The Scam-O-Meter; more than you wanted to know

Untrustworthiness in web-site offerings is what I made the Scam-O-Meter to detect.

Here’s a detailed explanation as of 4/24/17, including some minor revisions.  Keep in mind that I’m not talking about illegal advertising; I’m talking about signs that a seller is a scammer (someone who takes your money by trickery or theft).  If this all seems too complicated, here’s how to safely ignore it; shop on Amazon!

Scored attributes

In the following list of scam-site attributes, -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined.  These scores total to between -10 (deep mistrust) and +10 (highly trusted).  I show a site’s total score by the position of the needle on the Scam-O-Meter scale.

scamometer -7rRidiculous claims: Extreme stuff that common sense tells you can’t be true — that, to be honest, you want to believe.  If the product is going to revolutionize your whole life at hardly any cost or risk, that’s ridiculous.  

  • If the claim is made in a phony review (see “Phony reviews” below) I credit it against the seller who’s paying the reviewer.

Suspicious location: Scammers are shy about revealing their location.  (Previously named “Post Office box.”)  What triggers a negative score here:

  • Post Office / UPS box
  • Same address as a known scammer
  • No physical address (includes vacant lots, abandoned buildings, etc.)falcon

Onerous terms: Evil lurks in many Terms and Conditions documents.  If the T&C is just too hard to read, that’s “Obfuscation;” see below.

  • Unreasonable obstacles to returning a defective or unsatisfactory product for a refund.
  • Terms that undermine or contradict advertised terms (or reasonable customer expectations).
  • Terms that diminish your legal rights.

Ads, spam, robocalls: Aggressive advertising; sharing your data with other companies.

Lying and deception: If I find that a seller lies about anything, I ding them a point whether or not it seems important.  (I overlook severe ignorance here, but laugh at it elsewhere.).covers

Obfuscation: A website that’s designed to distract you, confuse you or hide important information.

Phony reviews: 

  • Reviews featured on-site.  If the reviewers don’t have full names, or their photos turn out to be clip-art, they’re phony.  Otherwise they’re only probably phony, so I’ll let it slide.
  • Reviews by paid shills; these are just a complicated form of advertising.

Crummy product: Nobody wants one of these.  But keep in mind that a scam can involve a good product.  Sometimes it’s the way the product is sold that’s evil.

Overpriced: I don’t insist on the cheapest price.  But a price that’s two or three times the going rate on Amazon gets a -1 from me.

75% discount: Scammers are so habituated to advertising this specific percentage that I consider it a good indicator.  (This is a new criteria.)

Unscored attribute

Unauthorized charges:  If I find that a seller is stealing from credit card accounts, then I absolutely mistrust them.  I show this result with a red stop-light labelled “CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT” on the Scam-O-Meter.

  • If the seller’s address is the same as that of a known scammer who’s stealing from credit card accounts, I consider him the same person and turn on the red light.



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