People running scams on the internet are ubiquitous because scammers are smart and scammers have an innate ability to understand human psychology. They use our fears, our dreams, and our greed to take our money. We are long past the scams from Nigeria that offered fantastic money awards in emails that were misspelled and awkwardly worded. There are so many scams out there, they cannot all be cataloged – but, they all share some common elements that scream at you to “get out of here, and do it before you click on anything or respond!”

Online Scams

So, what are these common traits?

Common Traits of Internet Scams

Scams abound on the internet and are most common in the following areas:

  • Internet auction fraud;
  • Credit card fraud;
  • Investment fraud; and
  • Business fraud.

What Do These Four Common Kinds of Scams Have in Common?

If you can identify an internet scam you can deal with it without becoming a victim. Following are the common areas for each of these types of scams.


Each of the types of scam listed above deal with a person receiving an email telling them they have won a sweepstakes, received a monetary reward, asked to reship things, or help another person get their money to the United States – there may be fees for you to pay before you get the money or provide your banking information for a fund transfer and your Social Security number. Under no circumstances should you provide personal or banking information to anyone based on an email or link you receive.


The old adage “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is” is all too true on the internet. The most popular way to get your attention and your cash is to promise you an insane return on the money you give the scammers. While they may charge a small fee for you to qualify, the real target of scammers is to get your financial and personal information.

Creates Urgency

Scammers prey on people who are afraid they will miss an opportunity that has a big payout. Urgency is a favorite strategy of Phishers who bait you with a warning that your account has been hacked or is in need of additional information. To protect information that is sensitive, never click just because the email tells you to. Instead, call the published customer service number found on your last statement or on the internet to determine if the information you received is legit or bogus.


Scammers play on your fears and use them as a way to manipulate you to do something you wouldn’t normally do. They tell you via an email that there is something wrong with your account or your computer. Some might even say they are part of some obscure law enforcement program that you have violated, maybe saying you are using pirated software or some other nonsense designed to extract a fee or fine to make things right. They may offer to scan your computer with software you need to download. The only objective they have is collecting the money you agree to pay to make the situation disappear.

Personal Information

While many scammers seek money directly from you, other scammers want the Mother Lode – your personal financial information and demographics. They have no interest in collecting small amounts of money from individuals, they can get more money by stealing your identity and borrowing money in your name that they will never pay back.

Take Aways

  1. Never click on a link you got from a popup ad or other advertisement or an unsolicited email.
  2. Things that appear to be “too good to be true” usually are.
  3. Scammers want your money, but if they can get your personal and financial information, even better.
  4. Never install unsolicited software on your computer or phone.
  5. Even if the sender makes you believe a matter is urgent, stop long enough to verify the sender’s information.