Avoiding internet scams can seem so imposing of a task that
the only solution is to completely stay offline. The truth is, however,
a larger and larger segment of the world economy is taking place online
and there's a place for you in it! However, just like learning to block
your pin number when you use your debit card at the supermarket, you
need to learn some "Internet street smarts" to avoid getting taken.
Don't worry though, avoiding internet scams is really a matter of
common sense mixed with some very basic technical know-how.
Tip #1 - Email Scams
The key to avoiding internet scams that come through your email is to
combine using an online email program that employs good spam filters
(such as gmail) with knowing who is sending you the internet offers.
Spam filters are pretty much no-brainers, all reputable email companies
these days have them already in place for you. I always tell people to
use online email programs, instead of downloading all your email to
Outlook or Thunderbird or something like that, because if there is a
virus in the email it'll be another step removed from your email.
The second half of this is to keep in mind who is sending you the
email. If it comes from you computer programmer son-in-law, chances are
it's worth looking into. If it comes from your great-uncle Albert who
still uses an Apple II computer, be wary. When in doubt, go to
snopes.com and search for the offer. They keep a running database of
all the most recent scams and you can check your offer against it.
Tip #2 - Avoiding "Golden Fields" Scams
I call internet scams "golden fields" if they're things that seem too
good to be true. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If
your gut has any concern about it, you're probably well-founded in
that. At least Google the opportunity and see what others who've fallen
for it before you are saying about it.
Tip #3 - Understanding "Long-form sales letters"
You've seen these. They're long single-website pages selling you a
specific product. Many of these products are eBooks or download-able
programs. They can cost you anywhere from $5 to $5,000.
The problem with these is that many of these products are good
products. This sales pages, called a "long-form sales letter" work
REALLY well. That's why both scam artists and legitimate products use
them. (my eBooks use them and they're great!)
Here's my #1 piece of advice in deciding if you're going to try one of
these products. Figure out if there's a real person who you feel you
can trust behind the products.
The only times I've felt that I've been 'taken' with these products are
the couple of times I've bought a product without researching the
publisher and learning as much as I can about them first. Both of these
times were when I clicked through from an advertisement. Of course some
of the products have been better than others, but I've found that
avoiding internet scams is much easier if I ask myself 'do I trust this
Tip #4 - Avoiding the "Free iPod" scam
These scams give away everything from iPods to cash. Anything that'll
get you participating in them. And they're not really true "SCAMS"
they're more of pyramid schemes. Basically, every time someone
completes one of the 'do this to get your free item' offers they get
paid a set fee. Then, if you get enough of your friends to do it as
well, they get a set fee from those friends. If you DO get enough
friends to do this, you'll probably get your iPod. They make money
because the majority of people cannot get all the requirements of these
offers completed. Even if they mail out 100 iPods that they purchase at
retail prices, you can bet that they're still making money hand over
**Want to be really crafty? If you're entrepreneurial, you could
totally set up one of these things for yourself... just figure out what
you need to make sure you still make money. It's not a scam, it's just
an annoying thing that most nobody ever gets an iPod from.**
Tip #5 - Common Sense
I can't say this enough. If you wouldn't buy it or do it in real life,
don't do it online. I'll sign up for just about any mailing list both
in real life and online, but that's because I'm very adept at filtering
and unsubscribing from them. I get almost no junk mail in my in-box.
However, if you're worried about avoiding internet scams or worried
about your identity being stolen, you wouldn't do this in real life or
online. Remember, it's the internet - not wonderland!