Internet Security

Top 8 Internet Fraud and Scams of All Time

Ben Stegner Updated 25-10-2019

As long as the internet has been around, malicious people have used it to rip others off. Between fraudulent sites, email scams, and other forms of deception, countless people have lost billions of dollars to internet fraud and scams.


Let’s take a look at some infamous examples of online fraud and scams, many of which people still fall for. By pointing them out, you can better recognize the worst offenders to keep yourself and loved ones safe.

1. Email Phishing

App Store Phishing Receipt Email

While cyber fraud takes many forms, it’s often done through email since that’s a ubiquitous and cheap method of attack. As a result, one of the most common scamming examples is the general phishing email.

In this scam, you receive a message claiming to come from a legitimate entity, such as your bank, email provider, or online retailer. The email lets you know that the company has made some changes and needs you to confirm your information to make sure everything is up-to-date.

If you follow the link in these fishing emails, you’ll be brought to a fraud site. While it might look like the real page, entering your credentials here will send them right to scammers.


Review our tips on how to spot a phishing email How to Spot a Phishing Email Catching a phishing email is tough! Scammers pose as PayPal or Amazon, trying to steal your password and credit card information, are their deception is almost perfect. We show you how to spot the fraud. Read More so you don’t fall victim to them. It might sound silly, but scammers have evolved to create much more advanced phishing schemes.

2. Tech Support Scams

One of the most concerning internet fraud cases in recent years is the onslaught of tech support scams. In this scheme, someone calls you and pretends to be from Microsoft or a computer security company. They convince you that your computer is infected with some kind of malware and coax you into letting them remotely control your machine.

From there, they might cause actual damage to your system by stealing your data or installing ransomware. They’ll then try to sell you a worthless “security suite” or demand payment for their “services,” getting upset if you refuse.

This scam is easy to fall for if you get caught up in the caller’s lies. But by being aware of it, you can know what you should do about tech support scams What Should You Do About the Windows Tech Support Scam? If Windows Tech Support calls you, it's a scam. But what should you do? Hang up, lead the callers on, or report them? Read More in case you’re ever contacted with one.


3. Online Dating Scams

While online dating has a lot of benefits, it’s also a hotbed for cyber fraud. Criminals use online dating to get money from legitimate users by building fake profiles and trying to get others to fall for them.

Usually, online dating scammers have limited profiles with few pictures and not much additional info. They’ll often profess love at an unusually early point and try to get you to chat on an alternative app, so the dating site doesn’t shut them down.

To take your money, the scammer will ask often you to “cover the cost” of something. This could be a plane ticket to supposedly come meet you in person, or shipping a package they send to you. Of course, they’ll never actually meet up with you or even contact you via video chat.

If you use online dating services, you must know how to spot and avoid online dating scams How to Spot and Avoid an Online Dating Scammer: 8 Red Flags Do you date online? Here are several tips and red flags to help you spot and avoid scammers on online dating sites. Read More so you don’t become a victim.


4. Nigerian 419 Email Scams

This is one of the oldest internet fraud examples in the book. Someone from a country (often Nigeria, but not always) contacts you via email in broken English. They explain that a rich person they know has died and the money has nowhere to go; if you can help them get the funds out of the country, they’ll give you some as a reward.

Of course, this is completely bogus. If you follow along, they’ll continually ask you for money to cover various “expenses” associated with the fund movement, until you realize they’ve been stealing from you all along.

Due to their notoriety, these types of emails usually go straight to your spam folder, so you probably haven’t seen one in a while. But if you do, simply ignore it and move on. There’s no reason to fall for this classic scheme.

5. Social Media Fraud

Facebook Messenger Video Scam Message


Attackers have many ways to steal from you on social media 5 Ways Hackers Use Facebook to Steal From You Thought privacy was the only thing at risk when using Facebook? Here are five other ways Facebook can compromise your security. Read More , including taking your money. One popular method is abusing your trust with your social media friends. For example, if someone on your Facebook friend list has their account hacked, the attacker might contact you through a Facebook Messenger.

In many cases, they’ll send a video link with a sensational message like “OMG, is it you in this video?” that tempts you to click on it. If you do click, you’ll go to a dangerous site programmed to infect your computer with malware.

Other times, the scam is more personal. The hijacked account might send you a message saying that they’re in trouble with the law, or need money to cover a hospital bill after a bad accident. If you take this at face value, you’ll end up sending a thief—not your friend—money.

