13 Signs You’re Getting Scammed Online

by Niall Doherty Updated: October 1, 2018

So I’ve been running ads on Facebook to promote a video series I put together called Start Earning Online.

The series is 100% free and I spent months creating it, shooting videos in three different countries – Russia, Spain, Montenegro – and it’s basically a crash course teaching people the basics of earning a living online, like I’ve been doing for the past 8 years.

You sign up for the free series, you get 9 full lessons, and then a couple of weeks later I invite you to join my premium course if you’d like to learn more.

Here’s the ad:

And yeah, I know: you can’t really use your laptop on the beach.

But the image makes the point that, when you work online, you’re not confined to an office or any particular location.

Anyway, I’ve had that ad running for a few weeks now.

And, of course, the Internet being what it is, I’ve had people in the comments telling me that the whole thing is a scam.

People like Gary here:

And when I ask Gary why he thinks it’s a scam (and I asked him twice, because I really wanted to know)…

…well, I never hear back from Gary 🙁

But even better was this guy:


That’s a fairly serious accusation there, Michael!

Hey, here’s an idea: how about we have a look at your profile and see what else you’ve been up to on Facebook?

Sharing a conspiracy theory that the Israelis were responsible for 9/11

Sharing a conspiracy theory that the Israelis were responsible for 9/11

Japanese schoolgirl fantasy images

Japanese schoolgirl fantasy images

The US capitol building has a statue of the whore of Babylon

The US capitol building has a statue of the whore of Babylon

Trump is Pro-God and Pro-Life

Trump is Pro-God and Pro-Life

Obama behind entire Russia witch hunt

Obama behind entire Russia witch hunt

Tom Hanks raped a 13 year old who was brainwashed by the CIA

Tom Hanks raped a 13 year old who was brainwashed by the CIA

And apparently Nelson Mandela was a mass murderer

And apparently Nelson Mandela was a mass murderer


So the impression I’m getting there Michael – and correct me if I’m wrong – but the impression I’m getting is that you apparently believe all that BATSHIT CRAZY stuff you shared publicly on Facebook.

But my email series, the free email series about working online, created by a guy who has been working online for almost 8 years himself and has posted articles and videos and monthly finance reports every single month since 2010 to prove it…


Not the 9/11 conspiracies or the Tom Hanks paedophile claims or the stuff about Nelson Mandela being a mass murderer… apparently all of that seems PERFECTLY REASONABLE to you, Michael.

But the claim that you can “learn how to earn a living online so you can work from anywhere (even if you’re not great with computers)” … why THAT’S JUST MADNESS!


A false proclamation endorsed by website fraudsters to profit on uneducated individuals!

Seriously, Michael, what kind of lunatic, ballygobackwards world are you living in?

Here, I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you.

I’m going to assume that you’re not beyond hope here, and give you a nice, simple 13-point checklist you can use to better determine if something you see advertised online is is a scam or not.

That way, in future, you’ll be better able to tell what’s legit and worthwhile vs. what’s actually a load of bullshit and a waste of your precious time.

Sound good?

Okay then, let’s begin…

1. Has the seller achieved what you want to achieve?

A member of my premium course summed this up nicely:

Very true.

Check that the person selling you the product or the course or whatever, has actually achieved the results they’re promising you.

Now of course, there can be some exceptions to this.

For example, Bill Belichick coaches dudes how to play American football real good…

Thing is though: Belichick never played American football all that well himself.

But just because he wasn’t a great player doesn’t mean he isn’t a great coach.

Which brings us to…

2. Has the seller helped other people achieve what you want to achieve?

To stick with the sports coach analogy, a sports coach might not be able to hit a three pointer or land a triple axel herself, but if she has a track record of helping other people do that kind of thing – especially people similar to you – then she’s worth paying attention to.

Now, how do you know if the product or service you’re considering has helped other people?

Usually through reviews and testimonials.

If the product is available for purchase through Amazon, for example, you can tell pretty quick if it’s the real deal by looking at the reviews.

The Cargo Ship Diaries by Niall Doherty. 72 customer reviews, average of 4.5 stars. Sounds legit.

Be sure to pay attention to both the quality and quantity of the reviews.

Anyone can throw up an ebook on Amazon and get their Ma and their babysitter to post 5-star reviews.

That doesn’t necessarily make the book worth reading.

If however there are a few dozen 4- and 5-star reviews, it’s a safe bet that the book is the real deal.

