How to spot an online scam


Making money online is not a magic trick

How to spot a work at home scam

One of the reasons I created was to highlight legitimate opportunities that are available for people wanting to create a career from home and make money online.

As you can imagine, the opportunities available are far and wide. Some are better than others. And unfortunately, many are just scams. Sometimes, it really is hard to tell what is what. Especially when human nature kicks in and we want to create a good life for ourselves, avoid pain, seek pleasure, and reward ourselves. It is human nature to want easy money for little effort. People prey on this, and that’s why scams are everywhere.

When I go into online business groups, like those you see on Facebook, I see the same kind of stuff over and over.

Here’s an example …

You don't have to do ANYTHING! Win!


Posts from people who promise quick cash for doing next nothing. “Make money while you sleep”. Or as the one above says:

“We build your downline without you doing anything and generate sign ups FOR YOU!!!

This is a NO-Brainer non-stop Money Machine!!” Wow! I just need to sit back while someone makes money for me!

I’ve investigated many of the claims that are put forward in these types of groups, and I never cease to be amazed (and disappointed) at the crap that is being peddled in the name of making money. The unfortunate thing that happens is with the overwhelming volume of rubbish programs and ‘money making systems’ out there, things that are legitimate are treated with skepticism and doubt.

If you are thinking of signing up to something that promises to make you money, please do your homework first. I always feel so sad when I hear stories of people being ripped off, taken advantage of, and lied to. Particularly when people are really in need of money and can’t afford to lose it.

Here are some things to look out for when assessing whether you think something might be a scam.


Pictures of loads of cash

The fact is, if you’re making money online, you aren’t amassing physical wads of cash. Money is paid into your bank account. People posting stock photos of cash and claiming it is theirs might look tempting, but don’t be fooled. Google images of cash, and you will see hundreds of photos similar to what you’re being shown.


So much money - it must be legit!


Photos of Lamborghinis

Oh the lure of the photo of the Lamborghini! They MUST be successful if there’s a photo of a Lamborghini, right? No. It is very doubtful that they are in the fact the owner of the car they are showing. Most people who make money online don’t feel the need to show off what they have. That’s not a rule of course and there will always be people who love showing others the fruits of their labour, but it many cases the images you see are used to manipulate. It looks scammy and if you see flashy photos like Ferraris and Lamborghinis, exercise caution!


Must be legit - here's a photo of a lamborghini!


Claims of fast money online

Many people will advertise that they have the solution for people who need fast money online. They prey upon this to get you to sign up. They know that you want so desperately for THIS to be the one. Here’s an example of an ad in this category:


10 minutes weekly - sure thing!


Really? 10 minutes a day. 100% guaranteed. I don’t think so.


Spamming your friends to sign them up to stuff

Whilst you make a bit of money by spamming your friends and family to sign up for things they are not interested in to make you temporarily happy, this is not a long term strategy. Your friends will start to get sick of you. They will be secretly (or openly!) be wishing you would stop using them as a way to get some extra income. Whilst you might see something great now and then that can benefit others, be careful about spamming people for your own benefit. That is what a lot of these things rely on. Whilst this is not necessarily a scam, it’s not a good look and you will not win any friends.


When you can’t work out exactly what it is you will be doing to earn the money

This is another interesting one. The classic that I see all the time is the ‘process emails for $25’. You can ‘process’ as many as you like! If you don’t know what ‘process emails’ means then there’s a good chance all you’ll be doing is selling something to someone that is nonsense, and making a commission from that. When there is no product or real service, that is a pyramid scheme. Stay well away from those.


Promise of LOTS of quick cash by following a simple system

These are the ones where you need to buy a product or system that teaches you how to make loads of cash if you follow their money making formula. You typically pay for the system up front without seeing it first, and there will often be upsells galore.

These might look and sound really appealing at first. Because who doesn’t want to make a lot of money for doing next to nothing? We all would. The fact is that if there was a system that could make loads of money for you that was as simple as they say, everyone would do it. There is no simple way to make loads of cash, it takes time.


Websites that lack information

A red flag to look out for is one where the landing page is just a video, and there is little or no other information on the site.

If something sounds too good to be true, it is likely that it is in fact too good to be true. Investigate further!


You have to pay upfront without seeing what you get

Beware of sites that make you pay for something that you’re not sure about what you’re getting. Reputable sites will typically either let you start for free so you can have a look around to see if you like it before you go any further. Others will offer a negligible introductory fee to get started (a few dollars) so you can login and see what it’s all about. This allows you to investigate further before you pay anything more substantial.

For those sites that don’t offer ‘try before you buy’, they should at least offer a money back guarantee. If there is ‘try before you buy’, or offer of a money back guarantee, they are worth investigating further.


