Scams to avoid

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The Basics:

  • If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
  • You should not have to pay a fee of any sort to claim a legitimate prize.
  • Never pay to play in a sweepstakes.
  • Never pay money to claim a prize.
  • Do NOT give out prepaid or gift card serial # off the back of the card to someone you do not know.
  • Advance fee fraud “419” frauds - There are a myriad of schemes and scams – mail, email, fax and telephone promises are designed to entice victims to send money, ostensibly to bribe government officials involved in the illegal conveyance of millions outside the country. Victims are to receive a percentage for their assistance.  There are many variations of phishing and 419 schemes, but they all have the same goal: to steal the victims’ money or personal and account information. Click here for a list of the most common variations of the 419 scam.
  • Asset theft – Often more extensive and typically involves abuse associated with Powers of Attorney, real estate transactions, identity theft or tax manipulation.  Some forms of exploitation may be considered “scams,” in which a person (or persons) unknown to the adult (a stranger) attempts to trick the victim for financial gain. Vulnerable adults, who may be more trusting, gullible, or less financially sophisticated, are often the preferred targets of scams. Learn more
  • Beneficiary scam - Scammers hack social media accounts to gain the trust of Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries. The scammer poses as a friend or government employee and sends a direct message to the beneficiary claiming they are eligible for government grants, citing such reasons as COVID-19 or a disability. To collect the funds, the beneficiary is asked to call a phone number and then told they must pay a "processing fee" to receive the grant money. If the beneficiary supplies the account information, they don't receive grant money. Their own money is stolen from them. 
  • Business opportunity - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement that offers to help you start your own business – offering high pay in a short period of time for very little effort. The products you would sell may be low-quality, cheap, or outdated merchandise. Learn more
  • Card crackin' - 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. Learn more
  • Car warranty - Someone contacts you and tells you that your car warranty is about to expire, and they can help you get a good deal on an extension of that warranty. They ask you to provide some personal information (e.g., credit card number, Social Security number, Driver's license number).
  • Charitable donations - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement to donate money to a worthy cause (like supporting animal rescue, fighting homelessness, or providing aid after a high-profile disaster).  They ask for donations to be in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money. You do not have a prior relationship with the charity. Learn more
  • Check overpayment - The scammer offers to give you a check for more than the selling price. They tell you to deposit the check and send the difference back to them. Learn more
  • Computer repair (tech support) - Perpetrator informs an older adult that his or her computer isn’t working appropriately and convinces the older adult to provide access to his or her computer and passwords, banking account or personal information. Learn more
  • Covid-19 - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement about having access to vaccines, testing or alternative Covid-19 remedies. Learn more
  • Credit card relief scams - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement about helping you get rid of thousands of dollars of credit card debt. The fee for their assistance, however, must be paid in advance. Learn more
  • Cryptocurrency - Hacking and Phishing attacks are among the biggest security threats to your cryptocurrencies. Learn more
  • Debt relief scams – Someone promises to repair a bad credit report or renegotiate a debt. Seniors may fall victim to these companies that seek upfront fees for services that are often provided at little or no cost by the government. They may instruct you to redirect the payments to them, not the creditor, and either keep the payment entirely or charge exorbitant fees as service charges. These companies often require payment in cash or money order, claiming that this decreases their overhead costs and keeps fees to a minimum, when it’s actually done so the payments cannot be tracked like credit or debit card payments. Learn more
  • Disaster relief scams - Whether you're starting to assess the damage from a Hurricane, a recent flood, a wildfire, or another natural disaster, be aware that scammers target people just trying to recover. Learn more
  • IRS - Tax scams persist year-round, threatening people with jail time or prosecution if they don’t pay debts to the Internal Revenue Service.  Given that fake IRS phone calls continue to plague consumers, the IRS itself has repeatedly published a list of things you will not experience with a legitimate IRS representative, including phone calls demanding payment, threatening arrest and asking for specific payment methods like a prepaid debit card. Learn more
  • Employment scams -  Someone contacts you or you see a job listing offering opportunities to work at home, be a mystery shopper, or some other "too good to be true" sounding job. The job usually involves paying an upfront fee — providing your credit card or banking account information. Learn more
  • Fake accident ploy - Similar to the Grandparent scam, here a perpetrator convinces an older adult that the older adult’s child has been seriously injured or is in jail and needs money for medical treatment or bail.
  • Fake fraud alert - If you get an SMS message supposedly from your bank about a fraud alert, be wary.  Learn more
  • Foreclosure rescue scam – Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement from a company stating they can reduce your mortgage payments. They may charge you a large up-front fee, tell you not to pay your mortgage, or request that you send your title or payments to them.
