types of online scams

10 Types of Online Scams To Avoid

Scams are everywhere, including online. They look to deceive innocent online users who are just looking to browse the internet. People use the internet for all types of reasons, including social media, online shopping and checking emails. Scammers understand the needs of most online users, and attempt to hide themselves in all corners of the internet. Below, we’ve listed the types of online scams that are commonly used (and those you should avoid). 

Romance Scams

Many people today turn to social media and dating apps to meet and date. However, scammers may use these apps to impersonate others or assume a fake identity just to scam unsuspecting users. These scammers typically try to establish a relationship with the person to gain their trust. Then, message them within the app or via text message asking for personal details or to send them money.    

What To Look For: 

  • Profile Image: Does their profile images look fake? Do a reverse image search on Google to check. 
  • Profile Details: Is their profile full of information or is it empty? Scammers typically include little to no information on a dating profile. If there is any, it’s very vague. 
  • Messaging: Did they ask you for something right off of the bat like money or personal information? Usually, this is a sign someone is a scammer and just looking to take advantage of you. 

Elderly Scams

There are many types of elderly scams that seniors fall prey to. Two of the most commonly used are the Grandparent scam and health insurance scam. With the Grandparent scam, a scammer pretends to be an elderly person’s relative in need of help or money. With the health insurance scam, scammers will impersonate a representative from a health insurance company (Medicare, Medicaid, etc). They will offer the victim a significant discount, an amazing insurance package, or free equipment, as long as they provide their personal information and credit card number. 

What To Look For: 

  • Have you contacted this company recently? If the scammer is pretending to be from a company you haven’t recently contacted, it’s likely a scam. 
  • In relation to the Grandparent scam, do you know the person? If you don’t, then ignore them. If you are unsure, ask someone reliable for their opinion. 
  • Double check all information, links, contact information, etc. pertaining to the offer and company to see if it’s legitimate. 


Phishing emails are one of the most common scamming methods around. This scam involves someone sending out emails to others pretending to be from a reputable company. Their goal is to obtain information from their target such as their social security number, bank and credit card information, and login information. Usually, they will entice their victims by offering them a “too good to be true” offer. 

What To Look For: 

  • See if the email contains grammatical errors or broken english. 
  • Search the person and/or the company that contacted you online. See if the person actually looks for the company. 
  • Look at the sender’s email address, and see if it’s from a legitimate business address and not just a normal gmail account. 

Fake Charities

Charity scams are one of the easiest scams to fall for, especially during natural disasters and health pandemics. It’s really easy for a site, email, or phone caller to appear legitimate. Before donating money to anyone, do some research. 

What To Look For: 

  • Is the charity even real? Do further research to see if the charity is real by looking at their site, contacting them, and seeing if they have social media accounts. 
  • Search online to see if anyone else knows about or has been scammed by this charity before. 

Lottery Scams

Who doesn’t want to win the lottery!? You get an email or letter in the mail, that looks legit, of course you are going to respond to it. However, scammers pull out all of the stops to make it seem like you actually won a legitimate lottery or giveaway. 

What To Look For: 

  • See if the email contains grammatical errors and was sent from a non-business email. 
  • If the communication contains a logo, see if the logo is real by searching for it online. 
  • Do they ask for a down payment in order to receive your full winnings? This is a tactic often used by lottery scammers. 

Port-Out Scams

A Port-Out scam occurs when someone uses your exact phone number on a phone and carrier account they have control over. They want to gain access to your phone’s personal information. However, this type of scam is more difficult to accomplish as they need to convince an actual carrier representative, and need the victim’s name, phone number, email address, last four digits of SSN, and more. 

What To Look For: 

  • Strange app, online account, and phone activity. 
  • An increase in charges to your account that are unwarranted. 
  • People contacting you who are looking to speak with the same person. 


Spoofing is a very effective method of scamming, that is commonly used in phishing attacks. It happens when a scammer disguises unknowns apps, websites, or phone numbers as ones from known sources. This is done in order to obtain a person’s data, infect devices with malware, gain control over the devices, and execute hacking attacks. 

What To Look For: 

  • Do you know the sender? If you don’t know the sender, just ignore them. 
  • Are they looking for you to provide your personal information or click on a link? If you don’t know them and they ask this, it’s definitely a scam. 


Smishing is phishing but via text message. Scammers will often text their victim’s, claiming to be from stores they frequent, websites they’ve visited, or just someone offering something. They want their victim’s to provide their personal data or click through to a site that’s infected.

What To Look For: 

  • Evaluate what they are offering. Is it too good to be true? If it is, we recommend avoiding the text. 
  • Do you know the sender? If you don’t know the sender or the company they are claiming to be from, don’t respond and block the phone number.
  • Do they ask you for something like to click a link or provide your information? Smishing scammers are just looking to get your personal information. 

Fake Shopping Sites

Just like with phishing, scammers can easily pretend they are a legitimate online shop by either creating a professional site or copying another shop. Just like other scams, these sites look to obtain a person’s financial and personal information. 

What To Look For: 

  • Website: Does the website look professional and provide all of the necessary information and features?
  • Contact Information: Do they have contact information listed such as an email address, phone number, and contact form? If they just have a contact form or nothing at all, the site is likely fake. 
  • Social Media: Do they have social media profiles? Mostly all online stores and sites have social media profiles, whether they are actively posting to them or not. 

Tech Support Impersonation

With everything today revolving around technology, users often look online for technical support from companies. However, scammers take advantage of this need and create duplicate sites that look exactly like the real company’s technical support site. They will also call over the phone pretending to be from a real company as well such as Amazon. 

What To Look For: 

  • Search on Google for the company’s technical support line. You’ll be able to then see whether or not the site is reputable. 
  • Is the contact information real? Is that the actual phone number and email used by the company? 

Those are just some of the various online scams people fall victim to every day. As an internet and technology user, all you can do is be smart and be aware of the scamming signs to watch out for. 

Author: Liam King

I am a tech writer looking to share with the world all of the latest gadgets, apps, and news.