Beware of Consumer Scams
Scammers want your money and will go to great lengths to present themselves as legitimate to get it. They may try to persuade you to send them money or disclose personal information to gain access to your accounts. Fraudsters will often contact consumers by phone, mail, door-to-door solicitation, flyer, email or even via fake website.
Watch for these signs of a potential scam:
- You are asked to wire money or send a prepaid or gift card to a stranger.
- You are told you have won a contest that you did not enter nor recognize.
- You are pressured to “act now”.
- You have to pay a fee to receive a prize.
- Personal information such as your account or Social Security number is requested.
- A down payment is needed.
- Your contact refuses to provide details in writing.
- You are asked to keep conversations a secret.
- You are guaranteed to make money.
Common Consumer Scams
Advance Fee Loan or Grant Scam: Scammers may try to trick you into paying to qualify for a loan, credit card or government grant. Beware as you should never pay to qualify.
Computer Repair Scam: A fake tech support company may call claiming that you have a computer virus and offer to fix the problem. Do not give them access to your computer as they may install malicious software designed to scan for your personal information, or they may lock your computer and force you to pay a ransom to have it unlocked.
Credit Repair Scam: Companies promise to erase bad credit, lower interest rates and consolidate debt. They charge hundreds or thousands of dollars but do little or nothing to help. To legitimately improve your credit, contact a non-profit credit counseling agency or your creditor directly.
Fake Check Scam: A scammer may send you a check or money order to deposit in your account then ask you to wire transfer a portion back, saying that the difference is yours to keep. Regardless of the pitch, the check or money order is fake. No money will be deposited, and the full amount will be deducted from your account, often with a returned check fee.
Family Member or Caregiver Scam: Even family members and caregivers may be potential scammers, using your credit cards without permission, pressuring you to sign over power of attorney or forging your signature. Watch for these signs: bills going unpaid, isolation from other family members or friends, unusual banking activities or missing belongings.
Grandparent Scam: A scammer may pose as your grandchild, calling you with a fake story about needing money sent immediately. When in doubt, ask the caller questions only your family members would know to confirm their identity.
Job Opportunity Scam: Online job seekers may be targeted by scammers to pay high fees for information, training sessions or fake promotional materials. To ensure that a job post is legitimate, consider applying directly through a company’s website. Also be wary of offers claiming that you can make good money working from home. You will likely have to pay in advance for materials or startup costs with little to no return.
Online Shopping Scam: Before buying from an online marketplace, verify if the item exists by checking with a local store that carries it. If selling an item online, refuse any buyer who sends a check for an amount which exceeds the asking price. To steal your money, they will ask you to return the difference or forward it to a fake shipping agent.
Prize or Sweepstakes Scam: A scammer may claim that you have won a lottery, contest or prize, and ask you to pay a fee to collect your winnings via wire transfer or money order. Be especially cautious of social media contacts claiming you have won a prize as scammers may easily pose as trusted contacts.
Romance Scam: Someone you meet online or over the phone may start a relationship with you then claim to be facing a financial hardship in hopes that you will help them by sending money. Watch for signs that the person may be using you for your money and that any funds sent will be lost.
Research businesses and charities via your state’s department of justice and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org). Ask your family and friends for recommendations, too
Remember that scammers prefer to be paid via wire transfers as well as prepaid and gift cards.
Relax, do not feel pressured to act immediately even if someone threatens you.
Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission (www.reportfraud.ftc.gov).
Realize that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.