- Internet & the Web
The Scammer: Avoiding the Online Scams
Methods to Scam You. Ways to avoid it.
How to Avoid being Scammed! Common sense advice that limits your risks.
One of Adolf Hitler’s most common catch phrase in his oratory speeches was, “Think with your hearts, not with your heads!” Today, just his name can invoke emotions. Hitler got people to do horrific things just by being a master marketer and scammer. Scammers today use the same themes to lure you into their websites and extract your money. They want to appeal to your emotions instead of your rational side. They know the words to use to implant subliminal thoughts in your head. Here are some of the themes they commonly use:
· Greed or sense of personal gain: We all want to save money and get a “steal of a deal.” Scammers know this all too well so they appeal to your desire to get something for little or nothing. They use words like “90 percent off retail”, “cheap”, “save big” and the like.
· Helping others: Scammers love to link to charities, especially ones involving innocent children. Anyone who is willing to support needy children can’t be half bad, right? Although there are many companies who use this tool to gain appeal (and most honestly want to help), the scammer wants to appeal to your heart to gain your confidence and yank your money.
· Customer Satisfaction or support: Scammers want you to believe they are there for you. They show a beautiful woman or man smiling at you ready to answer your call or click a chat line. That way, you feel safe and secure thinking that if something goes wrong, someone is immediately available to help. Scammers are usually quick to point out their willingness to offer refunds to prove their site is legitimate.
· List of testimonials that cannot be confirmed: Scammers love to use testimonials. They say “billybob9” is happy with them. They may even have a picture attached. Honestly, how do you know the picture is linked to the person? How do you know “Billybob9” even exists?
· Tracking numbers to prove delivery: Scammers may even publicize postal tracking numbers to prove the merchandise is being shipped out. Remember, reputable companies don’t usually use this tactic as they let their customers tell their friends they received the product in good order. Do you see Microsoft publicize tracking numbers of each shipment for all to see? The only person who gets the tracking number is the person ordering the product.
· Regular contests of LARGE items: Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to win a new car? It sure looks good seeing a picture of the winner named “Sammybatvegas” holding a sign saying “I won this car” with the shiny, new car in clear view. Large companies may offer a new car...but a small upstart web site? Hmmm. Use your heads folks!
· Inflated numbers of use: People like to know that thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are members or satisfied customers. If the website has thousands of members, they must be legitimate right?
· The website looks good. The colors are appealing and the site looks professional. Need I say more?
· Defending their honesty. Scammers like to defend their honesty. If you are truly honest, do you need to justify it by saying it? Companies with great reputations rely on their actions and word of mouth. They let their customers tell their friends about their good experiences.
· Fake News Reporting: If the news person says the web site is awesome, it must be true, right? How do you really know?
· Unrelated videos: Scammers love to use videos to lure you in but is this video at all DIRECTLY related to them and their business? Is their name actually used in the video they are presenting?
· Using recognizable names: Scammers love to use famous logos and personalities on their web sites. This is because these logos invoke a positive emotion and give a feeling of legitimacy. The question you need to ponder is whether the web site is DIRECTLY linked to the famous brand in some way? If not, their credibility may be at question.
How to Reduce being scammed. “Thinking with your Head instead of your Heart!”
Do your homework before pulling out your credit card: The internet is a great way for scammers to hide so you have to be extra careful. Before you pull out your wallet, do a background check on the web site and their claims. In your favour, the internet is also a great way to check someone out too. Remember, the scammer hopes he or she can get your credit card number before you begin to think with your head.
a. Try to find out who owns the website. Check to see if the website is with the Better Business Bureau. Then, search for information on the Owner. Does the owner have any other websites listed with the Better Business Bureau? Cross referencing them through a search may yield some information on their past business practices. The owner’s past is a good barometer on predicting how they will conduct business in the future. Ethical companies are proud of showing you the faces behind the company. Check to see if the website you are interested in doing business with offers a comprehensive list of directors and staff. How is their track record?
b. Search the website name and add key words like review, scam, comments and concerns. A few negative reviews is fine. Even the most reputable businesses receive a few negative comments here and there. However, if you see massive amounts of concerns, alarm bells should be going off in your head.
c. Check out their address through Mapquest to see if it is a business location or just a drop off box. Call the number or click the chat line they list and ask for a telephone number in the local area as 800, 877, 866 numbers can be located anywhere. Do a reverse lookup to confirm the telephone number matches the locality of where the website claims to be located. Do they have multiple addresses? If a company is multinational, having multiple addresses makes sense. However, if they are a new upstart, you should be concerned as to whether they are attempting to conceal their identity.
d. Ask your friends if they have done business with the web company you are considering doing business with to see what they say. Ask your friends to look at the site to gain their thoughts.
e. Call your credit card company and ask them if the web site has a high number of chargeback claims. If the credit card company says they do, I would think twice.
f. Go to Alexa.com to check out the website’s traffic. If you see no traffic and a sudden spike, you know they are fairly new. Scammers like to use spike traffic tactics through advertising as they want to gain massive traffic fast so they can get all the money they can before moving on to the next scheme. Also, read the review(s) on Alexa.com. The reviews can help you decide whether the web site is reputable.
g. Try to check out their claims. For example, if they say they have 100,000 customers, check out their average visit stats. The only place I know offering an estimate of daily visits statistics is statbrain.com. Although this is not an exact science, you can at least get a ballpark figure of traffic. If the traffic results are low, decide whether the claims on the web site are accurate.
h. Check out their sources and partnered claims with high profile companies. If they tell you that a certain news reporter claims they are legitimate, check their story out at source. This search may reveal news reports that actually say the contrary. Never take a news report claim by the web site at face value. Is this news report real and put out by an objective news reporter? If so, you can actually feel more comfortable in the web site’s claim(s). If the web site is using highly recognizable logos, contact that company whose logo they are using to see if they are partnered with the web site in question. To get their email, go to their main website. Reputable companies want to know if their logo is being used. They worked hard and spent a lot of money to gain their reputations. They will do anything to protect that.
Doing your homework before shelling out your credit card really pays in the end and reduces your chances of being scammed. Remember to always “Think with your head instead of your heart.” The world would be a much better place if we all heeded that advice.