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Top 8 Internet Fraud and Scams of All Time

As long as the internet has been around, malicious people have used it to rip others off. Between fraudulent sites, email scams, and other forms of deception, countless people have lost billions of dollars to internet fraud and scams.

Let’s take a look at some infamous examples of online fraud and scams, many of which people still fall for. By pointing them out, you can better recognize the worst offenders to keep yourself and loved ones safe.

1. Email Phishing

App Store Phishing Receipt Email

While cyber fraud takes many forms, it’s often done through email since that’s a ubiquitous and cheap method of attack. As a result, one of the most common scamming examples is the general phishing email.

In this scam, you receive a message claiming to come from a legitimate entity, such as your bank, email provider, or online retailer. The email lets you know that the company has made some changes and needs you to confirm your information to make sure everything is up-to-date.

If you follow the link in these fishing emails, you’ll be brought to a fraud site. While it might look like the real page, entering your credentials here will send them right to scammers.

Review our tips on how to spot a phishing email

How to Spot a Phishing Email

How to Spot a Phishing Email

Catching a phishing email is tough! Scammers pose as PayPal or Amazon, trying to steal your password and credit card information, are their deception is almost perfect. We show you how to spot the fraud.
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so you don’t fall victim to them. It might sound silly, but scammers have evolved to create much more advanced phishing schemes.

2. Tech Support Scams

One of the most concerning internet fraud cases in recent years is the onslaught of tech support scams. In this scheme, someone calls you and pretends to be from Microsoft or a computer security company. They convince you that your computer is infected with some kind of malware and coax you into letting them remotely control your machine.

From there, they might cause actual damage to your system by stealing your data or installing ransomware. They’ll then try to sell you a worthless “security suite” or demand payment for their “services,” getting upset if you refuse.

This scam is easy to fall for if you get caught up in the caller’s lies. But by being aware of it, you can know what you should do about tech support scams

What Should You Do About the Windows Tech Support Scam?

What Should You Do About the Windows Tech Support Scam?

If Windows Tech Support calls you, it’s a scam. But what should you do? Hang up, lead the callers on, or report them?
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in case you’re ever contacted with one.

3. Online Dating Scams

While online dating has a lot of benefits, it’s also a hotbed for cyber fraud. Criminals use online dating to get money from legitimate users by building fake profiles and trying to get others to fall for them.

Usually, online dating scammers have limited profiles with few pictures and not much additional info. They’ll often profess love at an unusually early point and try to get you to chat on an alternative app, so the dating site doesn’t shut them down.

To take your money, the scammer will ask often you to “cover the cost” of something. This could be a plane ticket to supposedly come meet you in person, or shipping a package they send to you. Of course, they’ll never actually meet up with you or even contact you via video chat.

If you use online dating services, you must know how to spot and avoid online dating scams

How to Spot and Avoid an Online Dating Scammer: 8 Red Flags

How to Spot and Avoid an Online Dating Scammer: 8 Red Flags

Do you date online? Here are several tips and red flags to help you spot and avoid scammers on online dating sites.
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so you don’t become a victim.

4. Nigerian 419 Email Scams

This is one of the oldest internet fraud examples in the book. Someone from a country (often Nigeria, but not always) contacts you via email in broken English. They explain that a rich person they know has died and the money has nowhere to go; if you can help them get the funds out of the country, they’ll give you some as a reward.

Of course, this is completely bogus. If you follow along, they’ll continually ask you for money to cover various “expenses” associated with the fund movement, until you realize they’ve been stealing from you all along.

Due to their notoriety, these types of emails usually go straight to your spam folder, so you probably haven’t seen one in a while. But if you do, simply ignore it and move on. There’s no reason to fall for this classic scheme.

5. Social Media Fraud

Facebook Messenger Video Scam Message

Attackers have many ways to steal from you on social media

5 Ways Hackers Use Facebook to Steal From You

5 Ways Hackers Use Facebook to Steal From You

Thought privacy was the only thing at risk when using Facebook? Here are five other ways Facebook can compromise your security.
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, including taking your money. One popular method is abusing your trust with your social media friends. For example, if someone on your Facebook friend list has their account hacked, the attacker might contact you through a Facebook Messenger.

In many cases, they’ll send a video link with a sensational message like “OMG, is it you in this video?” that tempts you to click on it. If you do click, you’ll go to a dangerous site programmed to infect your computer with malware.

Other times, the scam is more personal. The hijacked account might send you a message saying that they’re in trouble with the law, or need money to cover a hospital bill after a bad accident. If you take this at face value, you’ll end up sending a thief—not your friend—money.

