Known Scams

Avoiding Scams

Today there are all sorts of predators and con artists who spend their time creating ways to scam you. A con artist is like a shady door-to-door salesperson.  Both use high pressure sales tactics to get you to buy something you neither want nor need.  Both make promises they have no intention of keeping, and both offer a third-rate product. 

Recent successful scams perpetrated on unsuspecting victims include reports of the guy at the door pretending to be a utility company worker there to work on phone, cable or electric lines, a condo association repairman claiming there is a leak or even and IRS representative or in some cases a police officer. All of whom used these titles to trick their way into the homes, and bank accounts, of trusting citizens unfamiliar with these scam techniques. 

Con artists don't only reach you by phone or email these days; they will also come knocking at your door. They have one goal -and that goal is to con you. Unfortunately, a con artist is so slick and clever; spotting one can be a difficult task.  Yet there are warning signs.

The truth is, whenever the economy takes a downward turn it's inevitable that crime rates turn upwards.  Whether con-artists put a new twist on an old scam or use innovative technology as their weapon of choice, they are very good at what they do and figuring out ways to con us -is their number one priority.

What's the best way to avoid falling victim to their tricks or traps?  Be wise to them!


"Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000,000 U.S. CASH! One Lump sum! Tax free! Your odds to WIN are 1-6." "Hundreds of U.S. citizens win every week using our secret system! You can win as much as you want!"

Sound great? Sound too good to be true? It is. It's a scam. Open your e-mail account and check the spam/junk folder. More likely than not, you have at least one message claiming that you've won some sort of lottery -but you didn't. It's a scam!

Cash my Lotto Ticket Scam

Watch the below NBC video below on a lottery scam targeting unsuspecting elderly citizens.

The video shows a tall man approach the 74-year-old woman with a winning lottery ticket in hand. He tells her he needs help, he's an illegal immigrant and can't cash in on the winnings. Then comes a woman in a floppy hat, who overhears and also wants to help...

View more news videos at:

Advance Fee Fraud

419 Advance Fee Fraud scammers harvest e-mails from all over the Internet and send out these "You've won!" scripts.

Online Classified Sites

If you have ever sold anything on Craigslist or other online classified advertising sites, you probably have dealt with a scammer or two. The next time you list something on one of these sites, keep the following tips in mind.

• Cash only.  Only deal in cash if you are the seller.  Checks can be forged or bounce.  Credit cards, even through PayPal, can be stolen.  By the time PayPal finds out and takes back the money they paid you from the fraudulent transaction, your item is long gone. 

• Starbucks.  Providing that the item is easily portable, meet prospective buyers (or sellers) in a public place.  As a seller, doing this doesn't reveal you address to someone you don't know and it can be a comfort to buyers.  Otherwise, try and have the item staged outside of your house in the driveway, if possible.

• Local pickup.  Shipping over classified ads is almost always a scam.  It seems like everyone knows this, but considering the prevalence of these schemes, apparently a few people missed the memo. 

• Don't get greedy.  If someone offers to pay more money than you are asking, it is probably a scam.  Why would someone possibly want to pay more money for an item than you were asking?  They are trying to play on your greed because once greed kicks in, it can squelch the little alarm bells that would otherwise be going off in the back of your head.

• The Queen's English.  Poorly written emails concerning the listed item can mean scammers, especially if grammar is nonexistent and punctuation appears to be optional.   A lot of the scammers are based overseas and don't have a working command of written English.  If the email contains the following words or phrases it is most likely a scam - Dear seller, your item, I would like to pay for it as soon as possible, Regards (without a name).

Even if you plainly state in your ad that you only accept cash and you won't ship, the scammers still start swarming, especially if the item is small and valuable.

One of the more popular scam attempts occurs when the scammer makes initial contact than follows up with an offer to buy the item, if you will ship it.  The excuses are plentiful, and range from being out of town at the moment to buying your item for a relative of a friend in another country who is off to university.

They will go on to offer to pay you via PayPal (or some other online site) and tout its virtues as being the safest and most reliable online payment processor.  But see above to understand what can go wrong with that option. 

