, this scam also happens on social media, where you’re lured with a promise of a free trip or plane tickets to a malicious link.


Avoiding Online Scams

The best way to avoid online scams is to be vigilant and recognize the signs. Scammers often pretend to be an organization you know, saying you’re in trouble or that you’ve won a prize out of the blue. They pressure you to act immediately, before you have any time to think. And if there’s payment involved, they usually insist on receiving money in a specific way. 

Before you do anything, do not share any information or click on links, especially for a request you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t pressure you to decide on offers, nor will they call, email, or text to ask about your personal information. If you have doubts, talk to someone you trust first or contact the organization through a channel you know is trustworthy.


Related posts