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Common Scam Types

Scammers use different tactics to get victims to fall for their schemes. In some cases, they can be friendly, sympathetic and seem willing to help. In others, they use fear tactics to persuade a victim. Learn about the different scam tactics, and what to do if you suspect suspicious behavior.

"Card Cracking" Scams

Card cracking is a form of fraud where consumers respond to an online solicitation for “easy money” and provide a debit card for withdrawal of fake check deposits. Criminals use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to solicit consumers, often targeting people between the ages of 19 and 25 years-old, as well as college students, newly enlisted military and single parents.

Customers who respond to these solicitations, now accomplices, provide a debit card, PIN and online credentials to give the criminal direct access to their account. The fraudster deposits worthless checks using mobile deposit and immediately withdraws the funds at an ATM. The customer then calls to report a stolen card or compromised credentials. The bank reimburses the customer for funds lost and the criminal provides the customer with a cut of the money withdrawn using worthless checks.

Charity Scams

Charity scams may happen at any time, but they often occur after disasters or emergencies. Scams may be linked to current events such as an international crisis, to a recurrent concern like a cure for a disease, or they may be tied to your past giving history. 

Criminals might call you directly and make a plea for humanitarian aid. Some choose to impersonate legitimate organizations, while other con artists use a carefully crafted charity name to deceive you. Scammers may use social media posts, crowdfunding platforms, fake websites, emails, or even go door-to-door to get you to part with your hard-earned money. 

Before you donate to a cause or organization, you should investigate the charity and visit websites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or the Better Business Bureau to do your research. Also, be sure to ask how the charity will use your donation. 

Fake Check Scams

Fake checks continue to be one of the most common instruments used to commit fraud against consumers.

Job Scams

What do employment scams look like?

Criminals promote fake job opportunities through many of the same job boards that legitimate companies use, such as online job sites, social media platforms, and newspapers. The fake postings claim to offer employment but are instead used to acquire victims’ personal information and financial assets.

Some common examples include:

Impersonating legitimate companies: Scammers may pretend to represent well-known businesses, such as Amazon or Walmart, and spoof websites to direct job applicants to apply on fake websites. In addition, scammers may try to persuade victims to provide personally identifiable information, such as Social Security number and date of birth, or bank account information.

Mystery shopper scams: In this scam, people signing up to work as mystery shoppers may be asked to provide their date of birth, Social Security numbers, and addresses. Then they receive a check to shop at a store. Scammers instruct victims to purchase a gift card and send pictures with their pin card to the scammers after depositing the check. Alternatively, victims receive instruction to send part of the money back to the scammer. In either situation, the check is fake. Once the bank discovers the issue, the victim is on the hook for all of it.

Reshipping scams: These may appear as “quality control manager” or “virtual personal assistant” positions, where the victim’s role is to receive packages and reship them. Scammers instruct victims to receive packages at their house, remove all original packaging and receipts, then repackage and ship them to an address they provided. They’ll often claim to pay the victim after one month’s work, but no payment ever arrives. On top of that, the victims often face identity theft as they likely shared personally identifiable information, such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, date of birth, and other important data.

Job placement services: Fraudsters will charge job seekers a fee to find employment. However, legitimate staffing agencies do not usually charge fees to the job applicant; companies that work with head hunters typically pay such a fee.

Money Mule Scams

What’s a Money Mule?

When criminals obtain money illegally, they need to hide or launder the source of the funds. One method they use is to look for people to transfer that money for them. Those people become money mules, and are used to move and launder the money.

If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Often, scammers will approach you online, but they may also call you directly. Regardless of the particular method, the goal is the same—to use consumers to move money so that law enforcement cannot easily track it.

If someone asks to use your bank account or asks you to open a bank account in your name to send and receive money on their behalf or business, don’t do it! Even if they offer to pay you some cash for your trouble, it’s not worth it. You may not only be risking your financial assets and identity, but your actions could be criminal.

Peer-to-Peer Payment Scams

Peer-to-peer payments, or P2P payments, allow consumers to transfer money using their bank accounts, debit cards, or credit cards through a website or mobile app such as Cash App, Google Pay, Paypal, Remitly, Venmo, and Zelle. It’s like sending cash and the transfer usually requires just a few clicks.

Although P2P payment services can be easy to set up, simple to use, and are generally secure, it’s important to be aware that criminals may try to scam you into sending money.

Phishing Scams

Every day, thousands of people fall for fraudulent emails, texts, and calls from scammers pretending to be a bank. These are commonly referred to as phishing scams and victims can lose hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

Phishing is when you get emails, texts, or calls that seem to be from companies or people you know, but they’re actually from scammers. They want you to click on a link or share personal information (like a password or social security number) so that they can use that information to steal your money and/or identity.

Ransomware Attacks

Individuals and businesses have become targets to a growing online fraud scheme known as ransomware. Ransomware is a form of malware used by cyber criminals to freeze your computer or mobile device, steal your data and demand that a “ransom” —  typically anywhere from a couple of hundreds to thousands of dollars — be paid.

Individual computers or laptops, enterprise networks and or servers used by government agencies, financial institutions and healthcare providers are all at risk to malware exposure. Banks and law enforcement officials are bolstering their efforts to neutralize some of the more significant ransomware scams by educating consumers and business individuals on the safe practices they can use to prevent these scams.

Suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud?

Here’s what you do.

Contact us at 800-280-1074

Report the scam to the government, starting with the BBB Scam Tracker. You may also want to report scammers directly to the FBI.

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