Is the online world starting to feel more and more like a landmine? You might wonder if you are the only one who seems to be narrowly dodging one scam after another, but you are not. Online scams really are at an all-time high.
While scammers target consumers across a wide range of online industries and activities, online gamblers may be a particularly vulnerable group for a couple of reasons:
- You are continuously engaging in online financial transactions
- For a long time now, gamblers in countries where sports betting and casino gambling are illegal or are in a gray area have been tempted to trust questionable companies
- If you are in the USA, you may be relatively new to betting online (assuming you did not gamble back before the legalization of sports betting began), and not know what to look for in order to stay safe
In this post, we are going to explain some common scams that target online gamblers. We also will give you some recommendations to help you protect yourself. But first, let’s give a little more context to the current situation with scams online.
Online Scams are on the Rise
To get some general perspective on what is going on in the world of online scams right now, you can take a look at this report from the BBB. The BBB posted this article in October 2022.
While the BBB reports that phone scams have declined by 42% since 2015, the organization says that online scams have climbed by 87%.
Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, said, “The methods scammers use to target consumers have shifted significantly since BBB began collecting scam reports from the public in 2015. The shift in scam tactics is driven by a range of factors such as the rise of social media, world events, and changes in consumer behavior. Our latest findings reinforce the guidance we’ve been giving consumers to help them stay updated on these tactics to avoid losing money to scams.”
Something else the BBB points out in this post is that not only are online scams becoming more prevalent, but scams are also becoming more effective. The percentage of people who lost money through scams in the report was 75%, which is higher than in the past.
Here is a February 2023 news post that will also interest you, again referencing data from the BBB. The article says, “As legislation in the USA makes online sports gambling more available, scammers have jumped at the opportunity by creating fake websites and other ways of stealing money from unsuspecting betters… Officials say BBB’s Scam Tracker is seeing reports from people who accidentally placed bets with scam sports-betting websites or apps, rather than legitimate services.”
All of this highlights why you need to be extra careful. The rise of scams should not put you off of gambling online any more than it should put you off of making online purchases. But you need to be diligent in making sure you are betting safely.
What Types of Scams Exist in Online Gambling?
Now that you understand the broad situation that’s been occuring, let’s briefly go over some common types of scams you might encounter when gambling online.
- Theft Of Your Funds
One of the most obvious ways that gamblers get scammed is simply through their funds being stolen. Here are some examples of how this could happen:
- A gambler signs up at a site and makes a deposit, but that site is not legit. They are unable to withdraw their money, and never see it again.
- A gambler signs up on a site and makes a deposit. While the site allows withdrawals, it is not legit, and it has its games rigged. So, players lose money unfairly, and do not even realize it.
Later in this post, we will give you some tips to help you avoid this and the other types of scams listed here.
- Identify Theft
Sometimes, what scammers are after is not just your money, but your identity. When you go through the identify verification process with a betting site, you submit documents that verify your identity and your residency. If you give copies of those documents to scammers by mistake, they may not only be able to steal your money, but they may also be able to ruin your credit, commit fraud in your name, and exploit your stolen identity in other ways.
- Account Takeovers
Perhaps you have a sports betting account on a legitimate site. A scammer might be able to trick you into giving them access to your account. At that point, they can drain the money from your account, or they can use saved payment methods to make new deposits and gamble with your funds. They might also be able to use other personal information in your account to harm you in other ways.
- Viruses, Spyware and Malware
Whenever you use the web for any purpose, there is always the possibility that you will get hit with a virus or malware, or maybe even ransomware.
This can happen even while you are using legitimate websites if they happen to get hacked.
- Offers Too Good To Be True
Sometimes scammers do not attempt to steal your identity or make unauthorized charges using your payment info; sometimes, they simply trick you into wasting your money.
For example, someone might convince you to pay for a “system” that will make you a “sure winner” at sports betting. You pay the money, but you don’t end up becoming a winner with what they sell you.
- Predatory Promotions
Similarly, another type of scam you might “willingly” agree to is a predatory promotional offer. Maybe it was on you to read the terms and conditions and see that they were predatory, but you didn’t. You simply checked “agree”.