Testimonials, meanwhile, are a little different as they are usually provided by whoever is selling the product and can therefore be less trustworthy.

Legit testimonials usually have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • They are actual screenshots of emails or messages received from customers (as opposed to copied and pasted text, which is much easier to modify or fabricate).
  • They are not anonymous.
  • They are attached to a real photo of the customer.
  • If it’s a video testimonial, the person should clearly be a real customer and not some cheesy actor.

For example, below are a few screenshots of emails and messages about my free and premium courses:

And here are some freelancing tips from my students that makes a nice testimonial video:

3. Is the seller a real person you can get in touch with?

As in, do they personally respond to messages you send them?

Or do they appear to be an all-too-perfect automation you can never get in touch with or receive a straight answer from?

4. Can you get in touch with real customers of the product or service?

Often you can track them down and find their contact information via reviews or testimonials.

Failing that, simply reach out to the seller and ask that they can put you in touch with some happy customers. If they refuse, that’s a red flag.

(Unless of course you’re buying financial services or something like that, in which case it’s probably illegal for the seller to share such information with you.)

5. Does the seller actually show you the product details?

This could take the form of technical specifications, a list of course materials, a video demonstration, or something else along those lines.

For example, I show people exactly what the inside of my premium course looks like in this video tour:

6. Does the seller have a substantial following online?

Check out their social media accounts.

Do they only have 12 followers on Twitter or a handful of likes on Facebook?

If they have lots of followers, are they engaging with those followers regularly? Important to check that because it’s easy enough to buy a few thousand followers or likes nowadays, but engagement will usually be very low on such social media accounts.

(By the way, here’s my Facebook page if you’d like to check it out.)

7. Is the product or service expensive?

Generally speaking, the more expensive it is, the better.

In the words of renowned online entrepreneur Derek Sivers:

“People who spend more for a product or service value it more, and get more use out of it.”

But aside from that, if the price seems too good to be true, it usually is.

8. Do they use a secure payment portal?

You should definitely definitely definitely check this before you enter any credit card information or submit any payment details.

It’s easy to tell if a checkout page is secure via the lock in the address bar of your browser:

Note that some sellers will send you to a secure site like PayPal to process your payment.

That’s fine, too.

9. Is there a guarantee?

Make sure they offer a full money-back guarantee before you buy.

Know how long the guarantee lasts and if you have to meet any particular requirements before you qualify for it.

10. Does the seller have a registered business in good standing?

When you go to the checkout for my premium course you see my company registration details in the sidebar:

You can go to the Wyoming Secretary of State website – my business is registered in Wyoming – type in “Disrupting the Rabblement,” hit search, and verify those details yourself.

You should be able to do similar with any company engage with.

If you can’t, and the seller can’t give you a good reason why, that’s a red flag.

11. Is there small print? Have you read it?

Scammers will often try to hide sneaky stuff in the small print, so make sure you read any small print, terms and conditions, or privacy policy on or linked from the sales page of the product or service you’re considering.

Especially if it’s got a high price tag!

12. Have you searched online for bad reviews?

If something truly is a scam, there are probably a whole bunch of people shouting from the internet rooftops about it. And you can usually find them via a quick google search.

One or two people crying wolf is usually nothing to worry about 1 but if you find loads of bad reviews from reputable looking sources, take that as a sign to steer clear.

13. Are you ashamed to be buying this thing?

The scammiest products online are usually the most taboo, because sellers know many buyers will be too ashamed to chase them up for a refund or to criticize them publicly.

For example, no man is going to make a video detailing the ineffectiveness of that penis enlargement device he bought off Amazon last month.

No, he’ll just hide it in the attic and move on with his unfortunate life.

So if the thing you’re buying is something you’d be ashamed to admit publicly, be extra diligent with the other items on this list.

14. Bonus tip: check for bad spelling and grammar

This article from The Telegraph reports that scammers often intentionally use bad spelling and grammar in their emails and messages, to quickly weed out people who are too intelligent to fall for the scam.

Because, apparently, the type of person who would overlook such ridiculously obvious red flags is exactly the type of person who will overlook all their other dubious claims and send them money.

So, if in doubt, run spell-check!

Alright, there you have it, Michael.

Hopefully now you’ll take off the tinfoil hat, stop believing the Earth is flat, and you’ll have a little think for yourself before you go saying something is bullshit in future.



Glad we got that sorted.


  1. Because, look: you can even find bad reviews of The Shawshank Redemption online. What’s that about??


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