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While the internet has connected us to more information than ever, today’s digital age has made it easier for scammers to perpetrate their fraudulent activity. From faux social media postings to password phishing for financial accounts, scammers have found countless ways to get their hands on other peoples’ money. They use any means to contact victims—telephone, snail mail, email, and the Internet. They gain your trust and when they have you hooked, they ask you for money; then they take it and run. The scenarios they use to lure you in change, constantly. But you can protect yourself and your friends and family by arming yourself with knowledge of the most common types of fraud.
Types of Scams
Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam
Victim is asked to pay upfront fees for financial services which are never provided. Victims often send a succession of transactions for payment of various upfront fees. Common methods could include: credit card, grants, loans, inheritance, or investment.
Victim is contacted by someone claiming they are from a well-known computer or software company and a virus has been detected on the victim’s computer. The victim is advised that the virus can be removed and the computer protected for a small fee with a payment by either credit card or a money transfer. In reality, there was no virus on the computer and the victim has just lost the money they sent for the protection.
The victim is often contacted by email, mail or phone by someone asking for a donation to be sent by money transfer to an individual to help victims of a recent current event, such as a disaster or emergency (such as a flood, cyclone, or earthquake). Legitimate charity organizations will never ask for donations to be sent to an individual through a money transfer service.
Victim responds to a job posting and is hired for the fictitious job and sent a fake check for job related expenses. Check amount exceeds the victim’s expenses and victim sends remaining funds back using a money transfer. The check bounces and the victim is responsible for the full amount.
Victims are often sent a check as a part of a scam and told to deposit the check and use the funds for employment expenses, internet purchases, mystery shopping, etc. The check is fake (counterfeit), and the victim is left responsible for any funds used from the check. Remember, funds from a check deposited into an account should not be used until the check officially clears which can take weeks.
This scam is a variation on the Emergency scam. The victim is contacted by an individual pretending to be a grandchild in distress, or a person of authority such as a medical professional, law enforcement officer, or attorney. The fraudster describes an urgent situation or emergency (bail, medical expenses, emergency travel funds) involving the grandchild that requires a money transfer to be sent immediately. No emergency has occurred, and the victim who sent money to help their grandchild has lost their money.
Identity thieves use personal information (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank account information and credit card numbers) to pose as another individual. This may include opening a credit account, draining an existing account, filing tax returns or obtaining medical coverage.
Victim receives a call from someone claiming to be an immigration official saying there is a problem with the victim’s immigration record. Personal information and sensitive details related to the victim’s immigration status may be provided to make the story seem more legitimate. Immediate payment is demanded to fix any issues with the victim’s record and deportation or imprisonment may be threatened if payment is not made immediately by money transfer.
Victims could be the buyer or a seller of items (e.g. pets, cars) or services advertised online through Craigslist, eBay, Alibaba, Gumtree, carsales.com, etc. Scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, either with a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine site advertising an item at a low price. They ask you to pay using a money order, pre-loaded money card or money transfer, after the money is sent, the victim never receives the merchandise or service. Scammers also pretend to be legitimate buyers by sending more than the selling price, and asks the seller to wire the difference back to them via a money transfer.
Victim is told that they have won a lottery, prize or sweepstakes and that money must be sent to cover the taxes or fees on the winnings. The victim may receive a check for part of the winnings and once the check is deposited and money is sent, the check bounces.
Social media is being used to lure new victims into an old get-rich-quick scam where users are advertising ways to turn $100 into $1,000 by "flipping money". The pitch suggests investors can take advantage of quirks in the monetary system to leverage additional cash and turn a few hundred dollars into thousands. Once con artists have access to the cash, they often block the victim from contacting them via social media or phone number.
Military service members are an appealing target for scammers for several reasons. They are abusing the wide-spread admiration for the military and posing as service men and women in order to trick people into sending them money.
The fraudster contacts the victim through an employment website, or the victim responds to an ad about an employment opportunity to evaluate a money transfer service. The fraudster often sends the victim a check to deposit and instructs the victim to send a money transfer, keeping a portion of the check for their pay. The victim sends the money, the fraudster picks it up, and when the check bounces the victim is left responsible for the full amount.
The fraudster sends the victim a check that appears to be valid as payment for a service or product. Typically, the amount of the check exceeds what the victim expects to receive, and the fraudster tells the victim to send the excess back using a money transfer. When the check bounces, the victim is left responsible for the full amount.
Communication impersonating a trustworthy entity, such as a bank or mortgage company, intended to mislead the victim into providing personal information or passwords. A Phish is a fraudulent attempt, usually made through email (although can also be made via phone or text), to steal your personal information or propagate malicious code or software onto your computer.
Victim is led to believe that they have a personal relationship with someone they met online often by social media, in an online forum or on a dating website. The victim is often emotionally invested, often referring to the recipient as a fiancée.
Victim sends money for deposit on a rental property and never receives access to the rental property or the victim may also be the property owner who is sent a check from the renter and asked to send a portion of the check back using a money transfer and the check bounces.
If a cybercriminal gains access to your social media accounts, they also gain access to your close friends and family. Criminals and con artists can take advantage of how much personal information people share online, and then use this information to make skillful and highly targeted pitches to their friends and family, often involving requests for money.
Victim is contacted by someone claiming to be from a governmental agency saying that money is owed for taxes, and it must be paid immediately to avoid arrest, deportation or suspension of driver’s license/passport. The victim is instructed to send a money transfer or purchase a pre-loaded debit card to pay the taxes. Government agencies will never demand immediate payment or call about taxes without first having mailed a bill.
Telemarketing broadly covers almost any commercial transaction that involves the use of a telephone to place or receive calls between a consumer and a telemarketer or seller for the transferring of funds, such as cash-to-cash money transfers or funds loaded onto a prepaid card, as payment for goods or services offered or sold through telemarketing, often relating to a promotion for a “free” or heavily discounted vacation, prize or sweepstakes scams, or the sale of “bargain” magazines.