A scam is a fraudulent scheme, the verb "scam" means to victimize, swindle, defraud. Related to fraud, a scam is perpetuated for personal gain, resulting to injury of others. A scam differs from a hoax in purpose -- a hoax is typically perpetuated as a joke or to make a point. A scam works by gaining the confidence of a person or group, and then using that trust to defraud them. Scam "artists," also known as "confidence men," often work together, each acting a part in the overall scheme. There are any number of scams, many perpetuated today through the Internet and as a result of information found online.
Those who commit scams are generally without conscience and prey on those they consider most vulnerable, exploiting natural human traits, not only of greed, but also of kindness and love. Senior citizens, those commonly associated with the work of genealogy, are frequent targets of scam, for a variety of reasons. Scam artists do their homework, and so should you. Be aware, be informed, and be cautious about posting personal information online. Protecting oneself from a scam requires a high degree of skepticism and not responding to "urgent" or "immediate" action, but always taking the time to verify the offer or plea, as the case may be. It is also important to report anything perceived as a scam to alert authorities.