Scammers are often clever. They can combine the latest technology with age-old tricks to get people to send money or provide their personal information. Many scammers use pressure tactics or threats and insist that you wire money immediately. Below are some common scams and some pointers that may assist you in protecting yourself.
"Nigerian" or "419" Scam
The perpetrator, often a wealthy foreigner, needs help moving sums of money from one account to another with promises of a percentage of this money as a payment/reward for assisting them.
You receive payment for an item much larger than the asking price. You are then asked to send the extra money back in the form of money cards or wire transfers.
Lottery / Inheritance Scam
You receive notification that you have won/inherited a large sum of money in a lottery or inheritance. The victim is asked to send personal information to receive their money.
Secret Shopper Scam
You are offered a paid position as a "secret" or "mystery" shopper. You are to buy merchandise and send it to a predetermined location. You then are asked to submit an evaluation of the service. You likely receive a large check asking you to cash and send the majority back to the "employer" via money cards or money gram, then keep the rest as the salary.
Family is in Distress Scam
Occurring in different forms, the main concept is that someone you care about is in desperate need of money. Common needs may be that a relative is in jail and needs bail or your family is being held hostage after being involved in an accident and money is demanded, often in the form of money cards or wired payments.
Caller ID Scam
While caller ID is a convenient service, it has become a way for the scammer to commit crimes more easily. Technology now exists that allows callers to disguise themselves. There are many vendors out there that, for a small fee, allow you to select whether they want to sound like a male or female and allow you to choose a number to display on the other end. Consumers are then fooled into believing that the caller is who they say they are and are tricked into providing money or personal information.
Tips to help you avoid becoming a victim to these scams
Know Who You Are Dealing with
Find out the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the person/company you are dealing with. Use the Internet to search for such information. Oftentimes, there is information already out there regarding negative contact.
Know That When You Wire Money, or Use Pre-Loaded Money Cards, It Is like Sending Cash
Scammers often instruct people to wire money. By doing so, you virtually send cash payments. Many of the locations are overseas because it is nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Be cautious anytime this form of payment is requested. Never wire money to complete strangers.
Be Cautious of Depositing a Check & Wiring Money Back
Several variations exist, but whenever you receive a large check and are asked to wire a portion back, often the check is fake. It could take weeks to uncover that fact and you likely would be responsible for paying the bank back in addition to losing the money you have already wired.
Protect Your Personal Information
Whether you are asked by phone, email, or text message, never provide sensitive information. Most banks or businesses already have that information. This is often a scammer trying to trick you into revealing personal information. This is called "Phishing." If questions about your account exist, call the number on your statement or credit/debit card.
Beware of Demeanor
Many businesses know that scammers exist in large numbers. They should show compassion when questioned. Scammers, on the other hand, often become more aggressive and threatening when confronted. Ask questions, and then pay attention to the response. If hostility exists, be very cautious and contact the number on your statement.
Much of this information exists online. For more useful tips, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information website, managed by the Federal Trade Commission.
Resources / Information
The National Association of Bunco Investigators (NABI) is an organization that assists in the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of Confidence Crime and certain other Non-Traditional Organized Crime group suspects. They have put together a list of the more common scams and cons.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) was established as a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) to serve as a means to receive Internet-related criminal complaints and to further research, develop, and refer the criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies.
Another great resource for consumer alerts, tips, and fraud trends is the Looks Too Good to Be True website. This website was developed and is maintained by a joint federal law enforcement and industry task force. Funding for the site has been provided by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.