6. Buying and Selling Scams

Like online dating, purchasing and selling products online is another popular activity that’s been tainted by fraud. Whenever you buy something online or sell your own goods, you must stay vigilant to avoid postal scams Love Online Shopping? 5 Postal Scams You Should Avoid Online shopping has soared during 2020, so you need to know about these postal scams targeting mail order customers. Read More .

What to watch for often depends on the service you use. As an overview, we’ve covered eBay scams everyone should know 10 eBay Scams to Be Aware Of Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. Here are the most common eBay scams you need to know about, and how to avoid them. Read More , whether you’re a buyer or seller. You can apply that general advice to other online shopping destinations, too.

Avoid buying from random websites unless you’ve vetted them through reputable reviews. If you sell goods on Craigslist or similar sites, meet in a public place and only accept cash for the transaction. And if someone offers to pay you more than the item’s listed price in exchange for shipping it to a foreign country, it’s a scam.

7. Fake Virus Warnings

fake malware messages website ads

Most people trust that antivirus warnings mean something is wrong with their computer, which is why attackers create fake virus warnings to trick you. This example of internet fraud can take the form of browser popups, phony websites, or even malicious apps that generate fake messages.

These might demand payment to “unlock” full security features, or offer a phone number that will connect you to scammers. Fake virus messages are even more insidious with the rise of ransomware. These lead you to believe you’re the victim of an actual ransomware attack, while they’re actually nothing more than simple websites prompting you to pay money.

Make sure you know how to spot fake malware warnings How to Spot and Avoid Fake Virus and Malware Warnings How can you tell if a virus warning is real or fake? Here's how to spot the warning signs and identify a fake virus alert. Read More so you don’t walk into a trap.

8. Fake Charities, Sweepstakes, and Others

Don’t put it past scammers to take advantage of a tragic event. Often, after a natural disaster that makes international headlines, fraudsters will reach out via email or other methods to collect money for a “good cause.” Of course, they’re just looking to capitalize on people’s generosity following these events.

Like phishing emails, you should never respond to unsolicited messages like this. If you want to donate to a charitable cause, visit it directly and make sure it’s a reputable organization.

Charities aren’t the only kind of fake message that you’ll run into. If you receive messages claiming that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, have uncollected debt on an account you know nothing about, or similar, ignore it. These are scams trying to take your money.

These scams can also arrive by SMS, so watch your texts as well as your email inbox.

Stay Vigilant Against Dangerous Internet Fraud

We’ve reviewed some of the most notorious examples of online fraud. While you might be familiar with one or many of these, it’s important to spread awareness as much as possible. As more people learn to recognize these scams, they’ll become less effective and hopefully go away for good.

Not all fraud examples take place online. Review the major signs that you’re on the phone with a scammer 7 Telltale Signs You're on the Phone With a Scammer Thieves use all sorts of phone scams to rip you off. Here are some telltale signs that you're talking to a scammer on the phone. Read More so you don’t fall for phone rip-offs.

Related topics: Computer Security, Data Security, Online Fraud, Online Security, Phishing, Scams.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. JonZone
    December 7, 2019 at 1:45 am

    Please do not use the word 'unbelievable' if the event is happening and there is awareness of it happening.
    All the scams take place every hour of every day, therefore they are believable.
    Ridiculous, nil-meaning words are creeping into our language on a regular basis, 'cool' is the most ridiculous, add 'absolutely', actually', 'unbelievable', and the most aggravating outcry words which have no connection whatsoever to religion are, "Oh My God".
    Thank you for your attention.

  2. Gemma
    August 24, 2018 at 10:35 am

    My partner just been caned for 600 on eBay there was a vehicle for sale but could not pay thr5pay pay. The man asked for 600 deposit via bank transfer and that the vehicle will be delivered today. No vehicle was delivered and now the item has gone of ebay. We have spoke you ebay and they can't to nothing to help. And we don't know what to do next.

  3. Bart Michells
    April 3, 2018 at 4:54 am

    Philippe Bellasio swindle promising to transform your computer into a machine to make money through computer programs.
    In this case, Philippe Bellasio wants people to send money, if they want to download a program to make profits with their machine. Once the bank deposit is made, a unique identification will be obtained and the swindler Philippe Bellasio will request information about your account so that they can deposit the money that will "win". The program will open several advertising windows, in which you will have to click, but your computer will be damaged and the promised money will never arrive.

  4. Bobby Bobberson
    May 24, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I feel people who get scammed are the ones to blame, not the scammers. The scammers set up the scheme, but it's nothing unless the victim agrees. They seal their fate, not the scammers. If you say no, they are useless. If you say yes, then they can do whatever they want with you until you say no. If you got scammed, then don't blame the scammers. Blame yourselves, because you are the one who sealed your fate, not them. That is all.

