BlogScams22ND SEP 2023
AuthorErum Shaikh
11 min read

7 Different Types of Online Scams to Watch Out For

A feature image for a blog about many different types of online scams out there.
BlogScams22ND SEP 2023
11 min read

7 Different Types of Online Scams to Watch Out For

AuthorErum Shaikh
A feature image for a blog about many different types of online scams out there.

Scammers are constantly finding new ways to trick people into giving away their information or money. According to a 2022 report by the Federal Trade Commission, over 2.4 million consumers in the United States lost $8.8 billion to scams. Now more than ever, it helps to know what types of online scams can target you and your loved ones.

Today, we will look at some of the most common types of scams to watch out for and how to protect yourself against them.

Major Types of Online Scams

Companies continue to invest in better and more secure hardware and software. But even with a raft of built-in patches, upgrades, and new security features, scammers tend to focus on targeting the weakest link - human beings.

To accomplish this, cybercriminals use a variety of psychological tactics and technological tools at their disposal to wreak havoc. Here are some of the scams they rely on to accomplish their nefarious designs:

Phishing scams

Phishing scams are a common type of online scam where criminals send fake emails that appear to come from reputable sources to steal personal information or money from unsuspecting victims. These emails usually contain attachments or links that can compromise your device if clicked on.

In 2023, phishing scams accounted for over 90% of reported security incidents. And they show no signs of slowing down.

A comic strip that outlines how a phishing scam happens

Recently, customers of the beleaguered cryptocurrency exchange FTX were sent fraudulent emails. The email stated that customers can withdraw their digital assets from FTX again with a 'Withdraw Now' button linked to an external crypto wallet.

To protect yourself from these types of scams:

  • Always be cautious of unsolicited emails and verify the sender's identity before clicking links or downloading attachments.

  • Keep your software updated.

  • Always check URLs by hovering the cursor over them.

  • Never input personal information into a website without confirming its safety and security.

  • If you believe you have been a phishing scam victim, report it to the appropriate authorities and monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.


Next, let's talk about ransomware - a sneaky type of cybercrime that can cause serious headaches. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that hackers use to lock down your computer and encrypt your files so you can't access them. They then demand that you pay a ransom to get your files back.

According to cybersecurity software maker Malwarebytes Labs, ransomware attacks in the US grew by over 75% in 2023. Unfortunately, these attacks are becoming more and more common.

This comic strip explains how a ransomware scam works

One high-profile example is the WannaCry attack, which affected hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries in 2017. The attack resulted in losses of over $4 billion.

These attacks can happen to anyone, but they often target businesses, hospitals, and other organizations with valuable information.

To protect yourself from ransomware attacks, it is crucial to follow these tips:

  • Regularly update your antivirus software.

  • Back up your data to a secure, secondary location.

  • Be cautious of suspicious emails or attachments and avoid clicking links from unknown sources.


Scareware is a type of malicious software that preys on users' fears by pretending that their computer is infected with a virus and then offering a solution to fix it for free.

The scam usually involves fake antivirus pop-ups that prompt users to download a program or pay money to remove the virus. However, these programs are fraudulent and only serve as a way for cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting victims.

This comic strip explains how a scareware scam works

In one instance, a Ukrainian scareware developer charged his targets $129 for an 'antivirus remover' during 2006-2011. The unnamed fugitive netted $70 million by scaring people with something they never needed. He was finally arrested by the Spanish authorities in 2023.

To protect yourself from scareware attacks, do these things:

  • Install up-to-date antivirus software on your computer.

  • Avoid opening emails, attachments or links from unknown sources.

  • Be cautious of suspicious pop-ups in your browser claiming that your computer is infected.

Travel scams

Are you planning your next vacation online? Well, be careful because travel scams are becoming more sophisticated and widespread!

This type of online scam involves con artists pretending to be travel agents or reputable companies offering cheap flights or vacation packages, only to disappear with your money without providing any services.

This comic strip explains how a travel scam happens

Shockingly, travelers lost over $105 million to travel scams in 2022 according to the Federal Trade Commission.

But don't worry, we've got your back. To avoid falling victim to online travel scams, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do your research before booking any travel services online.

  • If a discount is too good to be true, it is.