6. Buying and Selling Scams

Like online dating, purchasing and selling products online is another popular activity that’s been tainted by fraud. Whenever you buy something online or sell your own goods, you must stay vigilant to avoid scams.

What to watch for often depends on the service you use. As an overview, we’ve covered eBay scams everyone should know

10 eBay Scams to Be Aware Of

10 eBay Scams to Be Aware Of

Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. Here are the most common eBay scams you need to know about, and how to avoid them.
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, whether you’re a buyer or seller. You can apply that general advice to other online shopping destinations, too.

Avoid buying from random websites unless you’ve vetted them through reputable reviews. If you sell goods on Craigslist or similar sites, meet in a public place and only accept cash for the transaction. And if someone offers to pay you more than the item’s listed price in exchange for shipping it to a foreign country, it’s a scam.

7. Fake Virus Warnings

fake malware messages website ads

Most people trust that antivirus warnings mean something is wrong with their computer, which is why attackers create fake virus warnings to trick you. This example of internet fraud can take the form of browser popups, phony websites, or even malicious apps that generate fake messages.

These might demand payment to “unlock” full security features, or offer a phone number that will connect you to scammers. Fake virus messages are even more insidious with the rise of ransomware. These lead you to believe you’re the victim of an actual ransomware attack, while they’re actually nothing more than simple websites prompting you to pay money.

Make sure you know how to spot fake malware warnings

How to Spot and Avoid Fake Virus & Malware Warnings

How to Spot and Avoid Fake Virus & Malware Warnings

How can you tell between genuine and fake virus or malware warning messages? It can be tough, but if you stay calm there are a few signs that will help you distinguish between the two.
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so you don’t walk into a trap.

8. Fake Charities, Sweepstakes, and Others

Don’t put it past scammers to take advantage of a tragic event. Often, after a natural disaster that makes international headlines, fraudsters will reach out via email or other methods to collect money for a “good cause.” Of course, they’re just looking to capitalize on people’s generosity following these events.

Like phishing emails, you should never respond to unsolicited messages like this. If you want to donate to a charitable cause, visit it directly and make sure it’s a reputable organization.

Charities aren’t the only kind of fake message that you’ll run into. If you receive messages claiming that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, have uncollected debt on an account you know nothing about, or similar, ignore it. These are scams trying to take your money.

These scams can also arrive by SMS, so watch your texts as well as your email inbox.

Stay Vigilant Against Dangerous Internet Fraud

We’ve reviewed some of the most notorious examples of online fraud. While you might be familiar with one or many of these, it’s important to spread awareness as much as possible. As more people learn to recognize these scams, they’ll become less effective and hopefully go away for good.

Not all fraud examples take place online. Review the major signs that you’re on the phone with a scammer

7 Telltale Signs You’re on the Phone With a Scammer

7 Telltale Signs You’re on the Phone With a Scammer

Thieves use all sorts of phone scams to rip you off. Here are some telltale signs that you’re talking to a scammer on the phone.
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so you don’t fall for phone rip-offs.

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Want to Work from Home? Watch out for These Common Job Scams – LifeSavvy

woman looking at her laptop, stressed because the work from home business turned out to be a scam
Everything Is Stock/Shutterstock

Almost three out of every four people in multi-level marketing jobs make no money or actually lose money. Of course, most people would never knowingly take on a job with such a high risk of not getting paid. But when that job promises to let you work from home, it can suddenly seem worth a try.

Thanks to the internet, work-from-home scams have increased in recent years. And they look far different than they used to. The days of pyramid and Ponzi schemes are mostly over: now, you’re more likely to get recruited for multi-level marketing or fake virtual assistant jobs.

How can you tell a scam from a real work-from-home business opportunity? And what about those gray areas that aren’t quite scams, but aren’t quite profitable either? We’ve got the answers—read this before you commit to something you might regret.

Pyramid and Multi-Level Marketing Schemes: What’s the Difference?

Most people have heard of pyramid schemes. These now-illegal scams promise to pay members for merely recruiting more people, instead of selling products or services. As more people join, recruiting becomes impossible, so new members can’t profit.

Since they’re widely mistrusted and mostly illegal, you don’t run across many pyramid schemes these days. But in some ways, the multi-level marketing (MLM) model has taken their place.

MLMs are one of the most common misleading work-from-home “jobs” available today. But as anyone trying to recruit you for an MLM will tell you, “It’s not a pyramid scheme!” And they’re right—it’s not.

