How to Recognize and Protect Yourself From Online Scams

How to Recognize and Protect Yourself From Online Scams


When we think of the Internet, we think of a place of endless opportunity. It is, sadly, also riddled with dangers. In 2020, more than 300 million people around the world reportedly fell victim to some form of cybercrime - that is, criminal activity online.

In this article, we explain the most common types of online scams and fraud, how to tell if something is a scam, and how to avoid falling for one.

What is an online scam?

Online fraud and scams come in a variety of shapes and forms, including money scams, identity theft, or financial fraud, and it is common on every online channel from email to social media and messaging platforms. In fact, according to the FTC, more than half of victims to investment scams in 2021 said the scam started on social media.

And with 47% of Americans experiencing financial identity theft in 2020, the importance of learning to recognize and avoid fraud online can’t be overstated.

Most common types of online scams


What it is

Phishing is a form of fraud that involves tricking individuals into revealing personal, confidential, or sensitive information that is later used illicitly. Types of data most frequently stolen via phishing are credentials (passwords, PIN numbers), personal details (name, address), and medical information.

How to spot it

Phishing often happens in the form of an apparently authentic request for data coming in an email or message. The victim is sent to a fake website where they are supposed to enter the requested information. Because the perpetrator appears to be a legitimate or reputable business or person, it is easy to fall victim to a phishing attack.

How to avoid it

The best way to avoid a phishing attack is to never click on links in unsolicited communications via emails, texts, or social media - especially if you are requested to disclose sensitive information.


What it is

A malware attack is a type of attack where malicious software is used to steal data, cause harm, or damage a person’s or organization’s computer, system, or network. Malware software typically ends up on an individual’s device by tricking them into installing a piece of software. Common types of attacks include viruses, spyware, and ransomware.

How to spot it

Malware software can come through links or attachments in suspicious, unsolicited communications (email, social media, etc). Sometimes, such software can be packaged together with other types of software that a user installs.

How to avoid it

Never install, click, or open attachments or URLs coming from senders that you don’t know, or that don’t look legitimate. Also, make sure you use up-to-date antivirus and firewall software, and never download software from unknown sources.

Prizes & contests

What it is

Prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams commonly occur via email and social channels. Typically, you receive a message stating you’ve won something substantial (such as a phone), or that you could win something big by doing something very simple like giving away some personal or account information.

How to spot it

Fake contents and prizes can be recognized by using the simple, timeless test of ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’. If you are asked to pay (even a small sum of money), or give your bank account data or personal information, then you’re likely dealing with a scam.

How to avoid it

Don’t be tempted by easy wins or ‘free’ gifts, especially if you’re asked to give something valuable in exchange, such as your money or your data.

Get rich quickly

What it is

Any ad that says you can make money online quickly and easily is not necessarily a scam. What can make it a scam is a fake promise that by performing a very easy task, in a very short period of time, you’ll earn a large amount of money - guaranteed. Potentially, if you pay some money yourself first.

How to spot it

You’ll recognize a deceiving ‘get rich quickly’ scheme by the fact that: 1 - you are asked to pay something in advance; and 2 - you’ll never know what it is you have to do until you pay. You can read about a variety of money-making scams here.

How to avoid it

As tempting as it may sound to be able to make (A TON OF) money easily and comfortably at home, remember that nothing worthwhile is easy. Only pursue work opportunities and employers that are legitimate - you can tell by going to their website, reviewing their social media profiles, and checking reviews from other employees.

Identity fraud

What it is

Identity theft is a serious crime where one’s personal details (name, date of birth, address, social security number, etc) are stolen. The goal is to commit identity fraud, which is performing actions on behalf of the victim - such as opening bank accounts, obtaining loans or other benefits, ordering goods, taking over online accounts, and so on.

How to spot it

Unfortunately, a victim of identity fraud usually becomes aware of it by getting alerts about purchases, credit card charges, loans or credit card applications - all of which they didn’t make.

How to avoid it

Identity theft is best warded off by securing and protecting your personal and financial information. This means using unique, strong passwords for each account and keeping your cards and personal files out of sight. Also, remember you should never share sensitive information such as IDs, passwords, PIN codes, card information, or health records over the phone, email, or via messaging.

Money transfer scams

What it is

Money transfer scams or payment scams are a type of fraud where a scammer will try to trick you into transferring money from your bank account to theirs. They can do so using alleged exclusive shopping deals, emotional topics (a child in need or sick grandchild), impersonation of a loved one, legal action claims, and more (here’s a useful list).

How to spot it

Such scams share a few common features such as:

  • Urgency (the transfer needs to be made right away);
  • The person approaching you is a stranger and you’ve had no prior contact (they claim to be a business, attorney, customer support rep, etc);

How to avoid it

It’s easy: never wire money to someone you don’t know, have never met or talked to before, or who is pressuring you into paying them immediately. Also, make sure to always report such fraud attempts to the relevant authorities.

Security with

Sending money via is always safe and secure because we’ve made it a priority to enable the safest, instant money transfers globally.

We use top-of-the-line security technology, including 3D Secure, Face ID and Touch ID, and advanced anti-fraud monitoring to protect transactions in the network. You can read more about our extensive security measures here.

How to stay safe online - a checklist

We can all agree that security online is very important. But it can be overwhelming to keep looking over your shoulder at every email, website, click, or message you receive online.

So we’ve put together this simple checklist to help you avoid fraud and scams online.


  • Use strong, unique passwords for each online account
  • Use the Report Spam button in your Inbox
  • Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible
  • Check the sender and domain before responding to an email
  • Check for grammar & spelling errors, excess formatting, and pushy requests
  • Close accounts you no longer use
  • Keep your antivirus and firewall software up to date


  • Click on links or open attachments from unsolicited emails
  • Take action or respond to senders you don’t recognize
  • Share your password or PIN codes with anyone
  • Enter your payment data on websites that are not secured (always check for the https:// in the URL)
  • Give your bank card information or health records over the phone or email
  • Download software from unknown sources
  • Trust something that seems too good to be true

Summing up

We hope this review of the most common types of online scams has been useful - and remember that recognizing online fraud is just the first step.

Whenever you’re online, stay alert and ask yourself the right questions before clicking, downloading, responding, or sharing any data.

Safe browsing!

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