While some fraud involves outright stealing information from victims, other scams involve playing on the emotions or needs of the victims to obtain information, access, or cash. These types of scams can be harder both to identify and to admit, but education and knowledge can help you avoid these types of scams altogether, or to get out quickly and minimize damage if you suspect you are being scammed.
Scammers may prey on loneliness, joblessness, sympathy, your desire to help others, your own desperation, or even love to bilk you out of your money.
If you even suspect you are being scammed, go to the authorities and ask for help.
People looking for a job are easy targets for scammers who know job seekers may be in a desperate situation. Scammers advertise where real employers and job placement firms do, making promises about employment, bonuses, and other quick fixes. However, virtually all of them ask you to pay for something up front before you get the job.
How to tell whether a job lead may be a scam:
- You need to pay to get the job: They may say they’ve got a job waiting, or guarantee to place you in a job, if you just pay a fee for certification, training materials, or the expenses of placing you with a company. Employers and employment firms shouldn’t ask you to pay for the promise of a job.
- You need to supply your credit card or bank account information: Don't give out your credit card or bank account information over the phone to a company unless you're familiar with them and have agreed to pay for something. Anyone who has your account information can use it.
- The ad is for "previously undisclosed" federal government jobs: Information about available federal jobs is free on usajobs.gov.
- Work-at-home, “work online,” or other home-based businesses or jobs may ask for money for supplies or training upfront. If you do actually work, they may not pay you once the work is done or it may be another whole process to get paid.
How to find out if a job opportunity is legitimate:
- Research any company thoroughly before accepting a job offer or becoming involved in a business.
- Get all details in writing.
- Avoid cash on delivery or money order requests for payment from job “opportunities.”
If you’ve been targeted by a job scam:
File a complaint with the FTC.
For problems with an employment service firm:
Contact the appropriate state licensing board (if these firms must be licensed in your state), your state Attorney General, and your local consumer protection agency.
You're looking for love, but what you get is a criminal. Dating scammers look for victims through dating sites, chat rooms, and social media. They may claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. The most common targets are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk. It has become one of the most common and lucrative scams, with victims losing tens of millions of dollars each year, because the criminal gangs behind these scams are very skilled at manipulation.
A scammer will appear to be someone interested in making a genuine connection, and will have a profile and a backstory to support their claims. Communication may continue for weeks or even months as they work to make victims form an emotional bond before they ask the victim for a favor – to cash a check, forward a package, or send cash to help out in a sudden emergency.
The FBI offers these hints that your online “date” may only be interested in your money:
- Presses you to leave the dating website you met through and to communicate using personal e-mail or instant messaging.
- Professes instant feelings of love.
- Sends you a photograph of himself or herself that looks like something from a glamour magazine.
- Claims to be from the U.S. and is traveling or working overseas.
- Makes plans to visit you but is then unable to do so because of a tragic event.
- Asks for money for a variety of reasons (travel, medical emergencies, hotel bills, hospitals bills for child or other relative, visas or other official documents, losses from a financial setback or crime victimization.)
- Writes in unusual or broken English with strange grammar and poor spelling. The tone and voice may change between messages, which can be a sign that the communications are from different writers.
Do not cash checks, forward packages, send cash, or give account numbers to people you have only met online. Ask the people you trust to help you assess a situation that seems fishy or “too good to be true,” and listen to their advice. Don’t be embarrassed if you are caught up in a dating scam – ask for help and report the crime quickly.
The FBI strongly recommends reporting a dating scam or any other online scam with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Before forwarding the complaints to the appropriate agencies, IC3 collates and analyzes the data — looking for common threads that could link complaints together and help identify the culprits. This helps keep everyone safe.
Money transfers are virtually the same as sending cash — there are no protections for the sender.
By using money transfers, criminals can quickly get their hands on your cash – and often get away before you realize you’ve been cheated. It is almost impossible to reverse a money transfer or trace it. When you wire money to another country, the recipient can pick it up at multiple locations, making it nearly impossible to identify them or track them down. The receiving agents of the money transfer company might be part of the scheme. Many schemes involve money transfers through companies like Western Union and MoneyGram.
Safe money transfer guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) state that you should never wire money to:
- A stranger — in this country or anywhere else.
- Someone claiming to be a relative in a crisis — and who wants to keep their request for money a secret.
- Someone who says a money transfer is the only form of payment that’s acceptable.
- Someone who asks you to deposit a check and send some or all of the money back.
Counterfeit Check Scams – Someone sends you a check and asks you to cash it and wire them the money. Sometines they say you can keep a certain percentage. But the check is fake, and when it is found out, the money will come out of your account. This type of transfer scam can take a variety of forms:
- Sweepstakes or lottery: If someone is offering you money for nothing, because they claim you won a lottery or sweepstakes, for example, it’s too good to be true. Do not deposit a cashier’s check and wire money to an unknown party.
- Check overpayment: Scammers will sometimes hide a fake transaction with a real transaction. For example, someone offers to buy something long distance and sends you a check. But the check is greater than the amount of the sale, and they want you to wire back the extra cash. If the check bounces, which it likely will, you are out of luck and out your money.
- Service test: Someone hires you to test the services at a money transfer company. After you deposit a check you have been given and wire the money, no one collects your evaluation of the services. The check you deposited bounces and you are responsible for the money you withdrew.
- Online buying: If you are buying something online and the seller insists on a money transfer as the only form of payment, consider it a red flag. Use a credit card, a trusted escrow service, or another way to pay.
- Advance Fee Loans: If you have to wire money for the promise of a loan or credit card, it’s likely you’re dealing with a scam artist.
- Family Emergency Scams: If you get a call from a family member for a secret, emergency money transfer, think twice. Take the time to check it out and independently verify the person’s situation and location. If you are concerned and can’t ignore the request, try to verify the caller’s identity by asking very personal questions a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Keep trying to reach the family to check out the story.
- Apartment Rental Scams: Don’t transfer money to someone you haven’t met for an apartment you haven’t seen. It can be challenging to move , especially long distances, and scammers know it. They will ask you for an application fee or deposit on a fake rental listing.
If you’ve wired money to a scam artist, call the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. You can reach the complaint department of MoneyGram at 1.800.MONEYGRAM (1.800.666.3947) or Western Union at 1.800.448.1492. Ask for the money transfer to be reversed. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask. Then, file a complaint with the FTC.
The promise of no interest, low payments, and consolidated debt can be hard to resist when you are juggling high-interest balances and payments. But if someone says they can reduce or eliminate your debt for a fee, chances are it is a scam.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these signs that a company that promises to help you manage your debt may not be on the up and up. Avoid any organization that:
- Charges fees before it settles your debts.
- Guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away.
- Tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits.
- Won’t send you free information about its services unless you provide personal and financial information, like your credit card and bank account numbers.
- Contacts you through an unsolicited, pre-recorded sales call.
- Asks for your credit card, bank account or Social Security numbers, or any other personal information with telemarketers who call you out of the blue.
You can work on managing your debt by talking with a credit counseling organization. A reputable credit-counseling agency should send you free information about its services without requiring you to give details about your situation or pay any money before they provide services.