How Online Bait and Switch Scams Work

Simply put, bait and switch ads present users with a too-good-to-be-true offer that cannot be fulfilled...

How Online Bait and Switch Scams Work

We have all seen ads promising something that is too good to be true. Like a new iPad for $150 or 100% free Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Or even an Amazon gift card. In most cases, these ads are made to tempt you to click on an offer and once you do, you enter the infamous bait and switch scam funnel.

In this article, we’re going to explain what bait and switch is and how it works — so you know what to do once you see such ads.

Bait and switch 101

Bait and switch ads present users with a too-good-to-be-true offer that cannot be fulfilled — otherwise, a merchant offering it would go out of business.

Typically, after you see a deal and arrive at a sales point, a seller may explain that the item is no longer available or that it costs more. Like, they would add some new costs which were not initially advertised.

Alternatively or additionally, they also might persuade you to buy a more expensive or inferior product without having the advertised offer available.

With all that being said, you gotta wonder…

Is bait and switching illegal?

Yes, it is illegal and is classified as a fraud. But — there is always some “but” — there are some borderline cases, like when a salesman persuades you to buy another product, and the original offer is still available.

Also, if the ad mentions limited availability of the product in question, it could — legally speaking — be out of stock.

Basically, we are talking about fraud in cases where the original offer is impossible to fulfill.

How bait and switch works online?

Not only do bait and switch scams work online but unfortunately — they thrive in the online world.

Scammers use reliable-looking ads, clicking on which users are taken to a harmful website, malicious app download, or a fraudulent offer designed to steal their data. Furthermore, such “offers” may also initiate clickjacking, browser-locking, or other attacks.

For instance, an ad might display an attractive offer typically involving some hot-new gadgets but redirect you to a website full of malware. To make things worse, savvy hackers may also hijack other websites, inject their content into them, and advertise offers on those sites.

This is a very sophisticated attack that lures users to the established website that looks and is otherwise legit — except that in this situation, it is controlled by a malicious third party.

Which brings us to our final section…

How to protect yourself from bait and switch online?

There are a few tips everyone should know about:

  • Use your common sense. This is your primary defense. As we have noted at the beginning of this article, if an offer is too good to be true — it’s because it’s not true. It’s a scam. Do additional research if you can’t just “look away,” and you’ll probably read stories of people being scammed by such “sweet offers.”
  • Stick to the websites you know and trust. Related to the previous point, major companies have more resources to beef-up their cyber-defenses and are generally speaking – more reliable.
  • Use a VPN. The best ones can automatically remove suspicious code from the web pages you’re visiting, while also offering other benefits — you can learn about those from other articles on our site. 😉

Before I let you go, I must add that a VPN — nor any other piece of software, for that matter — will protect you if you just click left and right like it’s nobody’s business. Reading what you’re clicking on will help keep you secure online. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself becoming a victim to a bait and switch scam in no time. And you don’t want that.