Top 10 Worst Internet Scams

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Let’s face it; in a world that is heavily reliant upon technology, especially the Internet, none of us are entirely safe from running into an online scam. There are literally thousands of them, and even though you may consider yourself “e-smart,” the people who set up these scams may be looking to target those who consider themselves to be too educated to ever fall for a scam, as they are the least likely to put up their walls and push the scammer away. According to scambusters.org, “being smart is NOT enough to protect yourself from Internet scams.”

According to Internet World Stats about 1,802,330,457 people use the Internet. That’s a huge number, and with large numbers of people, there is always a few “bad apples” in the bunch. Since the Internet is so widely available, it’s no surprise that people would attempt to scam others out of money and sometimes their identity. Scams are so prevalent in today’s world that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has said that over 560 million dollars have been lost to internet scams and fraud. In 2009 alone, the number of people who made a complaint about a scam online increased by 20% to a whopping 336,655 complaints.

Below is a list of 10 of the most successful Internet scams. Some are extremely popular these days while others have taken the backburner to more seemingly successful scams. If you ever run into something you believe is a scam, remember the old phrase: “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”

While your presence online can expose you to Internet scams, you can also use the Internet to protect yourself. Onguardonline.gov invites you to stop and think before you click, while providing useful resources to help you guard against scams. US readers: don’t forget to report attempted scams to the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center (link above). You can also report complaints for cross-border scams at econsumer.gov.

10. Lottery Scams


Have you ever received an email stating that you’ve won the lottery in some other country, usually with a total of a few million dollars? If so, you know all about lottery scams. These scams target people with the promise of millions of dollars, which will be deposited into their bank accounts after completing a few easy steps. However, the catch is that you must pay thousands of dollars ahead of time before you receive your promised millions. Sadly, once you hand over your thousands, your lottery win is nowhere to be found, and you’re out money. Though it seems silly, what’s a few thousand dollars compared to a couple million?

What’s the attraction?

Money. In the world we live in today, money is the way of the world. Money is power, and people are always looking for a way to get rich quickly. Sadly, these opportunities are very far and few between. Many people will jump at the chance to get their hands on millions of dollars without thinking that it could be a scam that will inevitably leave them empty-handed. It’s a case of leaping before you look, and victims of lottery scams end up in debt or out of a lot of money.

9. Disaster Relief


Recently, disaster relief scams have been on the rise. In a country’s time of need, money is usually the best donation to provide, and scammers have become well aware of this. Generally, these scammers will send out emails with a link to a fake donation website that asks you to make a donation, usually by using your debit or credit card online. However, by providing this information, such as your card number, the scammers have access to your information which could then provide them access to your money. In the end you’re out of money, some scammer has your information, and you never really donated to the real cause. Make sure you donate your money to a reliable organization, at the correct web address. If your request for a donation came through email, it’s probably a phishing scam. Take the time to research a real relief fund before you donate money.

What’s the attraction?

Many like to believe that most of the world’s population is caring and wants to be of assistance in the time of a disaster or crisis somewhere in the world. When a large amount of people die in a country or many are left homeless due to a natural disaster, many people come together and decide to donate money, usually through online programs to help relief efforts. With disasters in New Orleans, Haiti, New York City, China, Chile, and many other locations, disaster relief scams have become extremely popular. The fact is that people want to help, but sometimes scammers are able to take advantage of the sympathetic nature of some people to benefit for themselves.

Check out our list “Top Ten Charity Scams” for more information about this topic.

8. Online Dating


Today, online dating websites have become extremely popular. Participants set up a dating profile on one of the online dating websites that promise to give you access to hundreds of potential partners. Be warned, that this also gives online scammers access to you!  For example, let’s say one of the fellow members messages you, and over time the connection grows and becomes pretty strong. The member has led you to believe that he or she is pretty well off. Next, your online boyfriend or girlfriend tells you that he/she is out of the country doing business and needs your assistance with a few things. The scam starts when that person wants you to cash a money order and wire the money. Those who fall for the scam are hurt both emotionally and financially.