MLMs hinge on selling products or services, while also trying to recruit new members to work below you. The model marries the pyramid idea with actual products to sell. You may also see MLMs referred to as networking marketing opportunities.

And to be clear: it is possible to make money through an MLM. It’s just that only a small fraction of people who join make money, while the vast majority makes nothing or loses money. So even though an MLM may not be a scam in the same way a pyramid scheme is, we recommend avoiding these high-risk “opportunities.”

Why do so many people lose money with MLMs? It has to do with the way these companies are structured. People who join have to buy their own inventory to sell, and they often get pressured to buy larger stocks than they need. Then, they make money through commissions from their sales. They can also profit by recruiting new people and getting a commission from each of these members of their “downline.”

This means that for new members, part of the profit from each sale is going into the pockets of the people in their “upline.” And, while they’re pressured to buy inventory, there’s often little guidance on how to sell that inventory effectively. Many people join MLMs, sink funds into their inventory, and then leave when they realize they can’t sell it fast enough to make a profit.

However, because MLMs usually involve a friendly-sounding community, promises of big bucks, and lots of pressure to stick with it, people often invest hundreds or thousands of dollars before they leave. While it is possible to make a profit with an MLM, the numbers are not on your side. Better to steer clear and look for a job that will reliably pay you for your time spent.

Other Common Work-from-Home Scams

young man making phone calls for a fraudulent telemarketing company
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

While MLMs are one of the most pervasive scammy work-from-home options, you may well run into others on the job search. Here are a few of the most common scams to watch out for.

Virtual Assistant Scams

In this kind of scam, someone posts a great-sounding job opportunity for a virtual assistant. It sounds simple: get paid well to respond to emails, field phone calls, and other generic tasks. But then, they offer to send you a large up-front payment—they just need a few of your financial details first.

These scams aim to access your bank account information and steal your funds before you know what’s happening. Be wary of any “virtual assistant” job posting: it’s actually pretty rare as a legitimate job. If they offer to pay you before you’ve done any real work, run—and block them from contacting you again. Otherwise, they’ll spam your inbox with fake threats to contact the authorities if you don’t follow through.

Social Media Scams

Many modern scams also prey on people’s love of social media. In these scams, you’re promised hundreds of dollars just for spending time on your favorite social platforms.

However, before you can get paid, the company usually asks you to pay to access training or their platform. Here’s a tip: any job that wants you to pay to work isn’t legitimate. A real job will pay you without asking you for money first.

Data Entry Scams

In these jobs, the promise is that you’ll get paid well for simple data entry done from home. While data entry is also a real job, the scams abound. Real data entry jobs don’t usually get paid that well—so if it promises enormous profits, don’t trust it.

These scams often take your money by requiring you to buy their expensive software before you can start. Again, you shouldn’t have to pay to start a job—a real employer will provide you with the software you need to work with them.

How to Avoid Getting Duped

While these types of scams have become incredibly common, there are countless other work-from-home scams to avoid. Even if you think you know them all, new ones pop up all the time. So instead of trying to memorize every type of scam out there, use these tips to boost your work-from-home scam radar.

Keep Your Head Clear

When you’re dying to leave your drab office and end your miserable commute, it’s easy to let emotions cloud your mind. Your excitement about a promising work-from-home offer can blur your judgment, leading you to sign up for a scam.

Try to keep a level head during your job search. If you find a job that sounds too good to be true, give yourself a day to think about it before you apply. When you come back to it with a calmer perspective, the red flags might be more apparent.

Avoid Up-Front Transactions

Normal jobs won’t ask you for money upfront, and they won’t pay you upfront, either. Be wary of any offer that promises to pay you before you’ve done any work, or asks you to pay for equipment or software before you’ve earned your first paycheck.

Those up-front transactions are putting your financial information in the hands of an entity you know nothing about. Even if the initial transaction is just a small fee, these scammers can add on new, unexpected future charges, or even outright steal your information.

Be Realistic

If the job promises that you’ll make great money without investing any effort, it should sound too good to be true—because it is.

All legitimate remote jobs require actual work. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re getting paid to do nothing. If a job promises easy money to people with no marketable skills, it’s not a real job.

Wait for an Interview

A legitimate, full-time remote position will almost always involve an interview via phone or video call. If you don’t have an interview, how can the company know they want to hire you?

That said, many freelance or contract work-from-home positions don’t involve interviews. However, at the least, they will ask you to send your resume and examples of your capabilities before hiring you. If you don’t have any interaction where you show an employer what you’ve got, it’s likely a scam.

