Definitions: Scam, Spam, Frauds and Others

Definitions of Relevant Terms: Scam, Spam, Frauds, etc.

What Is a Scam, Fraud or Spam?

It is important to be clear about what we mean by the terms we use to describe the activities of the conmen on the internet.  This page provides elaborated definitions of the commonly used terms:

Google defines a scam this way (and we quote their relevant definitions):

"Definitions of Scam on the Web:

  • A confidence trick, confidence game, or con for short (also known as a scam) is an attempt to intentionally mislead a person or persons (known as the mark) usually with the goal of financial or other gain. The confidence trickster, con man, scam artist or con artist often works with an accomplice called the shill, who tries to encourage the mark by pretending to believe the trickster. ..."
  • A ploy by a shyster to raise money.
  • a fraudulent business scheme
  • victimize: deprive of by deceit; "He swindled me out of my inheritance"; "She defrauded the customers who trusted her"; "the cashier gypped me when he gave me too little change"

These are all good definitions.  We would rephrase it this way for the purposes of evaluation the websites, programs, deals, emails and plans we review:

scam   (skam) Slang n.

A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle. By "fraudulent", we include misleading, misdirected or exaggerated claims in advertising.  For example, if you purchase a book that claims to provide you with clear, step-by-step plans to start a business that will make you wealthy; and you receive only

  • lists of references to government programs, or
  • general advice about how to start a business, or engage in a multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme; or
  • the price for the information is clearly disproportionate to it's worth (such as lists that are publicly available for free elsewhere);

any of these meets our definition of a scam.  And , we believe, most people in these situations would feel scammed!

Another example of a scam is the "free book offer", in which the victim is asked to "only pay shipping and handling"; only to find out that other more expensive items were also purchased "on trial", and these will be billed to the victim's account if they are not returned under certain conditions (within 30 days, in unopened condition, etc.).  This condition may or may not have been disclosed in "the fine print"; it is a scam because the intent was disguised, hidden, or obfuscated from the victim in some manner (small print, hard to get to web page, etc.)

tr.v. scammed, scamming, scams - to defraud; swindle.

fraud n.

There are 4 definitions of fraud that apply to the situations we describe:

  1. A deception practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain.
  2. any act, expression, omission, or concealment that deceives another to his or her disadvantage; specifically, it is:
    • a misrepresentation, omission or concealment of some fact material to a transaction; and
    • it is made with knowledge (or the reasonable expectation that the perpetrator should know) that it is false or is made in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity and
    • with the intent to deceive another and
    • that is reasonably relied on by the other who is injured thereby
  3. A piece of trickery; a trick.
  4. Lastly; describing the person who commits the act:
    1. One that defrauds; a cheat.
    2. One who assumes a false pose; an impostor.

There are also specific legal definitions of fraud; such as

Mail fraud

a fraud committed by use of the postal service especially as described in title 18 section 1341 of the U.S. Code

Wire fraud

a fraud committed by using a means of electronic communication (such as a telephone)

Unless we use these terms specifically, when we use the term fraud on this website, it only has the meanings 1 through 4, above.


And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive.  We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!



For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.