Top Ten Signs a Website is Not Legit—It’s a Scam!

Every day millions of people get sucked into Internet scams and tricks that end up costing them dearly, something I was reminded of when I got a letter from a reader asking this simple question: How can I tell if something on the Internet is legit or some kind of scam?

That’s a great question, the answer for which I found in my colleague Doug Alton’s Household Newsletter.

Top Ten Signs the Site is Not Legit

Sign #1: Video with no controls

If it plays a video that has the controls removed, it’s a scam, stop watching! You can’t fast forward, pause, or even tell how long the video is. That’s because they are only going to tell you a long list of reasons why you should send them money. Stop watching—X out of the page. They will never tell you the information that you clicked on the link to get—not even if you send them money. It’s a scam, run the other way.

Sign #2: Can’t leave

You want to leave the page but keep hitting up against something like, “Are you sure you want to leave this page?” or an alternative offer designed to pique your interest and compel you to stay. Legitimate sites don’t do this, but nearly all scam sites do. Run the other way.

Exception: If you are working on a document or have a shopping cart open, you may get this kind of “Are you sure …” message if you have not saved your changes.

Sign #3: Free updates

Pop-ups that try to get you to sign up for their propaganda or “free updates” before you even get a chance to read the article. Bad sign. Major red flag!

Sign #4: Text is an image

The text is actually photographed onto the page as an image. You can’t copy and paste names or numbers because the text is really part of a photo instead of real text. Many scam sites and many scams on craigslist do this. When you notice this, run the other way. The only reason they would do this is to prevent you from copying the text, and to prevent computer robots from reading it. They are hiding something.

Sign #5: Weird trick

If you see the words “weird” or “trick” and especially if you see the words “weird trick” it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it.

Sign #6: Free energy

Anything that promotes free energy, is a scam. Solar panels are not free (neither is the power to charge an electric car).  The energy still costs you money. But there are many people who wish to believe in some hidden form of free energy. They’re all scams!

Sign #7: Can’t X out

If you try to X out to close the page and another page pops up you may have a virus. Either way, shut down the site and restart your computer. Run an antivirus scan immediately.

Sign #8: Work at home

Most “work at home jobs” are a scam. Research before you go that route.

Sign #9: Risk-free trial

Risk-free trials are NOT risk-free if you have to give a credit card or bank account number to get the free trial. They will automatically bill you if you don’t spend weeks trying to cancel. It happens every day.

Sign #10: Miracle cures

Anything that claims to treat or cure a disease that modern medicine does not, it’s a scam.

Cyberspace is a great big mostly wonderful place but it is not immune to crime and hustlers wishing to do us harm. It’s important to be wary of the many dangers lurking within. You can protect yourself if you are diligent to learn these ten signs and then put them into practice.

Stay safe out there.

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7 replies
  1. Don says:

    Watch out for scam emails from sites you probably do business with (Amazon, Paypal, etc). If you get an email claiming to be from these sites, check the address it came from. A legitimate email from these places will contain that place’s name in the email address. If the name isn’t in the address, it’s a scam.

    Any offer that requires you to pay with a Green Dot card or a gift card of any kind is a scam. Don’t do it.

  2. Katie French says:

    Mary is right. Also, Here’s an additional tip given to me by my son, who works in cyber security. I have just gotten into the habit of NOT clicking on any links sent to me via email, not even my utility bill reminder. While it’s convenient, it is also a slick way for crooks to lull unsuspecting targets to falling for their very professional looking counterfeit! Go to the site yourself and login there.

  3. Linda D Radosevich says:

    I absolutely agree with Ruth and Carolyn. One common mistake I’ve seen is using a zero for a capital ‘O’. And as noted, don’t click on any link in the email. Report the spam or phishing to the ‘company’ it supposedly came from; most websites have an email address to forward the spam to. DON’T call any number in the email. I found out in the nick of time I was being scammed before I ‘refunded’ money to a company. These guys are slick.

  4. Ruth Cheruka says:

    Watch for misspellings in text or email. Also any strange wording. Scammers with poor English skills make typo’s and strange sentence structure.


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