#TechTipTuesday: How to Avoid a Scam (And How to Avoid Looking Like One)

Scams (and being identified as a scammer even if you aren’t) is one of the biggest fears of any business (and we’ve all seen the contents of our spam folders). But, while accepting large sums of cash from Nigerian princes is pretty easy to spot, how good are you at identifying more subtle scams?

nigerian prince scam

Phishing Scams

The biggest scam and internet threat out there today is the phishing scam. Phishing is a letter, fax, or email that claims to be someone from a bank or other money-handling institution looking to get your account credentials. Popular targets are large consumer banks like Bank of America. Most people think that they can identify their bank’s emails or website, but some of the phishing sites are scarily good at imitation. So much so that for each phishing blast that’s sent, 45% of people who opened the emails submitted their information.

It’s fairly simple to dodge this scam if you’re worried: always look at the address bar. If the address for a website isn’t right, it’s not the right place. Most financial institutions also sign their websites now; Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari all show when these signatures are present, validate them with another authority, and display the company name. Pay attention to these and you shouldn’t fall victim.

Spam Email Scams

Spam isn’t exactly a scam, but it certainly scams you out of time and focus. Every email for a dubious substance or product takes time away from what you’re doing. But, it’s not just for prescription drugs. Spam can be any form of email that is unrequested.

And, this is one your business can fall into fairly easily. Marketing writing can be magical, well-developed, and a pleasure to read. But poor marketing writing can be misconstrued as scammy and spammy writing, which can lead to people disregarding your product or service. If you sound like an infomercial, stop—they’re already on to you. But, if you can write honestly and passionately about your service or product, you stand a chance of not being seen as spam or a scam.

Paying For Links

This isn’t technically a “scam,” but it’s gained a reputation for being a scammy-looking business practice—so much so that Google and other search engines actively penalize you for doing it if they find it. While linking out to people you know, trust, and like is important to your business’s website, paying for links are different.

Google (and most other search engines) purport to be looking for the most relevant information to a search. Part of their system is using how many links to a page it’s found to determine how useful it is. When people pay for links, they’re paying other people to link to them, thereby increasing their relevance (in theory).

In short, if you’d like to see your site disappear off Google and other search engines, go ahead and pay for them. But you’ll not see your page at the top of the Google page for much longer.

In short, the rule of thumb for avoiding being bitten by a scam is this: if it looks like you can avoid a lot of hard work and sacrifice for a low, low fee, don’t do it. If you can’t verify the identity of the web service, don’t do it. If your copy reads like Billy Mays wrote it, don’t do it.

We know that you’re class act professionals—be sure to make your business’s public appearance looks like one, too.