How to Protect Yourself from Online Scams

Protecting yourself from online scams is the first step to learning how to stay secure online. It will help not only you, but also your family and friends.

How Do You Recognize an Online Scam?

Sometimes you look at a website or an ad and know right away it’s a scam. But sometimes, you might question your intuition even if you have a trained eye .

Here’s a short list with the most common red flags to look out for:

  • They pressure you into making a decision right on the spot
  • They use an aggressive tone or sales pitch
  • The website you’re visiting is designed poorly
  • They ask for your private data (like your Social Security Number)
  • They don’t use SSL encryption (the URL starts with HTTP not HTTPS)
  • They give to-good-to-be-true offers
  • They don’t offer you specific  information about the company

6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Online Scams

1. Don’t Share Sensitive Information or Send Money

Phishing scams might have different variations:

  • The bank or the IRS ask you for money
  • You win a prize but you have to share sensitive info (like your email login credentials) to cash it
  • Someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince is casually asking for your bank account details
  • They claim to be a friend of your friend or a distant relative and they need a large sum of money

Keep in mind that the bank or the IRS don’t need your money. If you owe money to official institutions, you’ll be notified either in person or by post mail, but never over a phone call or an email.

On a similar note, don’t give money to people you haven’t met in real life.

2. Don’t Buy Products from Unauthorized Sellers

Some offers are too good to wait for another day, and this is exactly what scammers want you to think. If you impulsively buy their products, you might end up:

  • Not receiving anything at all
  • Getting knockoffs
  • Getting damaged or poor-quality products that are totally different from what you’ve seen online
  • Fake tickets to special events or concerts

Always make sure that you’re buying from official sellers even though it costs more. After all, luxury items, popular brands, event tickets, or high-quality materials are more expensive for obvious reasons – they’re legit.

3. Double-Check Any Information on the Official Websites

Let’s say the bank calls you because there was a malicious attempt on your account. Or maybe a cool charity organization knows you want to donate some money – by the way, how do they know this?!

When this happens, don’t make a decision right on the spot. Calmly hang up (if it’s the bank), or ask for the charity organization’s name and website. Whatever you do, just don’t rush and give them any personal details.

Hang up the phone and check the information on the official websites. Call your bank using the phone numbers they’ve provided on their official websites and ask them if there’s indeed a problem with your account.

Look up that charity organization and search their name alongside keywords like “scam” or “fraud”.

If you want to help people suffering from disasters or tragedies, make sure that those disasters did happen recently. Donating your money to people from a small Southern Italian city that remained homeless after a volcano erupted sounds generous – until you realize that’s the eruption of Vesuvius they’re talking about and it happened more than 100 years ago.

4. Keep Your Social Profiles Private

You’d be shocked if you knew how much personal information thieves can steal from your social media posts.

Even a few simple details like your full, real name can be enough for scammers to steal your identity. This article shows how fraudsters can find your LinkedIn profile using your name, call your employer pretending to be you, and do a full password reset on your private accounts.

To avoid this, keep your social media profiles private. Use tag location only for vague places like big cities – don’t tag your workplace or restaurants, don’t accept friend requests from strangers with 0 friends or followers, and don’t post pics that might give away your home address.

5. Don’t Click on Links or Attachments

If you click on phishing links or attachments, scammers can install viruses, ransomware, or malware on your device. This way, they can steal your credit card details or login credentials.

If you click on them, disconnect your device from the internet immediately and don’t share any private data they might request. Use antivirus software to fully scan your device.

6. Don’t Give Into Pressure

Almost every online scam has a sense of urgency: buy now or you’ll regret it later, send me money or I’ll leave you, send me money or something bad will happen to you, if you don’t do it today you’ll lose this great prize, and so on.

One of the most important things you should remember is that a true business can wait for its customers.

It’s one of the basic marketing rules – don’t pressure the potential client into making a huge decision because you’ll come across as spammy and lose the trust of your audience.

If it’s meant to be, they’ll wait for you until you’re comfortable – whether we’re talking about a business or true love.


Raising awareness against online scams might help reduce the number of people getting scammed on the internet.

If you spot a malicious website on the internet, don’t keep it for yourself – even if you know it’s a scam. For others, this might be the first one they see. Let your friends and family know about any suspicious sites you find so they avoid them, and report them right away to the local authorities and Google.

How do you spot online scams on the internet? Do you trust your intuition or do you have a quick checklist that helps you see right through a scam right away? Let us know in the comments!