Most Common Scams

Florence got a phone call from a man who said he was an officer of her bank. He said he needed to verify her account information in order to install new security measures. Florence got her checkbook and read her account number to him. A few days later, when she was unable to withdraw money from her account, she discovered that all the money had been withdrawn. The man who had called was not with her bank at all, and her bank said it would never call customers over the phone and ask them to "verify" account numbers.

Florence fell for one of the oldest scams around. Con artists are always developing new ways to get your money - but some play the same old scams year after year, successfully. Here are some of the scams that have been around awhile and still get new victims. Don't fall for them.

The Bank "Investigation":

In this scam, a caller poses as a bank examiner, FBI agent or police detective who needs your assistance with an investigation. The caller asks you to go to the bank and withdraw some money and give it to the phony official to use in setting a trap for a criminal. The scammer promises to redeposit the money but you will never see the money, or the con artist, again.

Work-at-Home Offers:

Companies advertise a way to make hundreds of dollars a week working at home. The task may be stuffing envelopes, preparing mailing lists, making craft projects or preparing doctors' bills. They require a fee in advance for an instructional kit, supplies or software. You'll receive worthless information and realize it would be impossible to make any money. Research any potential business opportunities thoroughly before investing. Always try to personally meet with representatives at a physical company location and verify the promised earning potential.

Credit Card Fraud Protection Scams:

A telephone caller pretending to represent your credit card company tells you that you need to buy credit card fraud protection. The caller says that computer hackers could access your credit card number and make thousands of dollars of charges, which you would be liable for. False. Under federal law, consumers who report unauthorized charges on their credit cards are not liable for more than $50.

Advance-Fee Loan and Credit Card Scams:

A newspaper or TV advertisement seems to offer a guaranteed loan or a credit card for anyone, no matter how bad their credit. When you call the number, you are told to pay a fee first, perhaps as much as $200. However, the company later notifies you that you didn't qualify for the loan or credit card after all. When you try to get in touch with the company, you are unable to do so and are out the money you paid.

International Lottery Scams:

You receive a letter or phone call promising to buy tickets in a lottery of another country, such as Canada or Australia . These offers are always scams. It is against U.S. law to buy or sell tickets to foreign lotteries by phone or mail . Consumers who fall for these scams sometimes get "suckered" two or three times. If you agree to send money to buy tickets, you may get a call later saying that you have won a large jackpot, and need to send more money to pay taxes on your winnings or to pay a small fee for currency conversion. Of course, the lottery tickets were never even purchased, and there is no jackpot.

Foreign Dignitary Schemes:

A letter, fax or e-mail arrives from someone who claims to be a foreign government executive, prince, diplomat, or doctor. This person says he needs to transfer a large amount of money, perhaps millions of dollars, to the United States in order to protect the money from insurgents or corrupt officials. The letter proposes that you allow the money to be transferred to your account, in exchange for a percentage of the money. You are at risk of losing all the funds in your bank account if you give the con artist your account information. If you receive such an offer, report it immediately to the postal inspector. E-mail offers of this kind should be deleted.


You receive an e-mail or phone call that appears to be from your bank, government agency, credit card company or website asking for personal information such as your Social Security Number (SSN), bank account number, password and/or Personal Identification Number (PIN) or credit card number. This form of identification theft is known as phishing (pronounced "fishing"), and can lead to substantial financial loss, ruined credit, prevention of account access and the creation of bogus accounts in your name.

Keep in mind these four key signs of a potential fraud:

  • You are contacted by a stranger;
  • You are offered a "great" deal;
  • You must act right away;
  • You are asked to pay money or disclose sensitive personal or financial information before receiving any benefit

When you are contacted under these circumstances, the best advice is to just say "NO."

And remember, NEVER provide personal information to ANYONE who calls you on the phone or sends an unsolicited e-mail request.

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