In some cases, this sort of situation may fall under “let the buyer beware,” but it is still technically a scam. In other cases, the site could be in violation of regulatory rules. Of course, if they are not regulated, there may be no one you can complain to about the issue.
Tips to Help You Avoid Getting Scammed While Betting Online
Now you have a better understanding of some of the common types of scams you might run into when you are gambling online. But how can you avoid them?
For the most part, it is pretty easy to stay safe while betting on sports or playing casino games online so long as you are aware of common scam tactics and you slow down and think when you are presented with a dodgy situation. The tips below will go a long way toward protecting you.
- Stick With Betting On Well-Established Sportsbooks
One of the most important things you can do to avoid getting scammed is simply to wager only on reputable betting sites.
That means avoiding sites with obvious red flags like:
- Zero background information on the company that operates the site
- A site or company that is already blacklisted by regulators
- Sites with lots of terrible reviews
- Conversely, sites with nothing but unrealistically amazing reviews
- Problematic bonus policies
- Troublesome withdrawal policies
- Customer service agents dodging your questions and acting evasive
- Pushy customer support
- A site that is plagued by design problems and bugs
You might also want to stay away from really new, un-established sites. It is true that everyone needs to start somewhere, but why take chances when you don’t have to?
Many of the sportsbooks we recommend on our site have been in operation for 20 years or more. That means there is a lot of data on how they operate. You can save yourself a lot of grief by betting through these legitimate well-established sites instead of shady fly-by-nights.
You will notice in our reviews that we share the good and the bad with you. The sites we recommend are not 100% perfect in every way — we have yet to find a sportsbook that is. But they have consistently impressed us with their fairness, transparency and reliability.
- Don’t Respond To Spam
Spam comes in all shapes and sizes. A lot of it tends to show up in our email inboxes. You might also receive spam via text messages, or even see spam on social media.
Basically, if you receive spam, ignore it. Do not reply to it, do not open links in it (see below), and do not take anything it says seriously. In fact, if possible, it is usually best to avoid opening spam emails altogether.
- If You See A Weird Link, Do Not Click On It
If you see a link anywhere online that appears to be dodgy in any way, you should not click on it.
Doing so might lead you to a website that tries to scam you, or even download malware directly to your device.
- Double Check The Source Of Correspondences
One of the biggest threats right now in scams according to the BBB are those that involve impersonation.
The BBB reports, “Fifty-four percent of survey respondents said the scammer claimed to be from a legitimate organization to perpetrate the scam. People who lost money to a scam were almost twice as likely as those who avoided losing money to say the scammer used impersonation as a tactic. Of those who reported being targeted by an impersonation scam, 50% said the scammer pretended to be a well-known business.”
What might this look like with respect to online gambling?
Well, let’s say you created an account on a completely legitimate sports betting site, and you have been a customer there for a while.
You receive an email one day that claims to be from this site that you trust. At a glance, it looks official. It has the same general appearance as the emails you usually receive. The logo looks right. The format is familiar.
This email may request that you re-confirm personal details or payment information, or that you click on a link to take some other action.
But if you took a closer look, you might notice that some things about the email seem a bit off. Or perhaps you might recall the betting site informing you long ago that they will never contact you via email to request certain types of information. You realize (hopefully before taking further action) that the email came from a scammer.
Related to this is a specific type of account takeover scam that is really common right now online, called “one-time password (OTP) bots.”
Experian explains, “Some scammers are using so-called OTP bots to trick people into sharing the authentication codes that are sent to them via text or email … The bots may initiate a robocall or send you a text imitating a legitimate company. For example, the robocall may look and sound like it’s coming from a bank. The voice asks you to authorize a charge and tells you to input the code you’re texted if it’s not one you made. In reality, the bot is attempting to log in to your account, which triggers the system to send you the code. If you share the code, the scammer can then log in to your account.”
Remember, if a scammer were to be able to access your gambling accounts, they could compromise you in multiple ways.
If you have any doubts about the sender of an email, text message or phone call, the thing to do is to contact your sportsbook or online casino via the usual channels. Tell them about the correspondence, and ask them to confirm whether or not it is legitimate.
- Watch Out For Social Media Gambling Scams
The BBB reports that a full quarter of the people they surveyed encountered scams via social media sites.
