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Top Scams of 2018


  • Internet: General Merchandise Sales (not auctions)Goods purchased are either never delivered or misrepresented. 

    • The typical shopping scam starts with a bogus website or, increasingly, mobile app. Some faux e-stores are invented from whole cloth, but many mimic trusted retailers, with familiar logos and slogans and a URL that’s easily mistaken for the real thing. They offer popular items at a fraction of the usual cost and promise perks like free shipping and overnight delivery, exploiting the premium online shoppers put on price and speed. 

      • While some of these copycats do deliver merchandise — shoddy knockoffs worth less than even the “discount” price you mistook for a once-in-a-lifetime deal on, say, Tiffany watches or Timberland boots. More often, you’ll wait in vain for your purchase to arrive. And your losses might not stop there: Scammers may seed phony sites, apps or links in pop-up ads and email coupons with malware that infects your device and harvests personal information for use in identity theft.


  •  Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts: Requests for payment to claim fictitious prizes, lottery winnings, or gifts.

    • Here’s how the scam works: You receive a phone call, text message, email, social media message or even a letter in the mail claiming you’ve won millions of dollars or another high-value prize through Publishers Clearing House. The correspondence seems real. It’s complete with official seals and contact information for the contest organizer. It typically lists affiliation with legitimate organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, the IRS, the FDIC and major retailers.

      • The catch? You are responsible for paying shipping and handling, insurance, taxes and other fees before you can claim your prize. Scammers may pressure you to pay quickly, claiming that if the fees aren’t paid in this specific way and right on time, you’ll forfeit your prize money


  • Fake Check Scams: Consumers paid with phony checks for work or for items they’re trying to sell, instructed to wire money back to buyer.

    • Here’s how it happens: A scam artist replies to a classified ad or auction posting, offers to pay for the item with a check, and then comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price. The scammer asks the seller to wire back the difference after depositing the check. The seller does it, and later, when the scammer’s check bounces, the seller is left liable for the entire amount.


  • Recovery/Refund Companies: Scammers contact victims and claim they owe money on a fictitious debt or offers to recover money lost in a previous scam

    • How the scams work: Many consumers might not know that they have been scammed by a bogus prize promotion, phony charity drive, fraudulent business opportunity or other scam. But if you have unknowingly paid money to such a scam, chances are your name is on a "sucker list." That list may include your address, phone numbers, and other information, like how much money you've spent responding to phony offers. Dishonest promoters buy and sell "sucker lists" on the theory that people who have been deceived once have a high likelihood of being scammed again.

      • These scammers lie when they promise that, for a fee or a donation to a specific charity, they will recover the money you lost, or the prize or product you never received. They use a variety of lies to add credibility to their pitch: some claim to represent companies or government agencies; some say they're holding money for you; and others offer to file necessary complaint paperwork with government agencies on your behalf. Still others claim they can get your name at the top of a list for victim reimbursement.


  • Advance Fee Loans, Credit Arrangers: False promises of business or personal loans, even if credit is bad, for a fee upfront.

    • Advance fee loan scammers target people with bad credit. While some no credit check loans are legitimate, a lender will never “guarantee” that consumers will receive loans before reviewing their applications. And, according to the Federal Trade Commission, “It is illegal for companies doing business by phone in the U.S. to promise you a loan or credit card and ask you to pay for it before they deliver.”

      • Scammers use a variety of methods and fake loan products to try to reel consumers into their trap. They reach out to people via email, phone, mail flyers, or online ads that advertise payday loans, mortgage loans, auto loans, low-cost government loans, student loan consolidation, or other loans or grants.

      • Scam artists often promise low interest rates on these loans, something that wouldn’t be feasible for a legitimate lender. The average payday loan has an APR of almost 400 percent, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And while some states limit interest rates on these loans, they’re still typically higher than the average credit card or bank loan, because these loans are offered to consumers with poor credit and are unsecured.

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  • Computers: Equipment and Software: Scammers claim to offer “technical support” for computer problems and charge a fee to fix a nonexistent problem.

    • Tech support scammers try to entice you with an on-screen pop-up message claiming a virus has been found on your computer. It might look like an error message from your operating system or hardware manufacturer, and it might use logos from trusted companies or websites (i.e. Microsoft). In order to receive assistance, the message requests you call a phone number associated with the fraudulent tech support company.  

    • If you receive a pop-up or locked screen, you should shut down the device immediately. Ignore any pop-ups instructing to not power off or restart the computer. Do not give unknown, unverified persons remote access to devices or accounts. Ensure all your computer anti-virus, security, and malware protection is up to date. 

      • If rebooting your device does not remove the scam pop-up message, the easiest solution is to clear the browsing history from the browser you were using when the message appeared. 


  • Scholarships/Grants: For a fee, a “search company” offers to conduct customized search for scholarships or grants for students. Scammers take money and run or provide a worthless list.​​​


  • Friendship & Sweetheart Swindles: the scammer will nurture an online relationship and build trust before convincing you to send money.


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