Avoid Employers That Contact You First

If it’s a legitimate company, lots of people should want to work for them. So why are they showing up with an unsolicited email in your inbox?

Real work-from-home jobs aren’t desperate for people to hire. They’ll wait for potential employees to contact them with applications. But scammers always need new victims, so they reach out to people first.

Find out How You’ll Get Paid

If a job promises big paychecks but isn’t clear on when or how you’ll get them, that’s another red flag.

Real job opportunities make their payment structures clear. Maybe you’ll get paid every other week via PayPal, or once a month via direct deposit. They won’t leave you questioning when or how you’ll get paid.

Also, avoid any “employer” that promises to send you a big check, and then asks you to take a portion of it for your payment. Real work-from-home jobs don’t expect you to handle large amounts of money that’s not yours.

Do Your Research

Always look up a company online before you start working with them. Dig around, and go beyond the first page of Google results. Check out their social media pages, and check Glassdoor for what former employees have to say. If there’s no information about a company beyond its website, it’s probably not legit.

What to Do If You Find a Scam

screenshot showing the scam tracking map and website run by the Better Business Bureau
Better Business Bureau

If you notice a work-from-home scam, you can help alert others by reporting it on the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker. This is also an excellent place to research anything you suspect is a scam.

However, keep in mind that scammers are always coming up with new ways to cheat people out of their time and money. They can pose as known, legitimate businesses, complete with familiar-looking logos. They can offer realistic-sounding opportunities. The best way to stay safe is always to approach remote job opportunities with caution, and do careful research before moving forward. There are many legitimate remote jobs out there—just don’t get duped while seeking out the perfect one.

Of course, work-from-home scams aren’t the only scams you’ll need to avoid. Next, check out our guide to avoiding common travel scams.

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7 Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them – LifeSavvy

Woman wearing a backpack walking down a crowded street.
TZIDO SUN/Shutterstock

When you’re in a new, unfamiliar place, it’s easy to fall for a scam you’d never even consider at home. Here are some of the most common travel scams—and how to avoid them.

Whether it’s your first visit to a city, or you’re in a different country that uses a different currency, the disruption of your regular routines and expectations make you an easy target when you travel. Let’s look at the most common scams unscrupulous locals use on tourists.

Taxi Scams

Taxi scams have a long (and lucrative) tradition. They’re one of the most common scams going, and you can fall for them as soon as you arrive. There are a few different categories.

The simplest is your taxi driver ridiculously overcharges you. He might quote you a flat fee that’s significantly more than the going rate, use a sketchy meter that goes up too fast, or take a roundabout route.

Another way taxis overcharge is by including extras, like toll bridge charges or airport pickup fees. And they’ll charge them twice: once automatically on the meter and again at the end of your ride.

Particularly in Asia, taxi drivers might tell you that your hotel, a tourist attraction, shop, or restaurant is closed, either permanently or for lunch/siesta/Wednesdays. But the good news is, he’s got a friend who rents rooms/knows an alternative, and he’ll happily take you there.

Of course, your hotel isn’t really closed—he’s just going to overcharge you, take you on a tour of the city during which you’ll be pressured into buying stuff, and then take a kickback from whichever businesses you visit.

How to Avoid Taxi Scams

Taxi scams are easy to avoid with two simple rules:

  • Only use licensed taxis hailed from an official taxi point or by someone you trust. Don’t hail taxis from the street or, even worse, get in an unlicensed taxi. When you do, you’re putting yourself at risk of being scammed. Instead, get a taxi from an official taxi rank or ask the concierge/your waiter to call one for you.
  • Know how much the trip you’re taking should cost. Ask your concierge or waiter roughly what the fee for your trip should be or check online. This way, if the driver tries to charge you more or the meter goes up suspiciously fast, you can demand to be let out. You can also use Google Maps to make sure you’re being taken the most direct route to your destination.
  • Avoid taxis entirely. Services like Uber, Lyft, and Grab are available in much of the world, and because you pay with a credit card, it’s more difficult to be scammed.

Fake Tickets and Sketchy Listings

Crowd in front of advertisements for Broadway plays in Times Square, New York City.

That guy selling you cheap Hamilton tickets on Craigslist because he can’t go on short notice? He’s lying. That super-cheap apartment in a great location? Also a lie.

Fake tickets for events and attractions (or real tickets sold for double the price) are another common scam travelers fall victim too. If you’re planning to visit the Louvre and someone offers you discount tickets for €10 on the street, it’s tempting to buy them. However, when you get to the Louvre, you’ll discover the tickets are fake, and you’re out €10—plus the cost of the real tickets. Or, someone might offer you £10 discount tickets to the British Museum but, when you get there, you find out it’s free.