Low start-up cost, then upsell after upsell

Upsells are not in themselves bad. They happen all the time, and that in itself does not make it a scam. But when you are lured in at a particular price point, only to find out that to get the ‘good stuff’ you have to pay for a lot of upsells, that feels scammy. It’s a good idea to google the product you are considering purchasing to see if that is the one and only price, or if there are upsells galore. Pricing should be upfront and transparent about what you get for your money.


Limited offer only! Hurry or you’ll miss out!!

If you see this, run. What utter garbage. It might sound good, and you might be worried that if you don’t act RIGHT NOW you’ll miss out. This is such a big scam tactic. Seriously if you see this, just stay away.

Hurry up! Limited Offer!!

Before you invest your time and/or money in anything, investigate it further

For any scheme, it’s always best to google it. People who have been scammed are often VERY happy to write about it online to help prevent others from doing the same thing they did. If you are seeing review after review that something is a scam, then take note of that.

Even when things look professional and sound amazing, beware. Do your due diligence. Don’t jump in before you’re confident that you’ve investigated it and it’s all above board.

Remember, making money online doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work, just like a regular job does. You need to learn how to do it properly, and put in the work to make it happen. If you see ads for things that promise loads of money, fast, then be skeptical.


A legitimate program that I know works


Before I joined Wealthy Affiliate, I did my research. I looked at some reviews, and most offered a balanced view. I liked the honesty that I was reading – that you won’t instantly make money, that you need to work at it like any other job. It was never at any point sold as a magic pill. You can also sign up for free to test out the training and see what the online community is like. You can remain a free member for as long as you like. There are no upsells. There is a premium membership available, and it is the only level of membership. There are no other levels, and no other things to buy.



Leave me a comment or a question and I’m always happy to help.



8 thoughts on “How to spot an online scam”

  1. Great article, so glad you didn’t fall for the gimmicks, and tricks. Thanks for the insight on some of these programs pictures, and hurry up videos. Making money is hard work, and earning it is half the fun.

    • Hi Laura, no falling for the gimmicks and tricks here! I have a pretty good scam detector if I do say so myself : ) Making money really is hard work, but you’re right – it can be so fun too. Earning money online is the best!

  2. Hi Melissa,

    Oh the wads of cash, and the LAMBOS…! : D

    It really is incredible how many of these scams you can find out there…! Thank you for an accurate and very informative article!

    When I first got interested in trying to make money online, I was very tempted by a lot of these scams, and I came pretty close to forking out my hard earned cash a few times!
    Fortunately I was suspicious enough to do my research, and I almost always came to the same conclusion as you… The good thing is that after a while, it gets a bit easier to recognise the scams.
    I fully agree with your list of signs! And it really is a good thing to have a “checklist” as the one in this article.

    I think anybody trying to make an income online should bookmark your post, and use it as a reference towards doing the research required before spending anything. I know I will!

    Thank you for this great information.

    All the best,

    • Hi Michael, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story. I’m glad you did your research and didn’t get lured in. All the very best to you.

  3. Hi Melissa,

    I was just doing some research on how to spot an online scam and seen you on Google. Nice read this was and I feel a lot more confident in being able to know a real site from a scam site now. Too many sites I see that say how easy all this easy to get money offers are and yet I feel a little uneasy on those sites. I mean if it were that easy I am sure I would of heard of them in the news or something because some sites offer nearly $500 a day just for clicking on ads!!

    I know this article is going to help a lot of people who maybe tempted by a scam site, that they don’t recognize to be one, and will save them time and maybe even some of their money.

    This is a great service to provide online as well :- ) .

    One great tip to know if a scam is real or fake is to go to So that is a website database and all sites online should be registered there. So you will find date of site registration, found name, address, email contact. All you do is enter site name without http or https or www and hit enter.

    Then those details will be freely supplied. You will always get the correct creation date. However, scam sites will invariably give out a fake address like PANAMA -thats it. And also no founder name or a name that, if Googled, has no connection to the site online. Classic scam signs of owners covering up who they are. So now we compare to their site where they’d probably be saying they have paid out huge money and serving thousands of people for years – this can now be easily debunked and is a great place to start to prove or disprove the legitimacy of any site online.

    Thanks again Melissa for this insightful article.

    ~Philip (Scam Witness).

    • Hi Philip, you sound like the absolute expert in this! Thank YOU for the tip regarding
      And yep if it was as easy as they say then we’d all be raking it in : )
      Thanks so much Philip for stopping by and sharing your expertise, it’s very much appreciated.

  4. Hi Melissa

    I enjoyed reading this post. You have covered the major tail signs to spot an illegitimate online business offer. We live in a world where people want a shortcut to success. The reality is that it requires hard work and perseverance to achieve success. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes

    • Hi Anthony, thanks for sharing your thoughts here and I hope you got something out of the post!
      All the very best to you.


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