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10 Legitimate Business Industries That Seem Like Scams

by Patrick Welsh
fact checked by Rachel Jones

There have always been scammers. But with the internet, scammers easily access their victims and often present themselves as legitimate businesses. As people have come to recognize the more obvious scams, scammers have become more sophisticated, and it can now be difficult to tell the real from the fake.

When online:

  • Be wary of websites that use “http” rather than “https” at the beginning of the site URL.
  • Check to see that there is a padlock icon next to the URL.
  • Watch out for deals that are too good to be true, a sense of urgency (only 6 hours left to take advantage of this opportunity), and being asked to pay through a non-secure method such as a money order or transfer.

If you are interested in partnering or purchasing with a business, do a little digging around to ensure they are legit. With that in mind, let’s look at 10 legitimate business industries that seem like scams.

Related: Top 10 Bizarre Catfishing Scams

10 Antiques

How to spot a real antique from a fake

The antique business is not logical. After all, why buy a 100-year-old table for a thousand bucks when you can get a trendier one at the local furniture store for much less?

Setting a price for an antique or collectible doesn’t depend on practical concerns such as usefulness; it depends on nebulous qualities such as rarity and what the market will pay. The market for antiques and collectibles is worth some $1.7 billion annually in the U.S. Antique dealers are not usually scammers – although they are naturally trying to get the best possible price.

If you have decided to buy antiques or collectibles, perhaps as an investment, you need to do a lot of research and discover what similar items are selling for on sites such as eBay or from auction catalogs.

9 Used Car Sales

What is a Good Deal when Buying a Used Car? (How to Buy a Used Car)

Used car salespeople have a terrible reputation. They often work on commission and need to sell vehicles quickly and for the highest possible price. But this doesn’t mean that the business is a scam. A salesperson would probably be surprised if you accepted the posted price without bargaining. This is not a scam; it’s part of the game.

If you buy a used car privately, you know the seller is trying to get the best possible price, and some back-and-forth negotiations might be involved. It’s no different on a car lot or the internet. A number of websites will give you price comparisons so that you know if the price is reasonable for the year and model you want to buy.

Even if you know cars, it’s always a good idea to have a friend with you who can point out obvious problems you may have missed.

8 Content Creation

Are Content Mills WORTH IT for Freelancer Writers in 2021? Content Mills EXPLAINED

There are countless websites out there, hoping to grab your attention for more than a few seconds. To do this, businesses need good content that is interesting and informative. An industry has developed to meet the demand for attractive content.

Content providers promise to provide well-written articles that meet their client’s needs. Competition between providers is fierce, and writers are not usually paid much for their articles. Many people believe that these providers are scammers and that writers will do their work and never be paid for it—this is not true.

While some providers may not be entirely trustworthy, the majority understand that their writing team is their best asset. If you are thinking of writing for one of these sites, there are various review sites on the web that will give you a good idea of what to expect.

Many disgruntled writers leave negative reviews on forums, but perhaps these people have not understood the terms and conditions of their firms. The vast majority of content providers are perfectly legitimate.

7 Health and Wellness Items

Health Fraud Scams – Be Smart, Be Aware, Be Careful Video

The worldwide market for health and wellness food products is worth around $841 billion, and that’s just food. Add on supplements and treatments, and the market is enormous.

Everyone wants to live longer and healthier lives, and many of us are willing to spend a lot of money to help us achieve our goals. This allows scammers to exploit our vulnerabilities and sell us products or treatments that are of dubious benefit or, sometimes, downright dangerous. This is a headache for the many genuine companies that market carefully-prepared goods that meet a real need.

You should carefully research both the product and the seller. The golden rule is that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Before taking supplements, it’s a good idea to consult your medical provider.

6 Recruitment Agencies

8 Tell-Tale Signs of a Job Scam

A professional recruitment agency wants to place the right person in the right job. The company the agency represents is paying a fee whether the job is part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent. It’s a legitimate business that can save an employer time and effort and find a job-seeker the position that suits their needs. Unfortunately, some scammers also work in this field.

Fake recruitment agencies might offer jobs on social media or contact you directly through email. These are after your personal information—do not respond if you don’t know the agency. Some job-placement agencies ask you to pay a registration fee. This is a red flag; a genuine agency will charge the company, not the job seeker.

Once more, it’s a question of doing a little homework to find out if the recruitment agency is genuine.

5 Technical Support

Are tech support scammers really this stupid?

A genuine technical support team works under a strict code of conduct. Take Microsoft as an example. Microsoft will never send you an email out of the blue that tells you your computer has a problem. The company will not phone you to ask for financial or personal information. If your computer displays a pop-up asking you to call a number, no matter what it claims, it isn’t from Microsoft. In other words, they won’t contact you if you don’t contact them.

Scammers who pretend to be technical support staff might ask you to pay for a repair you don’t need or try to scam you out of personal information.

You should report any suspicious messages directly to the real company (eBay, Amazon, Walmart, etc.) and consider telling local law enforcement. These scammers are giving real technical support teams a bad name.

4 Online Coaching

You might have decided to work for yourself and try a new profession. Perhaps you don’t have the necessary experience and want to learn a little more before you take the plunge. Check out online providers such as edX or Coursera that offer a wide range of courses that might be just what you are looking for. These platforms offer well-designed courses that are sometimes free to access but will charge you a fee if you want to earn a certificate.

If you don’t find what you are looking for on these reputable sites, you could contact a professional brand in your chosen field and see which training courses they suggest.

Unfortunately, scammers have moved into the field with promises of guaranteed income and untold riches. Carefully vet these providers before you part with your money.

3 Real Estate

Top 10 Real Estate Scams (2024)

You can make good money in real estate, but it demands training, and plenty of courses offer the necessary preparation. An online course can allow you to continue in your present job while you are getting ready to change professions. Most of these are legitimate, but there are some shady ones out there.

Your course should meet your state’s licensing requirements, and your state should certify or approve the course. Having a word with a local realtor is not a bad idea to see what they would recommend. Online seminars that charge a fee but are not full courses can be a rip-off.

2 Charity

Know before you donate: How to tell if a charity is legitimate or fraudulent

If there’s one area where scammers show what a cruel business they are in, it is charity. And it’s no wonder because there’s a lot of money in the charity business. In 2020, Americans donated an amazing $471 billion to worthy causes. Or they believed that they were worthy causes.

Most charities are perfectly legitimate, but some are criminal. After a natural disaster, for example, “charities” immediately appear, appealing for immediate financial help for the affected. A few of them are simply after your cash and disappear as quickly as they came. And, sometimes, even genuine charities can be mismanaged.

It would be a shame if all charities fell under suspicion just because a few are scams. You should always check before donating, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the charity. The Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, and CharityWatch all monitor charities.

Because of the scammers, people might be wary of giving to genuine charities. Whichever one you choose to support, be dire to do your homework before handing over your hard-earned money.

1 Debt Collection

How to Recognize Debt Collection Scams – Warning Signs of Debt Collection Scams

Nobody likes debt collection agencies, but they do a difficult and necessary job. A code of ethics and federal legislation govern what a debt collector can do in the legitimate recovery of money owed. They must deal with people respectfully, register complaints about the validity of a debt, and never use threatening behavior when attempting to collect.

All genuine collectors adhere to the regulations and code of conduct that apply to their activity.

Because many people are naturally frightened of debt collectors, scammers have moved into the field, hoping that some of their victims will pay up to avoid threatened repercussions. A professional agency will never use threats either in writing or by phone.

fact checked by Rachel Jones