Scams and scammers are everywhere online.
A lot of people end up falling for a scam at some point in time, particularly as some of them are actually very convincing.
If you come across an online scam, it really is important to report it, because you might just stop someone else falling for the scam.
However, figuring out how to report an online scam isn’t always easy.
The good thing is that there are a range of websites that you can go to that will let you report anything that you think is a scam.
The Better Business Bureau
You may have heard of the Better Business Bureau (or BBB). This is a site that provides consumers with information about companies including both online and physical businesses.
The BBB offers a page where you can submit information on a potential scam and one where you can file a complaint about a product.
In general, the scams section of the BBB focuses on types of scams where people are tricked out of money and end up paying for a fake product or no product at all.
In most cases, internet marketing scams won’t fall into this category, so you will probably find yourself needing to use the complaints section of the site, particularly if you are having problems with a misleading product.
Honestly, I think the complaints part of the site is more useful anyway, as the BBB has a list of the complaints that a business has received, whether they have been resolved and an overall ranking of the business.
The FBI has an Internet Crime Complaint Center that provides a form that you can fill in with information about an issue that you have had with a specific online business.
In the case of the FBI, the form they have you fill in is quite complex, and you are required to provide personal information, including your name, phone number and address.
I honestly don’t know what the FBI does with information about online scams, but I suspect not much.
After all, it’s rare to see any scamming company actually shut down.
I would personally only suggest using the FBI’s form if you are dealing with a highly misleading or manipulative scam, rather than one that something that is somewhat obvious when you take a closer look.
Some products are sold through specific marketplaces.
If you are having problems with a product that falls into this category, then you might be able to contact the marketplace directly.
One example of this is ClickBank.
ClickBank has a huge range of products, some of them are good but some of them are very misleading (in fact – it has a reputation for low quality products).
Despite this, the company does sometimes take down products if there are too many complaints about them. This means that you may have some luck complaining to the marketplace directly.
However, the response you get will depend on the nature of the problem and the marketplace you are dealing with.
For example, a similar company to ClickBank is ClickSure. For the most part, it seems that ClickSure accepts all of the scammy products that ClickBank rejects, and doesn’t seem to blacklist anything.
Scams versus Misleading Products
When you are looking at how to report an online scam, one of your first steps needs to be whether the product you are looking at is actually a scam.
There are a lot of different definitions out there and it really depends on your perspective.
For the purposes of reporting it’s important to remember that scams are dishonest, manipulative and they try to part you and your money.
Often scams will try to manipulate you into purchasing, like making you feel guilty about something, or making you think that they can solve all of your problems.
One of the differences between a scam and a misleading product is that a scam doesn’t do what it says at all.
For example, there are a huge range of ‘get quick rich’ products out there that say you can make money through the website they offer you when this isn’t actually possible at all.
However, there are a lot of products that aren’t quite scams.
For example, internet marketing companies will often use examples of how much people can earn with their product, inserting a disclaimer that results aren’t typical.
This is still incredibly manipulative, but it isn’t really that different to what you see when you watch television commercials.
Another example is the MLM model.
This is the model that companies like Avon and Amway use.
Here, people can make money by selling products, but the real emphasis is on recruiting other people into the company.
The model itself isn’t a scam, because some people actually are successful through it.
It’s just that it is much much harder to be successful with this type of company than they claim.
Likewise, you’ll find that some sites give you all the information that you need about their products, but it isn’t always obvious.
If you run across a product that probably isn’t a scam, but is misleading, then the BBB is probably the best place to start.
Often you will find that the BBB will help you to work with the company to reach a resolution.
Even if they don’t, your complaint will stay up there for other people to read.
Reporting online scams is important for helping other people, but it’s important to protect yourself against scams as well.
Going to the BBB and other similar places are fantastic ways to work out whether a product is a scam, but it won’t tell you everything, particularly as not all scams are reported.
Realistically, you can’t rely on someone else reporting a scam, you have to be able to spot some of the warnings yourself.
I’ve addressed the warning signs in depth in another post, but here are some key things to watch out for in internet marketing scams.
- Hyped or unrealistic potential earnings
- Only vague information given about how you will earn money
- Emphasis on the idea of ‘getting rich quick’ or ‘money without work’
- Screenshots of Clickbank earnings, checks or any other type of earning
- Long videos with lots of filler, but little actually information
- Bait and switch tactics (one thing is promised, then another is offered)
With all the scams out there it can sometimes be difficult to find legitimate sites, especially if you're looking at the field of making money online. But, legitimate sites do exist.
One such site is Wealthy Affiliate, which I recommend to anyone interested in making money online.
Wealthy Affiliate is an online training site that teaches people how to make money online. However, the site makes it very clear that making money does take work.
After all, there really is no such thing as fast and easy long-term income (although we all wish there was).