  • Look for legitimate customer reviews across a variety of online platforms.

  • Ensure the travel agency has an active website, social media, and easy-to-find contact information.

  • Always use trusted payment gateways when making online reservations or payments.

Fake shopping websites

Online shopping has become increasingly popular in recent years, but unfortunately, so has the prevalence of fake shopping websites. Unsurprisingly, online shopping scams were the second-most common type of fraud reported in 2022.

This comic strip explains how a fake shopping scam happens

One of the most common tactics fake shopping websites use is offering deals that seem too good to be true. For example, a scam website may advertise a designer handbag for a fraction of the retail price or an expensive electronic device for a deep discount. These deals are meant to lure unsuspecting shoppers into making a purchase, but the goods don't exist, and the scammers steal the shopper's payment information.

Another technique used by scammers is formjacking. This involves hacking into a legitimate retailer's website and redirecting customers to a fake payment page. In 2020, British Airways was fined over $25 million for a formjacking attack that affected over 430,000 customers.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, follow these simple rules:

  • It's essential to do your research before making any purchases.

  • Check for warning signs such as language errors in emails or on the website itself, and look for customer reviews or ratings.

  • Make sure the company has a legitimate website with clear contact information.

  • Avoid sending money by wire transfer or gift cards. Instead, use trusted payment methods properly integrated with online shopping platforms.

Grandparent scams

The grandparent scam is a cruel type of online scam. It specifically targets elderly individuals, usually grandparents with grandkids. Fraudsters exploit the grandparents' caring nature by impersonating their grandchild and appealing for financial assistance.

The scammers often contact the targeted grandparent through email or text message, claiming to be in urgent need of funds for an unexpected bill or train ticket. They may also claim to be abroad and in need of immediate financial help.

This comic strip explains how a grandparent scam happens

Grandparent scams are among the top ten most reported types of fraud in the United States. From January 2020 to June 2021, the FBI received over 650 reports of grandparent scams, with losses totaling more than $13 million.

Here's what you can do to avoid falling victim to grandparent scams:

  • If someone contacts you out of the blue asking for money, verifying their identity before sending any funds is important. This can be done by contacting the person directly or by checking with other family members.

  • It's crucial to use secure payment methods when making purchases online. Never send money via wire transfer or gift card, as scammers often use these methods to avoid detection.

  • Never fall for urgent or emergency appeals. Relying on fear tactics is the oldest trick in a scammer's book.

Romance Scams

Online romance scams have proliferated in recent years as people turn to dating apps and online matchmaking platforms to find partners.

These online romance scams, also known as catphishing scams, typically involve a fraudster creating a fake online persona to lure victims into a romantic relationship. The fraudster then builds trust with the victim by showering them with attention and affection through email, text messages, and phone calls.

This comic strip explains how a romance scam happens

Once trust is established, the scammer will often request money or personal information from the victim, claiming they need it for an emergency or to visit the victim.

In 2021, a man from Texas was charged with defrauding 28 women of over $1 million in a romance scam. Pretending to be an army captain stationed in Syria, he convinced his victims to send money for various reasons, including medical expenses and travel costs.

To avoid falling victim to a romance scam, follow these rules:

  • Be wary of anyone who asks for money or personal information early on in a relationship.

  • Individuals should be cautious of overly romantic language and requests to move communication to a different platform.

  • When in doubt, it’s important to trust your instincts and end communication with someone who seems suspicious.


The best tool against fighting various types of online scams is education. Whether you are part of an organization or an individual who takes online security seriously, investing in cybersecurity awareness training is key.

We hope this post about online scam types helps you safeguard your identity, data, and money against fraudsters.

Erum Shaikh
Erum Shaikh / Editor
Erum is a passionate psychotherapist by day and cyber sleuth by night. With over a decade of experience as a journalist, she loves to dig deep into the abyss of cybersecurity to find out what, why and how an incident occurred. Reach out to her on X @shaikherum
FAQsFrequently Asked Questions
A phishing scam is a type of online fraud where scammers impersonate trusted entities, often through emails or websites, to trick individuals into revealing personal or financial information. These scams aim to steal sensitive data like passwords, credit card numbers, or social security numbers.