How to Avoid Being Scammed: Consumer Guides & Resources
After writing hundreds of articles, reviewing thousands of individual products, and hearing countless stories from consumers like you, the HighYa team knows a thing or two about scams. We created this section of our website to provide actionable information that you can put to immediate use to avoid scams and shop smarter.
Taking years of research and distilling it down, this is our top 12 tips for avoiding scams:
1. Don’t hand over your information.
Whether by phone or email, never give out your (or your family members’):
First or last name
Date of birth
Social security number
Address, school, employer, etc.
Relationship to anyone mentioned in the conversation
Credit card or bank account numbers
2. Learn to identify scam websites.
Verify that the site you’re visiting is the real deal. A lot of crooks will create websites that look legitimate, but are just fronts to steal your personal and credit card information. To identify a scam website, look for circular links (all links lead to the ordering page), weird-looking URLs, and lots of stock images that don’t represent actual customers.
3. Be wary of products that use the phrase “as seen on” or have pictures of celebrities.
Scam websites are notorious for indicating that the product was featured on a popular news network or in a national publication, but won’t provide links to the content. The intent is to make you think the product’s received a lot of media attention, when this almost certainly isn’t the case. Is there a video embedded on the site featuring a well known celebrity, although the product name is never mentioned? If so, these could be more signs of a scam website that should be avoided. Pro tip: Search online for “[product name + publication name].” Or, you can replace the publication with the name of the celebrity to find out if they’ve really endorsed it.
4. Put your thinking cap on.
Remember the Five Ws you learned in grade school (who, what, when, why, where)? Whenever you’re evaluating a manufacturer’s claim, ask yourself: Who is this company? What evidence (more about this next) do they provide? Why should I believe what they say? Getting in the habit of thinking critically when shopping online can go a long way toward helping you avoid scams!
5. Look for evidence.
Does a supplement claim to boost muscle growth? How about an anti-aging product that claims to help you look “years younger”? Whatever it is, legitimate companies will back up their claims with evidence, whether derived from clinical trials, users surveys, on-the-spot demos, or anything else. If not? It could just be a bunch of marketing hype intended to sell you on an ineffective product.
6. Mind your emotions.
If you’re going through an especially emotional time in your life, such as losing a job, a recent illness or injury, feeling lonely or isolated, or overwhelmed by debt, realize that you’re in a susceptible state, and should avoid accepting any “irresistible offers” you come across. Avoid clicking on ads related to weight loss, money-making ventures, and any free trial offers.
7. Watch out for false claims.
Are you researching a new dietary supplement, herbal remedy, over-the-counter drug, patch, cream, or other product available without a prescription? According to the FTC, any of the following claims should sound your “scam alarm”:
Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more, without dieting or exercise.
Causes substantial weight loss, no matter what or how much the consumer eats.
Causes permanent weight loss, even after the consumer stops using the product.
Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight.
Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks.
Causes substantial weight loss for all users.
Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.
8. Be wary of free trials.
While there are certainly legitimate free trials out there, in our experience, it’s generally best to avoid them. Even if you’re dealing with a well-founded company, most free trials come with big stipulations at the end (like high prices or recurring shipments), which could spell disaster for your bank account if you’re not paying attention.
9. That autoship program might not be a good idea.
In our opinion, products should do the talking; if a customer wants more, they’ll place an order when they’re ready. Like free trials, there are plenty of legit companies that offer autoship programs, but if you’re forced to enroll in one, you might want to think twice before pressing the order button.
10. Watch out for steep S&H charges.
Although charging excessively high S&H fees isn’t necessarily a scam, based on all the feedback we’ve received, they can certainly feel like one to customers. Not only does this greatly reduce a product’s overall value, but high S&H charges can be extra painful if you request a refund and lose it all in the process. Instead, search for similar items locally, or purchase one through an online retailer who charges less for S&H.
11. Contact customer service before placing your order.
Many less-than-stellar companies technically offer a customer service department, although any “service” the staff provide leaves a lot to be desired. As such, if you’ve followed the tips above and you’re still on the fence about the legitimacy of a company, give their customer service department a call before placing your order and start asking in-depth questions. You’ll quickly learn if they’re open to answering them. Pro tip: Most late model smartphones feature the ability to turn off caller ID, which you might want to do beforehand.
12. Don't rush with your credit card information.
Unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re ready to make a purchase, don’t enter your credit card information. Why? Some less-than-stellar companies will process the transaction, even without you pressing the submit button.
Have you ever fallen for a scam and wished someone would have warned you in advance? The good news is that you can help others avoid scams by sharing this page. Together, we really can make a difference!