We are all too eager to spot a cool deal to save some money. Sadly, very often we are so eager that we forget about caution – and many scammers take advantage of that. What are you risking by running into an online scam?
- They can steal your money;
- They can steal your contact information and start reselling it again and again making you an easy target of spam and unsolicited email;
- They can sell you a low-quality or fake product, etc.
Luckily, we have quite a few web based tools that allow you to do proper research and avoid getting scammed. Here are a few of them that have always helped me:
1. Search Twitter
Twitter is buzzing with live conversations. Someone is most probably discussing the product, seller or deal you are currently considering – the key is to know how to find that conversation! That's where Twitter search comes to rescue.
Do you know one cool hack allowing you to find people sharing negative experience? Append :( to your search query and you will find people discussing why they were dissatisfied:
2. Browse Web Forums
Finding experts in any niche is really easy: all you need to do is to find a popular forum on the topic, join and ask questions (be sure to use the forum search option to find the previous discussions before asking questions). When it comes to coupons, deals and special offers there are just a few forums that will help you research any seller:
- WiseBread has very active forums that host discussions on frugal living, personal finance and life hacks.
- Saving Advice is probably the most active of all listed but it is less targeted.
- Buxr is the community of bargain hunters who meet to share shopping deals and opinions. They also have a solid forum where saving experts meet to discuss their experience and thoughts:
3. Find out Who Else Got Scammed
Scams.com is your first choice when you need to research if someone else fell pray to a scammer. That's a very active forum where people can come to share their sad experience (to warn others) or to ask for an opinion on some cheesy offer. It has multiple sections, most active of which are:
- Political scams;
- Internet scams;
- Work at home scams;
- MLM / Pyramid scams.
419eater is another popular forum discussing recent scams as well as essential tips on avoiding them.
ScamBusters.org lists plenty of scam cases. The only thing to keep in mind is that you won't find actual (business) names here, so search for keywords rather than names:
Internet ScamBusters only provides the actual scams without listing the name. The reason behind this is simple: we want you to become educated on the types of scams out there and not be lulled into a false sense of security by thinking you're safe by avoiding a specific company – names are easily changed but the scams usually stay the same.
4. Check User Reviews
There are plenty of sites listing and aggregating user reviews – I have listed some of them in my last year's post on MUO. I recommend checking a couple of them to make sure you are reading independent and unbiased reviews. Here are the sites I'd recommend:
- CNet offers both expert and user reviews. You should also be interested in video reviews as well as price and feature comparisons.
- AlaTest lists expert and user reviews summarizing the overall user experience in “Review Analysis” that gives a brief overview of all opinions listed for the product.
- BizRate is the easiest to use. It visualizes the customers feedback nicely by showing you smiles that represent the overall user experience:
5. Search for User Experiences on Facebook
Aardvark is a Facebook application and an IM bot. It connects you to niche experts allowing to ask them questions using your preferred instant messenger. Basically, it works the following way:
- Allow Aardvark to access your Facebook account;
- Specify your instant messenger account name;
- Add Aardvark bot to your IM buddy list;
- Send questions right to the Aardvark bot via IM;
- Wait for the tool to find an expert and answer you in real time:
Do you have your own tips or tricks to avoid being taken in by a scam? Websites that you use to verify that an offer is legit? Let us know about it in the comments!