Airbnb has also conditioned people to the idea of renting accommodations other than hotel rooms. Two apartment listing scams I’ve personally encountered are:

  • Listings on Craigslist that don’t exist. The scammer asks for a deposit by wire transfer or Western Union, and then never responds. When you arrive at the building, everyone is perplexed. This happened to my stepmother in New York.
  • The property owner wants to “cut out” Airbnb. Once you book, the “owner” contacts you by direct message and says that she’s having a dispute with Airbnb and wants to “cut them out.” She asks you to pay a deposit through a different site and vanishes.

How to Avoid Fake Tickets and Sketchy Listings

Only buy tickets for events through official sources, like the website, at the ticket desk, or from your hotel’s concierge. Never buy “discount” tickets from people on the street.

Only book your accommodations through trusted sources with some protection, like the hotel’s website, Airbnb, or

Currency Traps

Scammers want your money. If they can trick you into giving it to them directly, they will. And, when you’re not familiar with the currency you’re using, it’s even easier to be fooled.

Fake bank notes are a problem everywhere, so watch the change you receive, especially if you pay with a large bill. If you’re unfamiliar with the currency, you probably won’t notice you’ve been given fake cash until you try to spend it.

The inverse of this is when you pay with a large note and are then accused of using fake money. They might even switch it out for a fake note when you’re not looking. In this case, they’ll insist they legally have to confiscate the fake note—and you still owe them money.

Also, if you use a street-side currency exchange, they could just exchange your genuine dollars for fake ones.

You especially need to be careful when you use a card abroad. Tourists are easy targets for card skimmers because they tend to have money and, if the skimmer waits a few days before trying your card, you’ll most likely have left the country and won’t be able to take legal action. My brother (he’s Irish but lives in Alabama) was skimmed at a bar in JFK airport when he was flying home for Christmas.

How to Avoid Currency Traps

Familiarize yourself with the local currency when you arrive. Get a feel for what it looks like, what the different denominations are, and so on. You’ll never be as comfortable with it as a local, but at least know what the person on the front of each bill looks like.

Check your change carefully. Make sure it’s the correct amount, and the notes are real.

When you hand over money or your bank card, pay attention. This won’t necessarily stop a skilled scammer but, if they see you’re watching them closely, they’re much less likely to try something. There’ll be another mark along shortly.

When you’re withdrawing money or exchanging currency, only do it at a bank or other official currency exchange. A bank’s ATM is much less likely to be sketchy than one at a local bar.

Guilt Trips

Guilt trips aren’t technically a scam, but rather, an awkward situation. Someone will approach you on the street and try to give you something, like a friendship bracelet, rosary beads, or Buddhist charms—and they can be quite forceful. After you accept, they’ll insist on payment. If you refuse, they get loud, aggressive, or insistent hoping you’ll pay them off to prevent a scene. Whatever you pay will be far more than the tack was worth.

This has happened to me a few times. Once, a monk (or rather, a scammer dressed as a monk) put a charm around my neck and insisted I pay him for it. On another occasion, I was on a train and on every seat was a small packet of disposable tissues. I assumed it was an advertising campaign but, a few minutes into the journey, a woman demanded that anyone who’d taken the tissues pay her for them.

A similar scam is run in some shops. The staff offers you a cup of tea or a drink while you browse. If you try to leave without buying something, they accuse you of abusing their hospitality and try to guilt you into making a purchase.

How to Avoid Guilt Trips

Don’t accept anything free from anyone, especially on the street.

If someone seemingly gives you something for free but then insists you pay for it, politely give it back. If they start making a scene, ignore them. Most locals will be familiar with the scam and assume you’re in the right.

Damaged Rentals

When you rent a car, motorcycle, Jet Ski, or anything else abroad, imaginary damage is a scam you need to watch out for. Here’s what happens.

You rent the vehicle and head off on your merry way. When you return it, the person at the rental company points out some scratch, ding, dent, or imaginary damage, and insists you caused it. Of course, the cost of repair is exorbitant.

How to Avoid Damaged Rentals

To avoid this scam, film a video of any vehicle you’re renting from every side. If there are any scratches, dents, or dings, call them out in the video. If you can, have the rental agent with you while you do this. This way, when you return the vehicle, you can prove the damage was there when you rented it.

