Millions of people are defrauded every year by criminals using clever schemes.
Tips to Stay a Step Ahead
Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
Do online searches.
Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
Don’t believe your caller ID.
Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
Don’t pay upfront for a promise.
Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.
Consider how you pay.
Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
Talk to someone.
Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
Hang up on robocalls.
If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
Be skeptical about free trial offers.
Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
Don’t deposit a check and wire money back.
By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.
If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.
10 things you can do to avoid fraud consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud
Need to report fraud? ReportFraud.ftc.gov
Recent Financial Scam Examples
Advance Fee Scam
Fraudster states that the victim is getting a large Government Grant, but they first need to go purchase Bitcoin. When the victim says they can’t do that, the fraudsters then instruct them to get gift cards from various places, such as Apple and Walmart in order to cover expenses. The victims are then instructed to text the fraudster back with the numbers on the cards. Initial contact for this victim was via phone, but after that, all correspondence was via SMS text messaging.
Tech Support Scam
Fraudster calls victim claiming to be from Microsoft, gains access to the victim’s computer, charges them $500 (amounts are just for purposes of an example) for removing a virus from their PC, then tells the victim that they accidentally charged the victim too much and when the fraudsters refunded the money, they refunded $4,500 instead of $500 and now needs the victim to purchase gift cards for at least a portion of the “over-refund”. In the meantime, the fraudster has transferred $4,000 from the victim’s savings account via the victim’s online banking account, and thus, the victim “sees” the “over-refund” of $4,000 in their account. The fraudsters will generally tell the victim “keep X amount for your trouble”.
Debt Relief Scam
Victim looking online for a loan to pay off credit cards, obtains loan from one legitimate financial institution, and then gets calls from three other “financial institutions” offering to pay the credit cards off for the victim and that would increase the victim’s credit score. Victim provides credit card information to the fraudsters. Fraudsters “pay off” credit cards, and tells the victim to repay the funds. They then proceed to obtain victim’s online banking information and begin depositing fraudulent checks via mobile deposit into victim’s account. Fraudsters then advised victim to get gift cards from different stores and call them back with the numbers of the cards. Victim complied, but after we (the Bank) notified victim that it was a scam and victim stopped complying, the fraudsters threatened the victim with imprisonment, fines and suspension of the victim’s driver license.
Prize, Sweepstakes, & Lottery Scam
Victim is called saying they won a large prize. Fraudster poses as an employee of the bank (similar name as a real employee who the victim knew), and tells victim that the IRS is at the Bank looking at the victim's account and the victim needs to go open an account at another (“big” bank – e.g. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, etc.) so they will not find out about the prize money. Victim complies, then writes a check off of the “big” bank, deposits in the victim's account with us, then withdraws the cash to purchase $1,000 USPS money orders and various other gift cards. Victim is instructed to deposit the USPS money orders into a fraudster’s account at a different “big” bank, of which the victim complies. In the meantime, the check the victim wrote off their new account at the “big” bank is returned, leaving the victim moneyless.