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How to Spot Internet Crooks and Con Artists

written by: •edited by: Mark Muller•updated: 10/12/2011

Not falling victim to the latest scam requires a bit of common sense mixed with the knowledge of what to look for. Here you find useful tips and tricks to stay safe online.

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    Even the best security measures will have holes, and that's why it is so important for people to recognize a potential cyber crime. Often times, the problems caused by phishing and other online fraud are impossible to correct when you're dealing with international laws and thieves in foreign countries. You must be proactive in stopping these fraudsters, and part of that is being able to spot a con artist's ploy before you respond to them.

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    Online Con Artists

    With so many financial transaction taking place online, it's no surprise that there are thieves and con artists lurking about trying to get a piece of the action. In the old days, pickpockets used to hang around busy marketplaces and look for people with money they could steal. Nowadays, online pickpockets try a variety of sometimes creative methods to swindle unsuspecting people into losing their money. Some victims have lost their entire life's savings to these fraudsters, and there is very little that can be done to get that money back.

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    Don't Get Phished

    Phishing is when someone tricks you into handing over your login information for anything from PayPal to Facebook, or even your local bank. It is done by sending what looks like an official email from the site and provides a link for you to click. These messages often include scare tactics that threaten to suspend your account if you don't respond immediately by clicking the link. That link takes you to a site that looks exactly like the real thing, only it isn't. If you enter your username and password, or any other vital information, then you've just handed your login info over to thieves who will go to work immediately on your account. Fortunately, phishing attempts are fairly easy to catch if you can recognize the tell-tale signs of them.

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    Watch Out For These Scams

    Just because a good or service is advertised on national television does not automatically make it legit. Those late night 'speed up my computer' ads are no more reliable than the 'increase your member' spam emails that everyone seems to receive. Sometimes you may be inundated with marketing materials that are only slightly misleading, while other times you might be dealing with someone who is seriously trying to steal your money or your identity. Learn as much as you can about the different kinds of scams, how to recognize them, and why they should be avoided despite how much they might pique your curiosity.

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    Trust Your Instinct

    If somebody rips you off with a bootleg movie or fake Chinese sunglasses at a flea market or pawn shop, then hopefully you just paid in cash and it's a lesson learned. If somebody rips you off online, it's a much tougher lesson. The reason is that online transactions require payment methods that usually involve credit cards and/or bank accounts, and you have to provide a wealth of personal information just to make the buy. If the person on the other end is set up to take your info for unscrupulous purposes, it may be days before you even realize something is amiss.

    Recognizing the variety of ways in which thieves try to swindle their victims is the first major step in knowing how to conduct financial transactions online in the safest manner. If anything at all doesn't feel right, then go with your gut instinct and back out of the transaction. It also never hurts to do some online research about an unfamiliar retailer before you buy.

    Have you ever been taken advantage of by one of these scams, or do you know of one that wasn't mentioned here? If so, we'd love to hear your story. Please use the comment section below.


  • Image credit, Magnifying Glass Photo,
  • Information based on author's personal experience.
  • Image credit, Trusted Bank,