  5. John
    February 21, 2017 at 5:56 am

    His name is vincent and will tell you lot of stories.
    He will make you fool by telling fraud details and offer like ps4 by one get one. Buy one samsung s7 and get one. Iphone 7 for half price.
    He will ask you to pay through sbi or paytm account.
    Here is the account number he is using to get money from you.
    SBI bank
    Name : Natnagwe Flavia Placidus
    Account number : 33957949626
    Branch code : 14625
    Ifsc code : SBIN0001465
    Branch : karpagam
    this is the contact number of the fraud who is conning everyone using polite words.
    Please avoid this person. Share how much you can.

  6. William Ruiz
    January 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Anytime you put your personal information over the Internet there is a chance of fraud. I have had this done to me 2 different times and have felt violated each time. My bank reimbursed me each time, however, making purchases online is a very high risk. You need to confirm each and every website you use and make sure your information isn't saved to that site. Be careful everyone!

  7. carmen
    January 4, 2015 at 8:08 am

    A Nigerian man asked me to purchase car engines and send them to him he would then sell them for more money and send me the difference I denied him he was clearly angry with me has anyone else had this experience?

  8. GTFO
    May 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    You Fail. So GTFO.

  9. Deep
    April 27, 2010 at 9:52 am

    You were saying about the last e-bay scam type:
    "The goal of the email is to get you to click on the link and log into your eBay account. The moment you do – your eBay account and all financial information contained therein, is compromised."
    But that is not true, and also this phishing scheme is widely used not just of e-bay.
    If you log in to e-bay that's fine, but in most scenarios, the links in the email don't take you to e-bay. Instead, you're taken to another URL (often an IP) which has a clone of the e-bay page. It it here that you post your info, they will have a copy of it while you'll be redirected to ebay, possibly logged in so you won't suspect what happened.

  10. Deep
    April 27, 2010 at 7:52 am

    You were saying about the last e-bay scam type:
    "The goal of the email is to get you to click on the link and log into your eBay account. The moment you do – your eBay account and all financial information contained therein, is compromised."
    But that is not true, and also this phishing scheme is widely used not just of e-bay.
    If you log in to e-bay that's fine, but in most scenarios, the links in the email don't take you to e-bay. Instead, you're taken to another URL (often an IP) which has a clone of the e-bay page. It it here that you post your info, they will have a copy of it while you'll be redirected to ebay, possibly logged in so you won't suspect what happened.

  11. Rajeeva
    April 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I suppose there is another kind of scam that this particular big e-shopping site in India propagates. The site is [Broken URL Removed] - they list something like a million items on their site. But most of the items when they are bought they refuse to deliver saying that it is out of stock??? then they issue "Gift Certificate" for that amount so that you may buy something else that you dont need. I have personally lost hundreds of Rupees on that site. Why cant this site list the item as out of stock in the first place? I suppose they just keep several items on their site so that they can just show that they have so many items on their list. This site also advertises their online products offline in their newspaper, ie, the Times of India and their they quote discounted price to attract customers. Actually, if you try to buy the item online, there will be no or lesser discounts.

  12. Tony
    March 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Ok, I understand that they're after your bank details. But how does them having your bank details let them empty your bank account? Surely they can't do that without permission? I mean every check I write has my bank account number on it; why is this route not abused too?

    • Ryan Dube
      March 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm

      Hey Tony,

      I believe that with the routing number and account number, a person could manage to get money out...but with that said I think most of the scams listed above (like the Nigerian scams) actually convince people to send in a bit of money at a time - a few hundred or grand here and there. Apparently the story is convincing enough that some people buy it...


  13. phirebird
    March 11, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Hacked eBay/Half dot com accounts + Fraudulent chargeback transactions. I got hit with this one a couple of times, but quickly learned to shell out the extra few cents for delivery confirmation and verify the buyer account. Here's how it works. (1) The scammer gains control over an inactive ebay/Half dot com account (don't ask me how) and makes a bunch of purchases. (2) Sellers send the items and scammer receives them. (3) Scammer issues a chargeback request through their credit card company, which ebay/Half dot com always complies with. (4) Seller must prove that the delivery occurred and must eat the purchase price if they can't.

    It seems to happen frequently with video game listings.

    After any sale is made, google the buyer's username and delivery address to see if any other sellers flagged them as fraudulent. Look for any suspiciously lengthy gaps in the buyer's review history. If the sale seems sketchy, buy insurance in addition to delivery confirmation. Also, try to wait as long as possible before shipping the item. Sometimes eBay will notify you that the seller's account was hijacked and recommend issuing a refund to the seller.