Finally, they will play on human greed and offer to pay you considerably more than you are asking for doing them such a favor.  Don't fall for it. 

Just remember these tips, exercise a little common sense, and you'll be less likely to be scammed. Some of the more common scams include:

Jury Duty Scam

The phone rings, you pick it up, and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He says you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. You say you never received a notice. To clear it up, the caller says he'll need some information for "verification purposes"-your birth date, social security number, maybe even a credit card number.

This is when you should hang up the phone. It's a scam.

Jury scams have been around for years, but have seen a resurgence in recent months. Communities in more than a dozen states have issued public warnings about cold calls from people claiming to be court officials seeking personal information. As a rule, court officers never ask for confidential information over the phone; they generally correspond with prospective jurors via mail.

The scam's bold simplicity may be what makes it so effective. Facing the unexpected threat of arrest, victims are caught off guard and may be quick to part with some information to defuse the situation.

"They get you scared first," says a special agent in the Minneapolis field office who has heard the complaints. "They get people saying, 'Oh my gosh! I'm not a criminal. What's going on?'" That's when the scammer dangles a solution-a fine, payable by credit card, that will clear up the problem.

With enough information, scammers can assume your identity and empty your bank accounts.

IRS Scams & Warnings

At tax return time the IRS is not the only one after your money.

The IRS has warned taxpayers to beware of several common email and telephone scams that use the IRS name as a lure.

Advanced payment check

The goal of this scam is to trick people into revealing personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers by pretending to be the IRS and further claiming they can then send you a refund or stimulus check-quicker -if you provide the  information they are soliciting.

You are entitled to a Rebate

In this type of scam the consumer receives a phone call (or a knock on the door) from someone identifying himself or herself as an IRS employee. The caller tells the victim that he is eligible for a sizable rebate for filing his taxes early.

The caller then asks the victim for a bank account number for the direct deposit of the rebate. If the target refuses, he is told he cannot receive the rebate. The IRS does not gather the information over the phone and don't come knocking at your door to hand you a refund.

You are being Audited

The email notifies the recipient that his or her tax return is being audited. In many cases the salutation in the body address refers to the victim by name.

The email instructs the recipient to click on links to complete forms with personal account information, which the scammers can then use to commit identity theft.

Substitute Form 1040 Fax Scam

This scam consists of a cover letter and form that are faxed, rather than e-mailed. The letter says that the IRS is updating its files. The attached form requests a large amount of detailed personal and financial information. It asks the recipient to sign and fax back the completed form, as well as a copy of the recipient's driver's license and passport.

Company Report Scam

This e-mail appears to come from an e-mail address, addresses recipients by name and references the company the recipient works for. The e-mail says that the IRS has a report on the company and asks the recipient to review a copy by clicking on a link to download the report. However, when the link is clicked, malware is downloaded to the recipient's computer.

Tax Court Scam

In this scam, an e-mail that appears to come from the U.S. Tax Court contains a petition involving a court case between the IRS and the recipient. The document instructs the recipient to download other files. The downloads transfer malware, or malicious code, to the recipient's computer.

The truth is that the Tax Court is not e-mailing notices to anyone who currently has a case before the court.

What to Do

Those that have received questionable email claiming to come from the IRS can forward it to a mailbox the IRS has established to received such emails: To access the IRS Web site, type directly into your Internet browser window, NEVER click on an embedded link in an e-mail.

Corporate Executives Target of Identity Theft Schemes

Tens of thousands of corporate executives were the target of a series of identity-theft scams. Nearly 20,000 executives received an e-mail purporting to be a subpoena ordering each recipient to appear in court for legal violations leveled against their company. The messages addressed each executive by name, and included their phone number and the name of their company.

Recipients who clicked the link were brought to a Web page that claimed they needed to install a Web browser add-on in order to view the subpoena. Those who agreed were shown an Adobe PDF document that referenced a lawsuit filed in a California district court. For more see blog.