What’s the attraction?

Internet dating can be great for people who find it challenging to find dating partners in their daily life. Cashing a money order and wiring the money for someone else doesn’t seem to alarm many people, because people fall for this scam regularly. Perhaps the victim believes that the bank won’t cash a counterfeit or altered money order. In fact, it can be several weeks before their bank gets this information from the bank that issued the item and when this happens they want their money back. Or, perhaps when you’ve made a connection with someone, the trust level is high enough to believe that the transaction is legitimate. When the person you’ve been talking to for months seems promising, it’s hard to differentiate between lies and a true scam.

7. Rogue Software


Have you ever been to a legitimate website and had a sudden pop-up that says something along the lines that your computer if infected with viruses and worms and needs to be cleaned ASAP? This is another popular scam today as many people will fall for the pop-up and then download the rogue software, usually software that looks like it is legitimate anti-virus software that promises to clean your computer of all of the viruses. Though many times this rogue software is free, there are times when the program does cost money, and people do fall for it. While many people generally aren’t out of money with this scam, their computer is infected with even more viruses, Trojans, worms, and other things that can not only ruin the computer, but can have their private information exposed to the scammers.

What’s the attraction?

Some people who see an alert that their computer is infected, panic and go to extremes to ensure that the computer is fixed right away. Scammers know that many people will fall for rogue software simply because the software is right there, and there is no need to go out and buy a program or search the internet for another program that may work. This rogue software looks just like real anti-virus software, so people don’t even know the difference. It’s always best to have anti-virus software already installed on your computer. Never download software from an unfamiliar website.

6. Travel and Vacation Scams


It’s safe to say that in today’s world, many people are cutting out their yearly vacation in order to make ends meet at home. And while people are giving up their travels, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily want to, and it surely doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t take a vacation deal if someone offered it to them. This is why scammers who run travel and vacation scams are cashing in each day. Unknowing consumers will seek out a vacation deal, usually one that is seriously too good to even begin to believe. Something like a trip to Disney, all expenses paid, you just give us a few hundred dollars. Who would believe that? Sadly, some people do. These scams aren’t as popular as before, as people have smartened up, but at the same time they’re also on the rise, as more and more people are looking for ways to continue their normal lifestyles, and that usually comes in the form of saving money and attempting to find any type of deal that may be out there to enjoy.

What’s the attraction?

Scammers are highly aware of today’s financial situation in many countries. They know that people don’t have as much money sitting around as they did before. They know that people are choosing to give up their yearly vacation in order to make sure that all of their bills are paid. They also know that people are looking for a way out and seeking things that are often too good to be true. Anyone who plans a yearly vacation knows just how nice it is to take a week or so off work and just relax and leave things behind for a few days. Scammers know this too, and they know that if they offer someone a good deal on a vacation, many will take it. Who wouldn’t want to go on a trip for a lot less than it would generally cost? With people seeking deals, scammers are looking for steals. In the end it all boils down to money, and usually by the end of this type of scam, the scammer comes out the winner.

5. Fake Auctions/Sales


With the popularity of places such as eBay, Craigslist, and other auction websites growing each day, it’s no surprise that fake auctions and fake sales would start to become an issue online. Many people use these websites on a daily basis to obtain items at a discounted price; and where you find people with money, you will also usually find scammers trying to take it off their hands. At first, it looks like an opportunity to save money, but in the end many people are left empty-handed and out some bucks. These fake auction and sales scams usually happen pretty frequently and in the blink of an eye. It’s simple. The scammer creates an ad or auction on a website, stating that he has a certain item for sale, usually something that is pretty expensive to begin with, for a very low price. The scammer knows that people will jump all over this “deal,” without even stopping to think that it could be fake and just a luring act for money. Plenty of people fall for it, making this particular scam a huge success.