Also, when you’re renting a vehicle, never leave your passport or ID as collateral. They’re perfectly entitled to ask for that information and photocopy it, but if the option is to either pay a large deposit or leave your passport, pay the deposit. If they have your passport, they can hold your ability to leave the country hostage until you pay up.


Thief's hand reaching into someone's jacket pocket on the street.
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

While pickpockets are straight-up thieves rather than scam artists, the two overlap when a scam is used to distract you so someone can pick your pocket. For example:

  • Someone plays three-card monte or the shell game while a pickpocket works the crowd.
  • A street performer or busker plays while a pickpocket (possibly independent) works the crowd.
  • Someone spills her drink on you. While she pats you down, apologizing profusely, she also picks your pocket.
  • A well-dressed tourist asks you for directions. While you help, he picks your pocket.
  • Someone asks you to sign a petition. As you do, your wallet is stolen.
  • You’re using an ATM, and a local offers to help. She vanishes, along with your cash.

How to Avoid Pickpockets

Pickpockets are tricky to avoid as they walk right up to you. Be extra careful when someone invades your personal space. The man asking you for directions might be genuine, or he might also be taking your wallet. Similarly, if someone spills something on you, step back, and don’t let them pat you down. Maybe they’re just clumsy, and you can clean it up yourself—or it was a distraction so that they can swipe your pocketbook.

Be careful how much cash you keep in your wallet and where you keep it. It’s better to use a money belt. Also, make sure you leave a backup bank card in your hotel room. This way, if your wallet is stolen, you still have access to cash.

Fake Goods

This might surprise you, but stalls in street markets are not official Nike retailers. Nor is that kindly gentleman selling genuine Ray-Bans (75% off) from a rug by the side of the road. Almost all (let’s be honest—it’s all) the name-brand goods for sale in street markets are knockoffs. If they’re real, they’re stolen.

Another market scam draws you in with things like handcrafted rugs, high-quality silks, local goods, and so on. You inspect them and find they’re actually well made. You purchase one, and it’s taken out back to be wrapped up for your flight home. After you get home, you find you’ve bought a cheap polyester rug or an otherwise fake product. The genuine article was switched when it was sent to be packed.

How to Avoid Fake Goods

Don’t buy name-brand products at a street market. No, that’s not a cheap Rolex for sale. No, those aren’t Nikes—the logo’s facing the wrong way. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

When you’re buying something genuine, handcrafted, or local, don’t let them package it in such a way that you can’t inspect it. Insist you can do it yourself; this way, they can’t switch out the product for a fake. If you can’t package it yourself, don’t buy it.

Dealing with scams is an unfortunate part of traveling. In Europe or Asia, you’ll almost certainly run into someone who’ll try to take advantage of you. With a bit of foreknowledge and common sense, however, you’ll be fine. Make it clear you know what they’re up to, and they’ll look for an easier mark.

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10 eBay Scams to Be Aware Of

eBay is a great idea on paper, and I’ve had good experiences using the site, but the growing prevalence of eBay scammers has turned it into a shady marketplace. I don’t feel safe on eBay anymore.

But sometimes you don’t have a choice. As a buyer, some items can only be found on eBay, and as a seller, eBay might be the most profitable platform for you to sell on. If you must use eBay, then you must be wary of eBay scams.

Here are the most common eBay scams to know about: three as a buyer, six as a seller, and one that applies to all eBay users.

3 eBay Scams to Avoid as a Buyer

In general, eBay buyers have less to worry about because eBay tends to side with buyers in disputes

5 Critical eBay Online Shopping Tips You Must Know

5 Critical eBay Online Shopping Tips You Must Know

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. Buyers don’t need much evidence to claim foul play—in most cases, eBay will take you at your word. But there are still a few ways you can be taken advantage of.

1. Seller Runs Off With Your Money

The Scam

The scam is simple: you send payment and nothing happens.

For most listings, the eBay Money Back Guarantee protects you if the seller never actually ships you the item. But there are several categories of items that aren’t covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee:

  • Vehicles
  • Real estate
  • Items sold by Sotheby’s
  • Websites and businesses for sale
  • Classified ads
  • Services
  • Some kinds of business equipment

Note that these don’t include many of the best-selling items on eBay

The 7 Best Selling Items on eBay

The 7 Best Selling Items on eBay

Ever wondered which are the best selling items on eBay? These are some of the best stuff you can buy or sell on eBay.
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; rather, these tend to be high-value transactions, typically in the range of thousands of dollars. It’s reasonable for eBay to make exceptions for these kinds of items.

