We get a fair number of questions about scams, and one of the things that's inevitable is that, in the first few comments, one of them is some variation of:

If you have to ask, it's a scam.

This gets a million upvotes, because it's a pithy, short statement that is easy to agree with, especially when the question goes HNQ. It's one I mostly agree with, and don't want to call anyone out for doing this - I've probably made the comment, but I think we shouldn't.

It's sort of insulting/condescending, and likely to lead the asker to have a worse experience as it questions why they bothered to ask in the first place. Further, it doesn't really help - some are and some aren't; we've certainly had plenty of "is this a scam" questions that weren't scams. It's also, basically, an answer in comments - even though as an answer it would be a bad one. Don't forget, also, these are often new users.

There's better ways to get at this feeling - that the asker is right to have their alarm bells go off - that both lead to a positive, not negative, experience, and use the comment box and answer box appropriately.

Can we as a group agree not to make this comment (at least those of us who are regular users), even if it's often true - and flag it as unnecessary for removal when we see it?

Maybe it would be helpful in the answers here to suggest a few ways that this can be better redirected.


1 Answer 1


Can we as a group agree not to make this comment (at least those of us who are regular users), even if it's often true - and flag it as unnecessary for removal when we see it?

The existence of that comment indicates a problem. The cause of said problem is that extremely obvious "is this a scam" questions are being asked, and re-asked, and re-re-asked. This accomplishes nothing except creating a swathe of duplicate questions with a swathe of duplicate answers, and it irritates users because these very obvious dupes keep getting massively upvoted for no good reason. It also allows askers and answerers to grind reputation.

Your "solution" to this problem is to ban the comment, which like most bans is fixing the symptom, not the cause. Instead there should be a canonical "is this a scam" question, with examples of common scams in its canonical answer. Or if you really want to slice and dice, have separate canonical questions and answers for each common scam.

Then make people aware (perhaps via Help Centre) of what these canonical question(s) are, and the next time a duplicate comes up, flag to close it as a duplicate of the relevant canonical. That prevents all of the problems listed above and will also prevent the posting of this comment, because if people see the question is closed when they land on it they won't bother to post said comment.

  • I can't imagine scam questions are there to "grind reputation" - that doesn't make sense, most of these are first time posters who probably don't ever post again anyway. (Answerers, maybe, but plenty of us are out there who can and would close-as-dup who don't care about reputation.) If there's a true duplicate, they should be closed as duplicates! But either way, the point of this question is to be nice - you're certainly welcome to take up the cause of scam questions being closed elsewhere. There's a reason, though, that it's proven difficult to solve.
    – Joe
    Apr 22, 2022 at 16:23
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    The cannonical scam question has been suggested and tried already. See this and this. While it sounds simple, there are a few problems with this. See my answer on one of the above questions for an explanation of why this doesn't really work. Finally, asking our users to be nice to new users in a bad situation seeking help from us is not too much to ask. We can't prevent scams, but we can offer next steps without insulting people.
    – Ben Miller
    Apr 22, 2022 at 19:00

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