What’s the attraction?

Saving money. Who doesn’t want to be able to save a few bucks on an expensive item? Coupons are good, but coupons aren’t always offered on the newest electronics, so people will look at other ways to save. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll look in the Sunday paper and find a coupon for Apple’s iPad or Sony’s new Playstation console; it just doesn’t happen. Craigslist and eBay have become the perfect websites to go to if you’re looking to buy items for cheaper than they’d cost in the store. However, the amount of scamming that goes on is unbelievable and many people end up regretting their decision. Sometimes it’s best to fork out a few extra dollars and buy the product in a store, but this doesn’t mean that every auction or online sale you find is a scam. If the deal seems like a ‘steal’, remember you may be the one getting ripped off.

4. “Free” Trial


We’ve all seen the ads and pop-ups on certain websites that promise a free trial of some sort of product: weight-loss pills, a colon cleanse, or dieting pills. We all know how expensive these products can be, so many people will fall for the free trial scam. While many do get the free product they were promised, the scam starts when you have to provide your banking information to pay for shipping and handling fees. With the information you provide, the company can then charge you each month for not canceling your free trial. Usually the cancellation notice is in a very fine print that most people pay no attention to. However, after not canceling your free trial within 15 or 30 days, your debit or credit card is billed monthly. Sometimes even after canceling, the company who has your banking information will sell it to an affiliate company who can then use it as they please.

What’s the attraction?

Free stuff! Who doesn’t like free stuff? Free is good. Free means no money is spent and free means you get to try something without providing any sort of money for the product itself. The catch is that when you provide your banking information to pay for shipping, you’re giving this company access to take out amounts of money each month for your “free trial.”  Most people don’t remember to cancel, so in the end you could be out money for a product that was never free at all. Thankfully if you contact your bank, many times the bank will cover these fees and ensure that you are safe from the company taking more money out of your account.

3. Working from Home


Not only do these scams mean you’re out of money, but it could mean that your computer is left nothing short of…ruined. These scams usually have a situation where you are given the opportunity to work at home, making your computer a “money-making machine” by doing very simple things. However, you aren’t told what these things are and how to locate them on the Internet without paying a few dollars. The catch is that you’re paying for information that you often don’t receive, or that often has nothing to do with working from home. Often times you are guaranteed that within 24 hours you’ll have full access to information and programs that allow your computer to make money for you, without much effort on your part. But this is just another scam and you’ve provided your banking information, and many times you’ve installed rogue software that will only ruin your computer.

What’s the attraction?

Who wouldn’t want to work in their pajamas and slippers all day while sipping a cup of hot coffee? Many people would love to be able to have a job like this, and this is why people get sucked into the work at home scams. Working at home is easy and requires less energy than it does to work outside of your home. Paying a measly $5 seems like nothing when you can have the great opportunity of not having to drive to work each day. But many times you get nothing in return from the $5 that you put out, and you’re left with the same early morning routine.

2. PayPal


Many times with these PayPal scams, one is scammed when they have someone respond to an online ad they have placed on Craigslist or some other similar site. The scammers will usually respond to the ad, stating that they are interested in the product that is being sold and that the product will be sent to a friend or family member within the U.S. Many times these scammers are people from a foreign country who are promising to pay more money than what the seller asked for in the first place. After shipping the item and after the seller pays, you’ll realize that soon enough, PayPal has taken the money from your account, and that you’re out of the item you were trying to sell. Many times the “buyer” will contact PayPal saying that they never received the item, or in even worse cases, the scammer will be using a fake PayPal address or a stolen account.

What’s the attraction?

When you’re desperately trying to get rid of an item, you are probably pretty impatient and anxious to get rid of it. So when someone responds you probably don’t think twice about the possibility that the person on the other side is a scammer that is trying to get your item without paying for it. People fall for it simply because many times the scammer is giving them more money that what was asked for and because they really just want to get rid of the item and have money to spend elsewhere.