How to Avoid It

Even if you check the seller’s feedback and it looks overwhelmingly positive, you can never be sure that such items aren’t scams. They might be playing the long con: building up a spectacular rating over tons of tiny transactions, then scamming you out of this one huge transaction.

All you can do is avoid shopping in categories that aren’t covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee.

2. Seller Ships With an Incorrect Name

The Scam

The seller puts up a normal listing, usually with a Buy Now option but not always. When you purchase it, the seller properly ships the package to your address but mangles the name, making you think that you received someone else’s package.

So you return the package to the post office, as any good citizen would do. Unfortunately, this marks your package as “Refused” or “Returned,” and that voids the eBay Money Back Guarantee.

The money that you sent to the seller is now his to keep, and you have nothing to show for it. The worst part? This counts as a resolved dispute and you can’t leave feedback after dispute resolutions.

How to Avoid It

There are no good options here. The best one, which might be ethically gray, is to open all packages that come to your house as long as: you’re expecting a package, the address matches, and the tracking says delivered.

3. Seller Literally Sells an Empty Box

The Scam

The seller puts up a listing, usually for a hot new item with a lot of mainstream buzz (e.g. new smartphone model, new gaming console, etc.). The price is set to far below market value. The hope is that you’ll see the listing and get so excited that you rush to buy it before someone else does.

Unfortunately, the listing clearly states that the seller is only selling the box for said item. When it arrives, you open the package and splutter with excitement—only to realize the box itself is empty and you’ve been bamboozled.

How to Avoid It

Never rush to buy items on an open marketplace. Always read through a listing before committing. You might be able to dispute the purchase if the seller intentionally hides the fact that it’s just a box. But if the first line of the item description explicitly states that the listing is for the box only, then you may not win a dispute.

6 eBay Scams to Avoid as a Seller

Sellers definitely deal with the bulk of all problems on eBay. It’s far too easy for scammers to hit sellers without much fear of repercussions, so if you want to stay safe, you can only rely on yourself.

1. Buyer Offers to Overpay

The Scam

A buyer contacts you and offers to pay a lot more money than you’re asking for your item. They’ll send an empty cashier’s check or a bogus personal check, neither of which will clear. By then, you’ve already sent the item and it’s too late.

This one is easy to fall for because the promise of extra money is just too hard to resist. Who wouldn’t be enticed by the offer of $500 on a laptop listed at $300?

How to Avoid It

Never send items until you have the money in hand or in the bank. Note that when you deposit a check, it may appear in your bank account right away but can take up to two weeks for it to be marked as “bounced.” To be safe, wait until you know for sure. To be safer, never accept checks of any kind on eBay.

A similar scam also happens outside of eBay, so keep your eyes peeled for it. Any time someone wants to send you more money than necessary and requests that you pay some of it back (or to someone else), you can be sure the check is bogus and won’t clear.

For help pricing your items correctly, take a look at ways to estimate eBay prices and find what items are worth

How to Estimate eBay Prices and Find Out What Items Are Worth

How to Estimate eBay Prices and Find Out What Items Are Worth

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2. Buyer Wants to Settle Outside eBay

The Scam

If your listing is an auction, you may get a buyer who offers to pay an immediate amount as long as you close the listing and settle outside of eBay. You oblige. It seems like everything went fine, but soon they’ll complain to eBay that your item was defective or false or non-existent.

You can try to dispute it, but eBay won’t help you. eBay can’t know about anything that happened outside of eBay, so they will only help you if all communications and transactions went through eBay’s platform.

How to Avoid It

Never agree to move beyond eBay, even for a quick buck. When communicating with buyers, always do so through eBay’s channels. That way, eBay can easily verify the buyer’s messages for things like intent to defraud.

3. Buyer Claims You Shipped an Empty Box

The Scam

The buyer purchases one of your listings as normal. You ship the item to the buyer as normal. When he receives the item, he opens an eBay dispute and claims that you sent him an empty box. eBay forces a return, the buyer ships back the empty box, and keeps the item that was inside.

How to Avoid It

Check the buyer’s feedback history, which may indicate potential problems. If you contact eBay, they’ll tell you to appeal the dispute. You’ll need all the evidence you can muster (e.g. photo proof that you actually shipped the item), and anything less than comprehensive proof will rule in the buyer’s favor.

To be safe, always photograph the entire process of packing and shipping every item you sell through eBay. The more proof you keep, the safer you’ll be.

