81 common online scams fraudsters and cybercriminals use today

Ruheni Mathenge Last updated: November 20, 2022 Read time: 34 minutes Disclosure

The internet is very helpful in many ways. But it can also be a dangerous place. Check out these common online scams that cybercriminals are using to extort innocent people.

Sneak peek at online scams

Unfortunately, the increasing number of internet scams and fraud schemes has seriously threatened the online existence of netizens. Fraudsters and scammers employ unique tactics to steal money and sensitive information from their targets. Fake emails, phishing, extortion, and social media are effective ways of targeting people of different ages. Through this detailed guide, let’s learn about the common online scams and frauds still operative today and how you can detect and report them.

The World Wide Web (www) is a massive network facilitating the connectivity and communication of millions of people and machines. But this online world is also rife with different scams that are becoming common with each passing day.

It doesn’t mean that the internet is dangerous to use. Undoubtedly, the internet has transformed the world into a global village, connecting you with anyone from anywhere in real-time. Other benefits of the internet include access to immediate information, the massification of knowledge, creating jobs, and much more.

However, today, the same internet can be used for unpleasant things like scamming and extorting innocent people. While some forms of online fraud employ advanced tactics, others are outdated, but they still work.

It doesn’t mean that one should stop using the internet — it’s practically impossible now. But knowing more about the scams and fraud schemes will help you stay safe online.

Quick list of the most widely used scamming schemes

Here is a summary of the common online scams if you are short on time to go through the entire article.

  1. Advanced-fee scam – Exist in many forms but mainly involves asking the target to send money upfront to get the promised reward.
  2. CEO fraud – Mainly targets business where the scammer impersonates a person with authority like the CEO, account, or HR manager and demands transfer of money or data.
  3. Funeral scam – A fraudulent funeral director exploits the elderly by inflating the cost or offering unnecessary services.
  4. Skill/talent contest scam – The scammers prey on teenagers’ eager to develop their skills and talents by asking for entry and facilitation fees.
  5. Ransomware – This is hazardous malware that enables the criminal to encrypt the target’s files and demand a fee to decrypt them.
  6. Whaling – It is a variation of the phishing scheme where a fraudster infiltrates an organization and impersonates individuals to steal sensitive data or money.
  7. Bank fraud – The scammer calls the target and pretends to represent a financial institution to fleece money or private data.
  8. Fake celebrity news – This scam is very popular on social media sites where fraudsters create click-bait fake celebrity news but redirect to phishing sites.
  9. Vacation ticket resells – The scammers post appealing ads advertising traveling tickets at below-average prices yet there are no tickets at all.
  10. Fake refund – This is another instance where the fraudsters impersonate IRS or other tax agencies. They urge the target to click on a link to get a refund but are redirected to a phishing site.

Top cyber scams and schemes today – The detailed list

We will provide a snap view of some of the most common internet scams because it is impossible to exhaust all of them.

So, below are some of the most common internet scams in operation today. We have grouped them into different categories to make understanding and recognizing them easier. Of course, as noted earlier, it is not possible to exhaust all of them, but this guide will give you an idea of what to look out for.

Email-based scams 

Emails have become a common method for most internet frauds. It is a popular communication medium, so executing a scam is effortless and cheap. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to spot some scam emails because they are poorly written. However, some are extraordinarily refined, and millions of people have lost their money and personal information. 

Here are some of the email-based online scams common in the wild. 

1. Charity fraud 

Charity fraud is one of the most widely used scamming schemes to lure people into making donations to fake organizations and charities. The scammers can use any subject, including disaster relief efforts, animals in danger, or anything that can spur emotions. 

In most cases, the email will link to an authentic-looking website and even come with an excuse about why it is a matter of urgency. The worst is that the victim may provide credit/debit card details and other private details besides sending money to the attacker. 


2. Advanced-fee fraud 

The advanced-fee fraud comes in many ways, like, you have won a lottery, an old bank account, or a beneficiary of estate money. Regardless of the subject, the message will require you to send a fee upfront so you can get whatever is promised.