Updated: 02/01/2021 by Computer Hope
Computer scams

A scam is a term used to describe any fraudulent business or scheme that takes money or other goods from an unsuspecting person. With the world becoming more connected thanks to the Internet, online scams have increased, and it's often up to you to help stay cautious with people on the Internet.


A person who does a scam is referred to as a scammer.

Types of computer and Internet-related scams

There are thousands of types of scams today, but most boil down to stealing money, property, or information. Below is an overview of common scams.


Receiving an e-mail from someone pretending to be your bank indicating you are overdrawn or made a purchase you didn't make and asking you to log in and verify the information. However, the link in the e-mail points to a fake site that logs your username and password information. See our phishing page for further information, real examples, and related links.

Auction fraud

Someone selling something on an online auction site, such as eBay that appears to be something it really isn't. For example, someone may claim to be selling tickets for an upcoming concert that are not official and would not work. Software piracy is also rampant on all auction sites.

Dark patterns

A dark pattern is a user interface feature designed to trick users into doing something more beneficial to the company than the user or customer. See our dark pattern page for further information about this tactic.

Donation scam

A person claiming they have a child or know someone with an illness and need financial assistance. Although these claims can be real, many people create fake accounts on donation sites to scam people out of money.

Threat scam

Someone sends an e-mail claiming to work for a company that found something wrong with you or your company and is threatening legal action unless you pay. Often these scams can be quickly identified because they're asking for bitcoin as the form of payment.


A person who creates a fake online profile to deceive someone. For example, a woman could create a fake profile on an online dating website, create a relationship with one or more people and then create a fake scenario that asks others for money. See the catfish definition for further information and related links. See our catfish page for further information.

Cold call scam

Someone claiming to be from technical support from a computer company like Dell, saying they have received information telling them your computer is infected with a virus or hacked. They offer to remotely connect to your computer and fix the problem. Additional information about this type of scam is found on the following page.


419 or the Nigeria scam gives the impression you can gain a large amount of money and only requires bank information to deposit the money into your account. In reality, the bank information is used against the person, or the deposits are kept with no reward. See the 419 page for additional information.

Chain mail

Usually harmless, this scam spreads through e-mail and tells people to forward the e-mail to all their friends to get money back from someone such as Bill Gates. See the chain mail definition for additional information and examples.

Online survey scams

Online survey scams are survey sites that say they offer money or gift vouchers to participants. See our online survey scam definition for further information.

Computer crime, Hoax, Security terms, Spam