Scammers are experts at deceiving unsuspecting people into revealing personal information in order to exploit it. They’re constantly finding new ways to steal money or identities, and many times they succeed with no repercussions.
There are many different types of scams — from general fraudulent emails to lottery schemes and romance fraud. You can protect yourself by knowing what to look out for. If you see any of the red flags listed below, proceed with extreme caution and do more investigating before parting with your money or information.
14 Types of Scams and Fraud
When someone has to pay upfront for something of great value — like a reward, a loan, or a gift — but they never receive it, they’re a victim of an advance-fee scheme.
Charity and Disaster Fraud
Scammers will seek donations for organizations that do little or no work, and they’re especially common after high-profile disasters like hurricanes or pandemics.
Credit Card Fraud
The unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property is probably the most common scam around.
Funeral and Cemetery Scams
Because regulations for prepaid funeral services vary from state to state, there are plenty of unscrupulous operators happy to overcharge expenses and list themselves as beneficiaries.
Healthcare or Health Insurance Fraud
It’s very common for individuals, groups of people, or companies to knowingly misrepresent facts about the type, scope, the nature of medical treatment or service provided, resulting in unauthorized payments.
More and more, people are succeeding in assuming the identity of others to perform a fraud or other criminal act.
Illegal Sports Betting
Illegal sports betting has real consequences for those placing and receiving wagers, as well as the safety of the American public.
Far too often, people will use the internet or to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them. Many use ransomware to access your computer files, systems, or networks, and demand you pay a ransom for their return.
Now more than ever, scammers are making calls, pretending to be from the IRS and saying they’re filing a lawsuit against you for back taxes. According to the IRS website, “The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.”
Lottery and Inheritance Scams
In recent years, lottery and inheritance scams have become popular, with criminals contacting unsuspecting people to inform them that they have won a large sum of the money, either in a lottery or in an inheritance from a relative. The schemers will even produce documents that appear to be legitimate, such as official checks, contracts, wills, or award letters.
Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud
This scam combines the threat of impersonation fraud with the advance-fee scheme. Someone will mail or email a letter from Nigeria offering the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that this self-proclaimed government official — is actually trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.
Ponzi & Pyramid Schemes
Ponzi schemes promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments. Instead, the con artist pays “dividends” to initial investors using the funds of subsequent investors. In a pyramid scheme, the money collected from newer victims of pyramid schemes is paid to earlier victims to provide a veneer of legitimacy.
With social media and dating sites, many criminals adopt fake online identities to gain a victim’s affection and trust. Then they fake a close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
Social Security Scams
Scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration attempting to get your social security number or money.
What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Scammed
To report a scam, you can submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Other options include contacting your local police or sheriff’s office or meeting with a private investigator to get the truth.