4 Common Types of Online Payment Scams and How to Avoid Them

July 29, 2020

Nowadays, people use the internet to perform different kinds of transactions. They can purchase different kinds of goods, pay their bills, and even buy load. Philippines-based users, in particular, have a wide variety of payment solutions they can use, including online banking, payment cards, and e-wallets.

However, as convenient as online payments are, they also make attractive targets for hackers and other cybercriminals. Your first line of defense is to inform yourself about their common tactics and learn how to avoid them. Here are some of the common online payment scams you need to watch out for:


Phishing scams are among the most notorious online scams. In this scam, cybercriminals communicate with you—usually through email—and trick you into giving them your personal information (e.g., log-in details, card number, passwords, etc.)

Cybercriminals often design these emails to look like they’re sent by official institutions, such as banks and credit card companies. Usually, they try to create a sense of urgency to push you to take action immediately. Some tactics include telling you that there’s a problem with your account or you’re being charged huge fines.

Afterward, you’re asked to reply with your personal details. On other occasions, you’re directed to a legitimate-looking website where you’re asked to input your information, which is then sent to the cybercriminals.

Another kind of phishing is SMS scamming or SMShing. In this case, instead of an email, targeted individuals receive text messages asking you to give your personal information.

How to Avoid It

  • Double-check who the sender is. Check the email address or the cellphone number and make sure they are legitimate. Don’t reply nor click any links.
  • Call the institution. If your bank sent you an email asking for sensitive information, call your bank to verify the email.
  • Check the website link. Make sure that the URL begins with “https,” not “http.” Look for the lock icon on the address bar as well.

Shopping Scams

Shopping scams are promoted by companies that “sell” you items online, with no intention of completing the transaction. They take your money or get your banking information, but you never receive the items you paid for.

In this kind of scam, cybercriminals send you an email or a message directing you to third-party e-commerce sites. These sites will often tempt you with high-end, luxury items in shockingly low prices. Sometimes they offer you amazing one-time deals or discounts to encourage you to buy immediately.\

At checkout, they will often demand that you pay via fund transfer. In this case, you’ll only lose your money. If, however, you gave your credit/debit card information, they may use this to purchase other items in your name or drain your account.

How to Avoid It

  • Avoid “too good to be true” deals. Compare price tags first with other reputable sellers and websites. If the price tag is too low or the deal seems too good to be true, there’s a high chance it’s fake.
  • Look for secure payment platforms. If the site doesn’t offer certified payment options (e.g., PayPal, debit/credit card), don’t risk it and look for a more reputable seller.
  • Check its history. Look for customer reviews, product reviews, and other attestations to back up the company’s credibility.
  • Call the company. If the company doesn’t answer during office hours, there’s a good chance it’s not a real company.

Fine Print Scams

Internet users are notorious non-readers of terms and conditions. In this scam, less reputable companies or websites include certain provisions that allow them to take more money from you. This comes in the form of exorbitant service fees or processing fees. Sometimes, they even add charges that are not shown in the initial deal. Once you click “Yes” or “I Agree,” you’ve fallen for the scam and may not even realize it until you check your balance or credit bill statement.

How to Avoid It

  • Read the terms and conditions. It might be difficult, but it will help you spot doubtful provisions and hidden fees.
  • Do a background search. If you don’t have time to read, search the company on search engines. Look for customer reviews—or better yet, complaints—about additional fees and similar questionable acts on the company’s part.

Overpayment Online Scams

If you sell items online, keep a lookout on this particular scam. In this scenario, a scammer posing as a potential buyer contacts you online and offers a larger price than what you offered. The scammer may explain it’s to cover shipping fees, handling fees, and the like.

After sending you a confirmation receipt, the scammer asks for a refund for “accidentally” sending too much money. Another common excuse they will tell you is that the shipping company is billing the scammer, not you.

How to Avoid It:

  • Legitimate buyers don’t normally overpay. If the buyer offers to pay significantly higher than you offered, make sure to ask why. Ask for a breakdown of fees as needed.
  • Never provide personal information. Unless you’re sure the buyer is legitimate, do not share your personal information. This includes your full name, address, and bank account details.
  • Confirm payment first. Before giving a refund or sending the item, make sure to check your account and confirm that you have received the payment in the first place.

Overall, the main idea to keep in mind is this: When in doubt, don’t click. Don’t agree to the website’s terms, don’t send any money or information, don’t click on ads—unless you are sure that the site is reputable and trustworthy. The internet offers a lot of opportunities for its users, but the same applies to cybercriminals as well. To ensure your safety and privacy, take that extra mile and stick to sites, apps, and companies you know you can trust.