What are some common ways of identifying scams that take place in either email, or in banners and advertisements on popular websites? How do we determine if something is real or not?

This is intended for "The Moms." So keep it as non-technical as possible.

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  • 6
    "The Dads" are known to be as naive and scammed as the mums. – random Jul 15 '09 at 13:47
  • Of course, assuming they're married. – Sirex Feb 3 '11 at 15:59

10 Answers 10


As with everything:

  • If it sounds too good to be true then it is.

Some specifics:

  • If you're told you've won a lottery you don't remember entering then it's a scam.
  • If someone offers to buy something for far more than it's worth on the condition you give them most of the money back as "change" - don't sell. The cheque will bounce and you will be left without your car/motorbike/boat and without the money.
  • If you have to pay money to claim your prize, it's probably a scam. If they ask for personal information that they don't have any need/right to know, it's a scam. – GalacticCowboy Jul 15 '09 at 14:06
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    If it's listed on snopes.com as a scam, it's a scam. :) – GalacticCowboy Jul 15 '09 at 14:09

That's a coincidence... I just read about this specific topic on the official Google blog:

How to steer clear of money scams


If you ever receive an email offering you a once-in-a-lifetime deal, like assisting a troubled Nigerian Prince in protecting millions of dollars from a rogue agency, it is most likely not legitimate.

Generally, a google search including a sentence from the email will turn up a great deal of information. It will, in most cases, tell you immediately if the email has been confirmed as a scam.

Check links. Many emails will ask you to login to www.yourbank.com, when in fact it is sending you to a completely different website that looks like yours. Be sure to always check your address-bar, to verify your location.


Have you only heard about it online? if "yes" then it's probably a scam.

e.g. you've probably heard of eBay on the news, so that's safe (provided you're sensible about how you do business, there are still scammers on it), but you're unlikely to have heard of Swoopo in mainstream media so stay away.

  • I was going to say "google for it", but you basically said the same. I also like that you didn't provide an extreme answer and used the word "probably". – vtest Feb 3 '11 at 0:50

Like in everything in life. If it too good to be true, is because is not.

I have received SMS message telling me I won a Car without even participate in any contest.

The first time I doubt. But when I won the same car a month later I couldn't do nothing but laugh.

I guess that what they call Common Sense?


Generally speaking anything that promises you money in return for:

  • Your own money up front
  • Your personal details - i.e. a copy of your passport, your bank account details, DOB etc.

If you receive an email with bad grammar and notice that the links don't send you where you would normally assume they would go to then it is probably a scam email.


I give them an ad-blocker with an automatically maintained whitelist, either standalone or plug-in. The only way I've been able to minimize scams is to prevent them from being presented in the first place. Some folks maintain a custom hostfile but that never seemed as easy for my end-users.

As for email, same as the given suggestions.


Start with this: all unsolicited internet offers are frauds.


Install Web of Trust add-on and. It will show trust indicator. Likely scam sites won't be green.

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