Sometimes when I’m looking for a new scam (or a new angle on an old scam) to write about, I will check out the “Scams” forum on the social news website Reddit. The posts on this forum mostly consist of users describing a website, email or text message, offer or other situation, in order to ask forum members if it sounds fraudulent.
In nearly 100% of the posts I have ever read, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
Many of these users are young, so their experience of the world is likely somewhat limited. They’ve also grown up with no knowledge of a time before the Internet. It’s just a daily part of life to them. A deal offered online is no different or more suspicious than a coupon from a supermarket.
But if you’ve been around a little longer, it is often painfully obvious within the first few words of the post that yes, what you’re describing is a scam. It becomes repetitive quickly.
“Is this a scam? I found brand new Xbox on Facebook Marketplace for $50 and—” YES. SCAM.
“Is this a scam? I was on a dating site and matched with a guy who works in an oilfield—” YES. SCAM!
“Is this a scam? This site is selling Air Jordan 14—” YES! The URL is a string of random letters and was registered two weeks ago. Absolutely a scam.
“Is this a scam? I deposited my Bitcoin into—” YES. Sorry to say, your money is gone.
Which brings me to the point: it almost doesn’t seem to matter what the details of each situation are. Every single post like this starts out with the same question. The fact that they’re asking the question at all shows that, deep down, they already know something isn’t right. The lucky ones pose the question before they’ve given away money or personal information, but too often they are asking after the fact when it’s too late. I’ve read a lot of variations on, “It sounded kind of weird, but I…”
Trust your instincts, especially when it comes to the intersection of Internet strangers, your personal information, and your money. If you’re even wondering if something is a scam, it’s time to stop and think very hard about the next step.