Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spotting a Genealogy Scam

Scam Alert: Sheriff’s warn of on-going scam -

While there are a lot of legitimate genealogy sites, there are also a number of sites that only aims to take money from unsuspecting people for no results. The following are the ways to spot if a particular website is a scam:

1.Test the search results
It is easy to get excited when the site tells you that you have a relative somewhere in the country. Funny as it may seem, but the same site may also have records for “sgljkeain naaigea” and “Humpty Dumpy.” So before believing on anything that is shown in the site, test it first using bogus names.

2.Free genealogy search is not always free
Beware of genealogy websites that offer free access on your genealogy records in exchange for filling out surveys and the likes. You’ll literally be lead to pages upon pages of offers that will eventually fill up your mailbox and the free genealogy records are likely be the things you can access on your own for free.

3.Read genealogy forums
If previous users of a certain genealogy service have bad experiences, they usually write their complaints on genealogy message boards and forums.

4.Spams may be scams
Search engines often block websites that use repeated keywords to gain page ranking. But some still manage to work their way up to the search engine result. If you happen to visit a website that uses the keywords repeatedly for dozens of times such as, “genealogy”, “records”, “search”, etc., do not be deceived. They may be scams.

5.Look for contact information
Any website that offers a service should have a physical address and phone number on its site. If the only way to contact them is through a form, beware. “Whois” search the domain name to learn more about the site.

6.Send them an email
Send a question from the email address or a contact form that the site provides before making any payment. Often, a fraudulent site doesn’t reply (do not count an automated response).

7.Check if the charge is worth the things you are getting
Genealogy website should be able to give you access on the exact databases, records and other sources once you pay the subscription. Look for specifics. Be suspicious if the site only claims that it has several records about your ancestors but doesn’t state the exact details on the source and location of the data. Many legitimate websites offer free searches where you can see the particular records that are available for your name before subscribing. Alternately, fraudulent websites do not allow searches before you join.

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