I previously did a post entitled, "Several Red Flags for Spotting a Phony or Scam." I will now follow it up by dealing exclusively with ways to spot Internet scammers. Hopefully, this comes before you have gotten scammed by one of them.
So, to all of those potential victims, I offer these tips for spotting Internet scammers. There are ten red flags you need to watch out for. The presence of just one, or possibly two, of them doesn't necessarily indicate that you have encountered an Internet scammer. However, three or more of the following is almost always a dead giveaway that you have come across one:
1) They won't take credit cards. The majority of Internet shoppers will not do business with someone who doesn't accept credit cards. Companies like Payal make it possible for even the smallest of merchants to accept credit cards easily and affordably. Think about it - why would an Internet merchant be so willing to turn away a majority of their potential customers by not accepting credit cards? How could they afford to do that? In most cases, the simple reason is that they are not legitimate. If asked, most will say it is because they have had too many bad experiences with customers doing charge backs on their cards after having received the product or service. However, a small percentage of this happens to all merchants, but they accept these losses as a small price to pay for having access to the volume of customers that credit cards provide. If a merchant is experiencing a disproportionate number of charge backs, it's probably because their product or service is inferior, worthless, or just plain nonexistent.
2) They won't let you sample their product or service. When dealing with any Internet merchant for the first time, it's always a good idea to initially buy their product in a small quantity (even if the per-unit price is higher) to see if it's right for you. That way, if you discover that it isn't, you haven't wasted a whole lot of money. It's better to waste $50 at $10 per unit than to waste $500 at $5 per unit, for example. Now, when that merchant insists that you buy a large quantity right off the bat and won't allow you to try a smaller sample, you can rest assured that there's something they're trying to hide. If their product or service is so great, then they should have confidence that you will be a return customer for a larger quantity after trying out the smaller one.
3) They claim to be able to perform a service or feat that few, if any, others will claim. For example, an Internet advertising firm might claim they can guarantee you a high number of sales. But then you search the Web and can't find a single other firm that will make this claim. Something's fishy. If a given marketable feat or service could be legitimately performed, you would find numerous companies advertising on the Internet as to their ability to perform it. Do a web search for, say, window washing. Will you find just one or two firms that offer this service? No, you will find a bunch of them. This is true for almost any legitimate service that can be offered on the Web.
4) They claim that you'll never get a shot at such a great offer if you don't buy now. Even many legitimate businesses will resort to this tactic, but it's almost always bogus. I've found that no matter how good a business offer is, one that is just as good, or perhaps even better, usually becomes available later, many times from the same person or company making the original offer! So, why the big hurry? Of course the potential scammer has a good reason for wanting to you to hurry - they are afraid you will eventually catch on to them and reject what they are offering. So, the sooner they can reel you in, the better it is for them. Never rush into any business deal, especially involving an Internet merchant with whom you are not familiar.
5) They offer no money-back guarantee or one that is intentionally vague. If they are offering a quality product or service, why wouldn't they provide a clear money-back guarantee of satisfaction, especially if other merchants in that same business are? With a few specialized exceptions, it's because they know ahead of time that a large percentage of their customers will ultimately become dissatisfied with their product or service.
6) They arbitrarily change the rules without warning. For example, right before it's time to finalize the sale, they state (in writing or verbally) something contrary to what they've been saying all along. If you are smart, you will put the brakes on that deal immediately. Consider this: If they will change the rules on you before they get your money, would they hesitate to change them after they have your money? Of course not. Just be thankful they gave you the warning while you could still do something about it.
7) They hide behind resellers. Many legitimate Internet merchants utilize resellers to peddle their products and services. However, most of them will sell their wares directly as well. Beware of merchants who sell exclusively using resellers. Ask why you can't buy directly from them. Chances are, they are operating offshore to avoid U.S. laws and taxes and having the resellers wire them the proceeds of the sales. If you are not satisfied with what you bought, who would you turn to? Most of the time, you would have to deal with the reseller, who would claim they can't help you and that they cannot give you a refund because they no longer have the money. This, of course, is the scammer's whole reason for hiding behind those resellers.
8) They lack either an email address or phone number. Most legitimate Internet businesses have both a phone number and an email address which can be used to reach them. On the other hand, most scammers will exclusively use one or the other. I'm not sure why this is, but I've found it to be true. Perhaps it's because most Web scams are one-person operations and they want to keep things as simple as possible.
9) They don't answer your emails or phone calls. Since Internet scammers generally will not post the complete information about their product or service on their site, you will likely feel the need to email or phone them for additional information. However, you will often find that your emails and phone messages go unanswered, especially if you are asking all the "wrong" questions. Some scammers are good at finessing and side-stepping those questions, so they will answer questions accordingly (see item 10 below). Those who don't have any confidence their ability to do that, just won't answer your questions at all.
10) You can't get a straight answer from them. The like to use weasel words and make seemingly meaningful statements that actually say nothing about the true nature of their product or service. They are skilled at dodging direct questions. Whenever you ask a question, they hedge or condition their answer or they just don't directly answer it. Perhaps they will answer the question as if they thought you asked a different one. To use an extreme example, you might ask, "What time is it?", to which they might answer, "Green." If someone can't give you straight answers, they don't deserve your business.