How Do I Detect an Internet Scam?

An ADSL modem, one of the ways to connect to the Internet.
Antivirus and other security software can help filter out Internet scams.
Many people have growing concerns about fraud and privacy issues related to email and the Internet.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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A scam is a plot for swindling or defrauding people and gaining money or other valuables by deceiving them in some way. An Internet scam is a scam that uses the Internet, involving either email messages, websites, or some combination in carrying out the scam. Other methods of communication may be used as well, including phone calls, text messages, and snail mail. There are several approaches to help you as you use the Internet and seek to detect and avoid being trapped by an Internet scam.

The first way to be able to detect an Internet scam is by becoming familiar with the long-playing Internet scams that continue to plague people. These include the Nigerian Scam, also referred to as the 419 scam, since that is the particular section of the penal code in Nigeria that treats fraud. In this scam, an email request from someone claiming to be a senior civil servant in Nigeria requests the recipient’s aid in depositing funds that were overpaid by the Nigerian government. Another famous Internet scam on which there are many variations is the type in which you receive an email saying you have won a lottery. Other frequently found scams involve working from home, government grants, sweepstakes, and debt assistance.


You can also detect an Internet scam by learning to recognize signs of scams. Spoof websites and email scams can often be recognized by spelling errors, grammatical errors, use of all caps, and other non-standard language. Any email that asks you for a password, account number, or Social Security number is in all likelihood a scam: legitimate businesses to do not ask you to put your valuable personal information at risk by putting it in an email. Also watch out for phony seals and logos. When in doubt, independently type in the correct website for a business entity — that is, don’t click through an email link — and compare the logos.

The third way to detect an Internet scam is by knowing and employing practices and tools that can help keep you safe. For example, you can use a browser that has an anti-phishing filter and clearly identifies secure sites. Use anti-virus software, malware detection, and anti-spyware to gain assistance in filtering out scams. An anti-phishing toolbar — which checks web addresses against databases of known scam sites and checks for the use of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates and alerts the user when it finds inconsistencies or problems — is another tool to assist in the detection of Internet scams.


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