4. Buyer Threatens Refund With Broken Replica

The Scam

You’re selling a used item that’s in relative high demand, such as an iPhone 6 Plus. The buyer purchases it from you, but before they do, they have an exact replica of the item—except it’s broken or damaged.

You ship it, they receive it, and then complain to eBay that you sent a defective item. If you can’t prove that you sent a working item, they’ll get their money back and you’ll be out an iPhone 6 Plus.

How to Avoid It

Record all unique details of the item before you ship it: serial number, IME number, etc. This may not always be possible, but when it is, it can help you win any disputes against you.

5. Buyer Claims “Item Not Received” to PayPal

The Scam

When selling with PayPal, you are covered by PayPal Seller Protection. However, to be protected, you must have proof of delivery for all items. For transactions under $750, delivery confirmation is enough. For over $750, you must have signature confirmation of delivery.

Scammers know that most non-business sellers on eBay aren’t aware of this prerequisite. The scammer purchases an item worth over $750 through PayPal, then claim the item wasn’t received. If you can’t provide signature confirmation of delivery, you have no protection.

How to Avoid It

Always track your shipments, and for sales over $750, always get signature confirmation of delivery. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and protection against scammers.

6. Buyer Issues a Chargeback

The Scam

Whether using a credit card or PayPal, buyers can always reverse a transaction using a chargeback

Chargebacks for Credit Cards and PayPal: What You Need to Know

Chargebacks for Credit Cards and PayPal: What You Need to Know

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. A chargeback is essentially a forced refund: the bank (or PayPal) cancels a transaction, taking the money back from you and returning it to the buyer.

Not only that, but you’ll usually get hit with a chargeback fee. In the US, PayPal’s chargeback fee is $20 per transaction. Banks typically have a chargeback fee between $15 and $25 per transaction.

Unfortunately, chargebacks are notoriously easy to initiate. A buyer only needs to raise suspicion that you’ve done something wrong, and most banks (and PayPal) will tend to go through with it, no questions asked.

How to Avoid It

PayPal Seller Protection does guard you against frivolous chargebacks, so make sure you adhere to all the rules and regulations therein.

As for banks, all chargebacks are followed up with an investigation. If you can show documented proof that the transaction was valid, you may be able to overturn the chargeback.

Note that if a buyer politely requests a refund and you can’t convince them otherwise, it’s always in your best interest to issue the refund. If they’re desperate, they’ll resort to a chargeback and you’ll eat the fees.

And One More eBay Scam to Avoid…

The Scam

You receive an email that looks like an official notice from eBay. It might ask you to do one of many things: review your security details, update your password, confirm a recent purchase or sale, etc. What’s important is that the email includes a link to log into your account.

This fraudulent link takes you to a copycat website that looks like the real eBay website. You try to log in, but it doesn’t work. Too late! The website now knows the login credentials you just typed in, and the scammer will use it to access your actual eBay account.

How to Avoid It

This technique of impersonating a website and getting you to give up your login credentials is called phishing. Learn how to spot a phishing email so you never fall for one of these again.

Furthermore, never click on links in emails! Never. Even if the link looks legitimate. Fake links are extremely easy to insert, and you can never really know if an email is real because email headers can be spoofed. To be safe, always type in URLs by hand.

Sick of eBay? Check out these cheaper eBay alternatives

Fed Up With eBay? Here Are Some Worthy (And Cheaper) Alternatives For Sellers

Fed Up With eBay? Here Are Some Worthy (And Cheaper) Alternatives For Sellers

When you want to sell your excess junk online, where do you go? For most people, the one and only answer is eBay. With millions of daily users, it only seems logical to use the…
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Image Credit: IB Photography/Shutterstock

Explore more about: eBay, Online Shopping, Personal Safety, Scams.

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Amazon Order Scams, Improve Your Memory, and 10 Old PC Games Still Worth Playing

We’re back with a big bunch of tips and tricks in the latest Really Useful Podcast. If you’ve ever been hit by an Amazon order scam, or want to improve your memory skills, this is the show for you!

We also take a look at how to play Snake in Google Maps and make Google Assistant sound like John Legend. Plus, 10 great PC games you can still play on Windows 10.

Really Useful Podcast Season 2 Episode 9 Shownotes

As ever, we provide you with the links to the topics we discuss in this week’s Really Useful Podcast:

This week’s hosts are Christian Cawley and James Frew, who you can follow on Twitter:

Share our podcast with anyone you know who could benefit with having otherwise complicated technology matters clearly explained.

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Explore more about: Amazon, Google Assistant, Google Maps, Productivity Tricks, Retro Gaming, Scams, Xbox One.

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