Types of Scams

Here's a quick look at some common types of scams to watch out for. Information below is provided by the Federal Trade Commission. Click here to visit the FTC for additional information and ongoing updates. 

People lose a lot of money to phone scams — sometimes their life savings. Scammers have figured out countless ways to cheat you out of your money over the phone. In some scams, they act friendly and helpful. In others, they might threaten or try to scare you. One thing you can count on is that a phone scammer will try to get your money or your personal information to commit identity theft. Don’t give it to them. Here’s what you need to know.

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Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals such as ATMs. These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until a transaction occurs. 

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you pay:

  • Make sure the terminal is closed and doesn't show any sign of tampering
  • Look at the card reader itself. If it looks different than other readers in the area, don't use it!

For scammers, there’s a lot to like about social media. It’s a low-cost way to reach billions of people from anywhere in the world. It’s easy to manufacture a fake persona, or scammers can hack into an existing profile to get “friends” to con. There’s the ability to fine-tune their approach by studying the personal details people share on social media. In fact, scammers could easily use the tools available to advertisers on social media platforms to systematically target people with bogus ads based on personal details such as their age, interests, or past purchases.

Here are some ways to help you stay safe on social media:

  • Limit who can see your posts and information on social media. All platforms collect information about you from your activities on social media, but visit your privacy settings to set some restrictions.
  • Check if you can opt out of targeted advertising. Some platforms let you do that.
  • If you get a message from a friend about an opportunity or an urgent need for money, call them. Their account may have been hacked – especially if they ask you to pay by cryptocurrency, gift card, or wire transfer. That’s how scammers ask you to pay.
  • If someone appears on your social media and rushes you to start a friendship or romance, slow down. Read about romance scams. And never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Before you buy, check out the company. Search online for its name plus “scam” or “complaint.”

Someone might ask you to pay for something by putting money on a gift card, like a Google Play or iTunes card, and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card. If they ask you to do this, they’re trying to scam you. No real business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card. Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer. 

If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. Keep the card and any receipts you have.

Click here for more information on Gift Card Scams

Occurs when a scammer reaches out to someone and pretends to be their grandchild. They will often make up a distressful situation—such as being stuck in jail—and ask for financial assistance.

Medicare scams involve scamming Medicare beneficiaries by claiming to be a Medicare representative and asking for personal and medical information. They can then use or sell this info for identity theft.

Occurs when someone builds a relationship with you online and then starts asking for money. They create complete social media profiles and have sophisticated backstories for their fake identities.

You may come across promises of easy work-from-home jobs and be told all you need to do is pay for training—you’ll pay, but there isn’t a real job available.

Occurs when scammers set up websites that seem like legitimate storefronts but only exist to collect your payment information or sell you stolen goods. These sites can look surprisingly real.

Sometimes, scammers will offer home improvements such as energy efficient upgrades that could save you money over time. After accepting an initial deposit, the scammer will disappear.

Tech support scams may start with an online popup warning you that your device is infected. You may be prompted to install an update that turns out to be malicious software and can steal your information.

You might get a call, email, or text from a scammer telling you that you’ve won a prize or can enter into a sweepstakes—but it’s all made up. They’ll take your money and you won’t get anything in return.

Scammers may try to persuade victims to send money to a fake charitable cause. They might pressure you to act quickly and sometimes use a current event as a reason why.

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