A scam describes 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 a scammer.
Types of computer and Internet-related scams
There are thousands of scams today, but most involve 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, examples, and related links.
Someone selling something on an online auction site, such as eBay, that appears to be something it 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.
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.
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.
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 payment. See ransomware for further information.
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 cold-calling claiming to be technical support (fake support) from a company like Dell, saying they have received information telling them your computer is infected with a virus. They offer to connect to your computer and fix the problem remotely. 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.
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 like Bill Gates. See the chain mail definition for additional information and examples.
Fake products and services
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.
Pig butchering scam
Pump and dump, rug pull, and exit scam
Sometimes abbreviated as P&D, pump and dump is a scam where a scammer invests in something that makes them money and then "pumps" it up by discussing its potential. Once the scammer has made a lot of money from everyone else investing their money, they "dump" the investment. Those who don't act fast enough lose all of their money. Recently, online influencers have talked up a cryptocurrency, NFT (non-fungible token), or other digital assets as an investment and got their followers to invest in the scam before selling their share. Other influencers have done a rug pull (exit scam) where a cryptocurrency is only created to make the creators money by taking all invested money after it shuts down.