1. Nigerian 419


Most people today have an email account that they use for various purposes. Of course there are the occasional spam emails that many of us just put into the junk folder, but on some days, we get an email that is really shocking. If you’ve ever received an email, usually from a Nigerian member of a family that comes from a lot of wealth stating that they are attempting to get a very large amount of money out of the country, you were a possible-victim of the Nigerian 419 scam. Usually these emails call out for your help in order to get this money moved into the U.S.

But, these emails are nothing less than a scam. It is said that over $32 billion has been lost. The Nigerian 419 scams are one of the most popular today, and the number of scammers who use this tactic continues to grow. It is said that there are about 300,000 of these scammers in the world today, but the number is steadily increasing.

What’s the attraction?

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Of course like many scams on this list, the Nigerian 419 scams seem too good to be true, but somehow people fall for them. Simply, people like money. If you were given the opportunity to receive half of a million dollars for simply helping to transport money from another country, it might be very tempting, particularly if you are unaware that this is illegal. People fall for this scam each year: the promise of such a large amount of money is sometimes enough to make a gullible Internet-user fall for a huge scam.


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32 Comments

  1. Oooooooops!!!! That's it with PAYPAL for me……………….. Now that I know things about PAYPAL !!!!

    • To be safe with your money do as I do. Have two accounts one with the bulk of my money the other to pay bills. The pay bills account must not have more than the amount required to pay the bill. You must have a online accounts where your cant transfer money easily and securely. My pay-out account never has more than a couple of dollars or pounds or euros.

  2. Great post.

    Perhaps I can just add to this that the best way to guard against being ripped off by online sales or auctions of any kind, Craigslist and eBay includedâ??and whether seller or buyerâ??is to use a *bona fide* online escrow company. Especially for pricier items like antiques, jewelry and autos. Although it does add some cost, it takes the uncertainty out of the transaction, and thatâ??s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

    For my money, the best bona fide online escrow (and there seems to be ten fraudulent escrow sites for every bona fide one) is probably Escrow.com (http://escrow.com). In fact, itâ??s the only one that eBay recommends, and is the only online escrow company that is licensed to provide escrow services all across the United States.

    Take care,

    Ulf Wolf

  3. Very nicely researched and written. The only one I've ever come close to falling for was the virus one when the software thing popped up. Very long time ago, and I'm not sure what it was, but something told me it didn't seem right. Took me forever to get out of it; had to basically just turn my computer off because I couldn't even close the browser. You're absolutely right, even those of us who might consider ourselves a bit more savvy than the norm need to be cautious.

  4. I recieve hundreds of emails in one day I can add up the money I've inherited or won, into the 100 million dollars. It is really getting to be a big pain in the butt ,Especially with the economy, the way it is. Alot of people will have false hope. Keep up the good work and get all of the scams out in the open as soon as possible, because there are vitctims every day, hoping their life can be made much simpler.

  5. Was almost scamed until I researched more but I have given my name, address, phone number, I did not give out any financial information, Now that the scammers have my name, address and phone# what will happen?

    • Your name, address, email and phone number will likely be put on a list and sold. At least that’s what happened to me. Even though my number was on the do not call list, my phone rang incessantly. I had enough and changed my number. Hope this doesn’t happen to you too!

      • Jack Capobianco on

        I have used PayPal numerous times without a problem. Call PayPal and verify the account. The best way – if they want to pay using a method that will have to clear an account, hold the item until payment has been received. That is how ebay works. Wait for confirmation.

  6. Was about to make an automotive deal on craigslist until I found out it's a scam. I have not responded back, what do I do to end the deal? Do I just respond and say I am no longer intrested?

    • I answered one that was a scam too. I called their bluff and told them my brother coincidentally lived in the neighboring town and would come over to check out the vehicle and take it for a test drive. If all was good I would give my brother the money to consolidate the deal. Obviously, I was never able to get a response and the ad disappeared (surprise, surprise)! Craig’s list has some pretty savvy advice before you buy. Good luck!