Meeting Invite Spam

In this latest Nigerian scam spammers are using meeting invites to bypass anti-spam engines. The e-mail invites are personalized with a different link sent to each recipient and may be configured to send meeting alerts in order to draw increased attention to the spam message.

According to the Internet content security provider Trend Micro, they've been, for the past 12 months, tracking numerous formats but this is the first time the Google Calendaring system has been used as a mechanism. Spam filters may be designed to automatically filter out attachment spam or image spam, however they are less likely to be set up to track for this new delivery mechanism.

"We will most likely see this spam delivery method used for other types of spam--pump and dump, links to web threats, etc," said Jamz Yaneza, research project manager at Trend Micro.

"It is likely that on the back of this first attack, we can expect to see such tools like Google calendar, further abused to contain malicious links and try to steal sensitive information."

Watch for "Verified by Visa" Scam

Identity thieves are constantly looking for ways to make scam emails more plausible, so they are now attempting to add creditability to such emails by including a "Verified by Visa" scheme.

The wording may be something like this: "Your credit card (specified) has been automatically enrolled in the Verified by Visa program. To ensure your card's security, it is important that you protect your card online with a personal password. Please take a moment to activate Verified by Visa now."

These scam emails contain links to bogus sites, under the control of the hackers that prompt consumers to enter their credit card information. The messages usually end with a threat that failure to respond may temporarily disable the credit card in question.

Department of Justice Warns of Scam using their Logo

Spammers have incorporated the Justice Department's logo and Web site banner into an ongoing e-mail hoax.

The hoax e-mail claims that the recipients have been mentioned in a complaint filed by an individual named Carl Williams.

"A complaint has been filed against the company you are affiliated to [Company Name] in regards to the domain of business activity," it says. "The complaint was filed by Mr. Carl Williams on 01/20/2008 and has been forwarded to us and the IRS."

The message refers to users listed in an attachment to the e-mail that purports to be a copy of the complaint and contain contact information for Carl Williams.

The hoax e-mail using the Justice Department's logo from its Internet page asks recipients to open the attached files and print them.


This triggers the virus or worm, which then perpetuates the spread of the hoax e-mails.

On its web site, the Department has published a warning about the hoax, warning users not to respond and not to open any of its attachments.

Ford Motor Company warns of email hoax

Ford Motor Company is warning consumers of a recent hoax email circulating that consumers may believe comes from Ford. It is a scam. Currently it may arrive in your e-mail box with an id of: or something similar.

The communication states it is part of the Ford Car International Promotion Program 2008 and announces the recipient has won a brand new Ford SUV.

Addressed from a Mr. Harry Raymond, the email requests numerous personal details from the "winner".

A Ford representative says..."This is not a legitimate Ford promotion and we recommend that people do not respond to this email. It is not our policy or practice to ask members of the public to provide personal details and we strongly advise that anyone who receives this email does not provide any information".

Nigerian' money scam:What happens when you reply?

For those of you unfamiliar with this email scam, the basic idea is simple. Somebody purporting to be a Nigerian banker contacts you, offering a chance to earn some serious money. Often his bank will be looking after the considerable fortune of a deceased millionaire-from shipping magnate to former president. He says he needs a foreign bank account through which to launder the money-and in return for sending him your bank details for this purpose, he will give you a share of the spoils.

House Stealing! Combines Identity Theft & Mortgage Fraud

Of course those who fall for this scam never see these promised millions. Instead their bank accounts are often cleaned out once they have handed over all their details!

this scam combines identity theft with mortgage fraud.

When you mix those criminal activities together, you end up with a scam that threatens the American Dream of owning a home. This new crime is called house stealing, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). And some victims of this illegal scheme are desperate homeowners facing foreclosure. For more on this see blog.

When Disaster Strikes Scammers come out!

Unfortunately whenever Mother Nature strikes, scammers will come out and pretend to be representatives from FEMA, the Red Cross or simply offering assistance. Always beware anyone offering assistance if they are asking for personal information. See blog.

The Hit-Man Scam-I have been hired to kill you.

