Scam-O-Meter scoring system (2017)

Here’s a detailed explanation of my Scam-O-Meter web offer scoring system as of 9/717, including some minor revisions.  Rather than condemning all sellers who generate any complaints as scammers, I assign each seller a score that lies somewhere between “honest” and “criminal.”  If a seller is just overwhelmed or a bit careless, that doesn’t make him a bad person; still, you may want to think twice before dealing with him.

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 (bad), +1 means false (good), 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 -7r

In this example, the seller has a total score of -7 and is a credit-card risk.

Ridiculous 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.

Suspicious location: Scammers are shy about revealing their location.  What triggers a negative score here:

  • Post Office / UPS mailbox
  • Same address as a known scammer
  • Vacant lot, abandoned building, etc.
  • No resolvable physical addressfalcon

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; lying doesn’t make for trustworthiness.  (I overlook severe ignorance here, but laugh at it elsewhere.).


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

Phony reviews: 

  • Testimonials.  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 shills; these are just a complicated form of advertising.

Crummy product: It’s typical for scammers to exaggerate a mediocre product’s quality.  But keep in mind that even if you like and want the product, that’s no reason to trust the seller.

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.

Bad service: The seller ignores emails and doesn’t answer their phone.  So, their assurances of customer help and easy refunds are empty promises.  (This is a new criteria.)

A 75% discount is no longer a criteria.  But I’ll mention any supposed huge discounts under “Lying and Deception.”

Unscored attribute

Unauthorized charges:  If I find that a seller is stealing from credit card accounts, then their score no longer matters, because I absolutely mistrust them.  I show this result with a red stop-light labelled “CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT” on the Scam-O-Meter.  Unauthorized charges include:

  • Charging a higher price than advertised
  • Charging more than once for the same item
  • An unannounced automatic subscription to an auto-ship service (typical follow-up to a “free trial”)
  • A monthly membership fee for a phony “discount club”
  • Failure to use HTTPS (encrypted) protocol to protect your credit-card data from snoopers
  • 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.



2 thoughts on “Scam-O-Meter scoring system (2017)

  1. Dean Ryan

    I ordered a clear view antennas and it’s defective.I can’t get a hold of anyone too get my refund back,I now know that I have been scammed,what can I do to get a refund.


    1. pablovilas13 Post author

      Return the antenna with all parts, packaging, etc. Ask your credit card issuer to reverse the charge, block your card, and issue you a new card with a different number. You should do this in any case to keep your account off the black market.

      It may help your case if you can show evidence of your attempts to contact the seller.

      Good luck! p



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