  7. Ive run into this stuff hundreds of times and they were all obviously scams to me. This article served to disprove its own point that smart isn’t good enough. All this stuff is OBVIOUSLY fake. A lottery from another country? C’MON! You’d have to be an absolute idiot.

  8. Also, scamsters using business opportunities especially franchising as an option using internet to get in touch with wealthy entrepreneurs. so check **** fraud in google before you go and partner with any company.

  9. hendrik du preez on

    Hello can you put paypal bank account international and free lotto as scammers and fraud the people say they pay money in my account their and their is nothing free lotto send you that you win someting like a tv laptop holiday coupons and they say you win we will deliver it at your house then they do it not then you ask them then they say sorry thats for new ones so that is how they stolen from people thanks tp put it all over that people must look out for them thanks hendrik du preez

  10. TO ME IT’S THE 2013 PRESIDENT ELECTION!!!!!!!!! ALL THE MUD AND BULL-$HIT…
    ONLY 1 CAN BE THE WINNER…. THE BIG LOSER IS THE AMERICANS PEOPLE…

  11. I almost fell to a scam , basically what happened was a woman called me with an indian accent telling me I was granted 8 thousand dollars grant money . First I was sceptical about the situation. Hey got bills, fall on hard times , different worrys in life. The catch was I send them $250.oo thru western union. I almost did. Came close. I need to find out if it legit. The number originated in new York.4 weeks before that they were going to give me 7 thousand.smh I am going to track them down . I need the number to the fbi.smh

  12. Retha Gorman Davis on

    Retha Gorman Davis is a scammer she is living in 5 brimer circle Heflin Alabama 36264 they made away with all my money when i fell in love with her she connive with her daughter and scam me please incase you have any useful information about Retha Gorman Davis let me know she will be arrested soon

  13. I will like to comment that worst fraudulent scam site in the world didn’t make your list of worst 10. A site called enoasis.com is by far the most fraudulent. The have a neteork of about 9 diffrent sites they use in reaping people off hard end money. The have genuine products on their site with really discounted prices but once you pay they nevr send the goods and the send you a fake tracking numbr. They are also called enisland.com and several other fake aliases. I really wish they can be cracked downas. Was a victim.

  14. This guy name Hector Henderson tried to scam me on a online dating site.Immediately he started saying how much he love me and want to get marry. I knew then something wasnt right. Especially when he said he had to go to west Africa to closed his dead fathers business. After two weeks of us talking he began to say he need some document in order for them to give him the money from his dads business. He was to get 750,00 but this document he needs cost him 950.00. He said for our future to send him the money. Im so glad my mother didnt raise no fool! I told him no and good luck. And erase my number too! Unfortunately theres some people out there who fall for this type of scam.

  15. Hey everyone,
    has anyone had any dealings with Anthony Morrison hidden millionaire, and is he genuine or fake
    any feedback would be great.

  16. Recently tried to get a loan from advance america..they said I needed to send them a pay pal worth one hundred fifty dollars..then asked for one hundred and twenty..still did not process loan called them to get a refund back and said they couldnt..anyway to get my money back

  17. Just recently someone keeps posting this wild messages. I’m quiting my job so I can work from home and make 425. A day. I hate my boss and so on and so on. I changed my password then it came up again the next day. So irrtating!!!!!!!!!

  18. Its depressing and brutally painful how i keep trying to find a job online and avoid being forced to emigrate and leave my loved ones behind…is not about being rich, but there is NO jobs here in South Europe…i struggled so hard so much… I wish so much to work online since my country economy destroyed my future, but i cant leave my loved ones behind and some of them need assistance from me. A online job would bring me the relief and the end of my major depression. I dont believe in getting rich online, but at least, some sustainable income, i can’t and i dont want to emigrate! i hate being alive in this world i am so tired of suffering!!!!

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