Gambling-related scams might show up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Discord, or other social media channels. For example:
You may see posts from an illegitimate sportsbook or casino urging you to open an account.
You could see comments from “customers” trying to recruit you who are either affiliates or work directly for the scammers on other users’ posts. These may be particularly prevalent in communities like Facebook groups.
Sometimes a scammer might message you directly to try and entice you to open an account on a dodgy site, purchase a scammy betting system, download questionable software, or take some other action that will just send up costing you money.
A lot of the scams that appear on social media fall into the “too good to be true” category. That brings us to the tip below.
- Do Not Believe In “Locks.”
On social media sites, you may sometimes see people advertising that they can sell you “locks,” which are supposedly “sure wagers.”
Locks are not really a thing, because in sports betting, nothing is certain. Any bet can lose, no matter how well-planned it is.
That also means that you should steer clear of other products that are too good to be true, like “infallible” sports betting or casino gambling systems. There is no such thing, so by definition, anyone who is trying to sell you something like this is attempting to scam you.
- Never Share Your Passwords With Anyone
If anybody asks you for your password to your gambling account for any reason, you should not give it to them. Your password exists to ensure that you and only you have access to your account. If you share it with someone else, then they will be able to log into your account and do whatever they want.
- Avoid Anything That Involves Undue Urgency
You should never make hasty decisions involving your finances or your personal information.
For that reason, if anyone is pushing you to make a snap decision regarding either, that means they are just trying to scam you.
You probably have heard pitches like this: “This is the offer of a lifetime, but if you don’t buy now, it will expire. You will not get a second chance.”
Legitimate offers can expire, to be sure. But no one is going to be trying to tell you that the world will end if you do not act this nanosecond.
So, avoid dealing with individuals or companies that do not respect your time, and who urge you to make rapid, emotional decisions rather than think critically about their offers and do what you are comfortable with on your own timeline.
- Be Selective About Payment Methods and Processing Times
There are dozens of payment methods that are accepted by various sites nowadays. While they each have their pros and cons, some of them do more to protect the consumer than others.
Using a credit card for your transfers to online betting sites can be wise, because if you accidentally send money to a scammer, you might be able to receive a reimbursement.
Look into the withdrawal speeds and fees for the method you want to use before you make a deposit at a betting site. You should find them all listed on the banking page.
If a site does not offer you any fast methods for withdrawals, that should be a cause for concern. Sometimes scammers will have slow processing times so that customers will not realize for days or weeks that something has gone wrong when they make off with their money.
- Read The Fine Print
Do you read terms and conditions thoroughly before you agree to them? If you are not in that habit, you should consider starting.
There are two times you will want to carefully read terms and conditions when you are gambling online:
- When you first sign up at a sportsbook or casino site
- When you are thinking about accepting a bonus or other promotion.
Reading the terms and conditions carefully in both cases will help you spot some forms of predatory behavior before you get reeled in.
Obviously, a lot of scammers do not even try to get your agreement in the form of a legal contract before they scam you. But there are some that do. They know that if they can get you to consent, they will be able to point toward your legal agreement should you ever decide to complain.
Of course, this will not protect them if they have done something that is outright illegal. But if it is just something subtly underhanded, then they will have a legal recourse to defend their actions, while you will not!
- Make Sure You Are Using Antivirus
One more tip that can help you to stay safe when you are gambling online is to make sure you have real-time protection from antivirus enabled at all times.
You may have protection as part of your operating system (i.e. Windows Defender). If not, there are antivirus programs you can download and use for free.
You can never be too careful, even if you spend all your time online using sites you already trust. Remember, even legitimate websites can be hacked.
Gamble Online at Safe, Reputable Sportsbooks and Casinos
With online scams growing in prevalence and effectiveness, it is extra important to take steps nowadays to stay safe while you gamble online.
Scammers know that unwary gamblers may be tempted by unrealistic offers or deceived by impersonation. With sports betting’s legalization in the US, there is an especially vulnerable class of consumers in the form of new gamblers who do not yet know the ropes with online sportsbooks and casinos.
Now that you have read through our full guide, you know some scams to be on the lookout for, as well as steps you can take to protect yourself.
If you are ready to find trusted, reputable and well-established US-facing sportsbooks and casinos online where you can play safely, check out our reviews.
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