There can be genealogical web sites on the Internet which make fraudulent claims. Certain things should be checked before signing up for any program. One good item is if the site offers a free trial. It can be for a week, 14 days or a month. Test out the site, see if it is what you really need and can use successfully. Look for a contact address, with regular mailing address as well as email and phone numbers. If there is no free trial and especially no physical contract location with a phone number, this could be a site trying to swindle customers.
When attempting a search on a trail site try something funny, like ‘my dog Flicker’ and see if that produces results. If it does and says there are 5,000 results from 10 sources, the site may not be legitimate.
Look to see if the site provides details on the location and time period covered for certain records, as well as the sources the information is obtained from. Before signing up, send the site a general question about anything related to their site. If they do not reply and give you an unsatisfactory answer, keep away from that site.
There are web sites accessible to check about other web sites. One is called Rip-off Report. Here you can find out if there are registered consumer complaints against the site.
Another long-time scam sent through the regular mail, or in magazine ads besides online sites is a book a customer can purchase with the family surname and all types of genealogical details on the family. The book can cost between $30 to $50 or more and is usually a bound book. However, it gives a generic definition and meaning of the surname and some places the surname is located in the world. All that information can be located in any genealogical book or on a general Internet site. The book will then be filled with names of people with that surname and what city and state they lived in. What were their sources; nothing more than ordinary telephone books from across the country. The customer believed they were getting complete details about their own family's origins with actual ancestors when it was only a telephone listing several years old.
This same type of deceptive idea is the offer of providing the complete history of your family coat-of-arms. These heraldry symbols were actually only given to a select few individuals centuries ago and rarely passed onto other generations, usually just the oldest son. Some were purchased, but not truly awarded. So the probability every person has a true and authentic coat-of-arms is extremely rare. Instead, the company would send a nice drawing of some heraldry crest with other symbols drawn and state what each meant. However, that may only be from legends or totally created.