The FBI Cyber Investigations Unit warns that the Hit Man is going to kill you e-mail scam has returned. The content of the email has evolved since late 2006; however, the messages remain similar in nature, claiming the sender has been hired to kill the recipient.

Two new versions of the scheme began appearing in July 2008.

One instructed the recipient to contact a telephone number contained in the e-mail and the other claimed the recipient or a "loved one" was going to be kidnapped unless a ransom was paid.

Recipients of the kidnapping threat were told to respond via e-mail within 48 hours. The sender was to provide the location of the wire transfer five minutes before the deadline and was threatened with bodily harm if the ransom was not received within 30 minutes of the time frame given. The recipients' personally identifiable information  was included in the e-mail to promote the appearance that the sender actually knew the recipient and their location.

Perpetrators of Internet crimes often use fictitious names, addresses, telephone numbers, and threats or warnings regarding the failure to comply to further their schemes.

In some instances, the use of names, titles, addresses, and telephone numbers of government officials and business executives, and/or the victims personal identifying information are used in an attempt to make the fraud appear more authentic.

Consumers always need to be alert to unsolicited e-mails. Do not open unsolicited e-mails or click on any embedded links, as they may contain viruses or malware. Providing your personal identifiable information (PII) will compromise your identity!

Individuals who receive e-mails containing threats of violence and their PII are encouraged to contact law enforcement as well as file a complaint at

Five Ways to Identify Loan Modification Scams

Hiring someone to negotiate a mortgage loan modification on your behalf is similar to blindly feeling your way through an unknown, pitch black room, with nothing to steer you in the right direction.  The stress increases with the wide-spread emergence of scams designed to yank what little money you have left right out of your wallet.  

The good news is that recognizing these scams isn't that difficult, if you take the time to do your homework before you do your hiring. Click here for several red flags that scream-- Scam!

Scholarship Telemarketing Fraud Scheme

The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education has become aware of a potential fraud scheme involving persons claiming to represent the U.S. Department of Education who are calling students and offering them scholarships or grants. These callers request a bank or credit card account number saying the information will be used to charge a $249 processing fee. The Department of Education does not charge a processing fee to obtain federal education grants. DO NOT give your financial information to individuals making these claims! If you receive one of these calls, please contact the Office of Inspector General immediately (step 3). If you have provided bank or credit card information to the callers, you should take the following steps:

  • Immediately contact your bank, explain the situation, and request that the bank monitor or close the compromised account.
  • Notify the police about the incident; impersonating a federal officer, telemarketing fraud schemes, and identity theft are crimes.
  • Report the fraud to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General hot line at 1-800-MIS-USED (1-800-647-8733) or Special agents in the Office of Inspector General investigate fraud involving federal education dollars.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or

Beware of "Storm Worm" e-mail that spreads malware: "FBI vs. Facebook"

The FBI has issued a recent warning to be on the lookout for spam e-mail spreading malicious software (malware) which mentions "F.B.I. vs. Facebook."

The e-mail directs the recipient to click on a link to view an article about the FBI and Facebook. Once the user clicks on the link, the "Storm Worm" malware is downloaded to the Internet-connected device, causing it to become infected with the virus and part of the Storm Worm botnet. A botnet is a network of compromised machines under the control of a single user. Botnets are typically set up to facilitate criminal activity such as spam e-mail, identity theft, denial of service attacks, and spreading malware to other machines on the Internet.

The Storm Worm virus has capitalized on various holidays and fictitious world events in the last year by sending millions of e-mails advertising an e-card link within the text of the spam e-mail.

Beware of the "Sucker List"

This is exactly what it sounds like - a list of victims of fraud.  When a person falls for a fraud scheme, his name is added to the sucker list.  A con artist then sells this list to other criminals.  Why is this list so important?  If someone falls for one fraud scheme, odds are he/she will fall for another. 

You can never take your name off the sucker list, but you can avoid making the list twice. 

Protect yourself from Fraud.

Stay informed of the latest scams and techniques used to con you out of your hard-earned money -or personal data.

If you've been a victim of a scam and want to share your story, let us know--email your story.

Also pay a visit to to find additional support.

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