You know the saying, and it holds true now more than ever. With the ability to transfer money electronically, scams can be conducted from almost anywhere in the world. So if it sounds too good to be true, it very likely is.

In today's world, that can mean more than just a bad "catch" to the deal. In today's world, that gimmicky offer can be the lure baiting you only to reveal a painful hook behind it.

Here are a few tips on how to spot a fake deal scam and how to shop safely:

  • Deep discounting and freebies are immediate red flags and cause for caution.
  • False advertising and misleading fine print are often overlooked. PAY ATTENTION!
  • Confirm model numbers directly with manufacturer websites and shop on secure “https://” sites.
  • Double-check the company’s physical address, phone number, and any official listings or complaints with organizations like the BBB (Better Business Bureau).
  • Search online to see if the company's name is associated with any known scams. Hackers and scammers aren't opposed to impersonating or using well-known companies in their schemes and reporting suspicious activity can help others.

Speaking of the Better Business Bureau, a recent published report from the BBB noted online scams are on the rise.

These scams typically lead to a total loss of funds nearly 80% of the time they occur.

From false advertisements promising a perfectly spoofed knockoff costing much less than the real thing to the misleading fine print, there's plenty to be on the lookout for.

Some examples you may see in fine print often buried on a page or even hyperlinked to further distance it from your decision-making at the time of purchase:

  • All sales are final
  • No refunds or exchanges
  • Product sold as-is and may display defects or imperfections
  • No customer support (for hardware or software especially)
  • Recurring payment schedule (the amount you thought was a one-time payment sets up a monthly billing)

Heavily discounted items driving immediate action to purchase before the deal goes away are often scams.

Some scammers will even lift a legitimate website's content and create a fake site to rack up easy cash and never have any intention to provide what you think you've paid for. Other scammers and hackers will use the same method to steal credit card information. There won't be any shipping of products or goods delivered and you'll likely have suspicious charges on your account soon.

That good deal isn't worth the pain of having to contact your credit card company or bank.

A good reminder, always pay with your credit card on secure sites. Even if an elaborate scheme does scam your cautious actions, you can dispute the charge and typically be left with simply shutting the card down, a potential nominal fee, and opening a new account.

And remember to search “scam” or “complaint” alongside the company name to find potential problems with any online sites or offers to avoid being scammed.