  • Grandparent scam - Perpetrator poses as a grandchild of the older adult and requests that he or she load a MoneyPak or wire money to help “the grandchild” get out of a bad situation.  Scammer may call late at night pretending to be a grandchild in need of emergency funds by wire.  Learn more
  • Grant fraud scam - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement about "free government grants" worth thousands of dollars. To receive these grants or to determine your eligibility, you are asked to provide your bank account information (so they can deposit your grant directly into your account or cover a one-time processing fee). You are assured that you can get a refund if you are not satisfied.  Learn more
  • Helpful nephew scam - Trusted relative visits a senior frequently and asks to borrow money, knowing the request will be forgotten.
  • Home repair – Victims are coerced, intimidated or otherwise conned into paying unreasonable amounts for poor quality work for services such as roofing, paving, auto body repair, etc. Often the work is fully paid for, but never started or of such poor quality that the victim must pay legitimate contractors to repair the work. Sometimes the work is only partially completed and the fraudster will insist that more money must be paid for the job to be completed. Often the perpetrator will accompany the victim to their financial institution to withdraw cash to pay for the substandard or incomplete work. Learn more
  • Identity theft – Using one or more pieces of the victim’s personal identifying information (including, but not limited to, name, address, driver’s license, date of birth, Social Security number, account information, account login credentials, or family identifiers), a perpetrator establishes or takes over a credit, deposit or other financial account in the victim’s name. Learn more
  • Income theft – Most common form of financial exploitation and fraud; is typically between $1,000 - $5,000 per transaction.
  • Investment scams - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement guaranteeing that you will receive a high rate of return on an investment — with little or no risk. This could be selling oil and gas, gold coins, real estate, cryptocurrency, deeds of trust, etc. Learn more
  • IRS - Someone calls you on the phone saying they work for the IRS and that you owe the IRS money. Learn more
  • Jury duty - Someone contacts you saying that you missed jury duty and there is a warrant out for your arrest. They tell you that, to avoid being arrested, you will need to pay a fine.
  • Law enforcement / federal agency impersonation - Scammers pretend to be from an agency or organization you know to gain your trust. Learn more
  • Lottery - Someone contacts you saying you won money from a lottery or some other type of prize, but you must pay taxes, a fee, or other money to receive the winnings or the prize.
  • Magazine subscriptions - Company sends free magazines and convinces a senior he owes money for the subscription.
  • Miracle medical cure products - Someone contacts you about a product they guarantee will help you become cancer-free and will miraculously cure other ailments and diseases.
  • Misappropriation of income or assets – A perpetrator obtains access to a vulnerable adult’s Social Security checks, pension payments, checking or savings account, credit or ATM cards, and withholds portions of checks cashed for themselves.
  • Money transfer scams - Often part of an Advance Fraud Scheme, a perpetrator convinces an older adult to send funds via Western Union or other money transfer services, using a number of elaborate schemes. Learn more
  • Mystery shopper - Perpetrator enlists older adult to become a “mystery shopper” for them and sends older adult a counterfeit cashier’s check. They are instructed to cash the check, wire a portion back to the perpetrator and keep the remaining amount (appeals to those on a fixed or limited income).
  • Notario - Someone contacts you or you see an advertisement that strongly implies they are a "notario" who is authorized to practice immigration law and can guarantee to help move your immigration papers forward for an upfront fee. Learn more
  • Obituary scam - Using obituaries to target recent widows, scammers attempt to collect false debts of the deceased.
  • Package delivery scam - Scammers send out texts or emails that include a package tracking link along with instructions for the recipient to update the delivery or payment preferences. Clicking the link may prompt the recipient to enter personal information, such as checking account or credit card information, which is then compromised. Alternatively, clicking the link may install malware that allows the scammer to secretly steal personal information from the recipient’s phone or computer. 
  • Pain relief products - Someone offers a product that is guaranteed to reduce the various pain you might have in shoulders, back, knees, etc. that you can buy without a prescription.
  • Payday lender - "Congratulations, you've been approved for a payday loan!" This is a variation on the sweepstakes scam and the call from "your credit card company" offering you lower interest rates. A good rule of thumb: If you didn’t apply for a loan, ask for a rate adjustment or enter a sweepstakes, it's probably a scam.
  • Pet adoption - Experts believe at least 80% of sponsored advertisements about pets may be fake. Learn more
  • Phishing - Someone contacts you saying they are from your financial institution or another business with which you have a relationship stating there is something wrong with your account and asking you to provide personal information (e.g., date of birth, Social Security number, banking account information) to verify the account. Learn more
  • Pigeon drop – A victim is approached by a stranger (or strangers) claiming to have found a large sum of money who offers to share it with the victim. However, the fraudster requests “good faith” money and offers to accompany the victim to their financial institution to withdraw the funds. In return, the victim is given an envelope or bag that contains blank pieces of paper rather than money. Exploitation by a financial institution employee – While institutions go to great lengths to avoid hiring known fraudsters and employ monitoring and access controls to prevent them from unnecessarily accessing customers’ records, some employees may abuse their relationships or use their knowledge of internal processes to steal from their elderly customers.
  • Power of attorney fraud – The perpetrator requests a Limited or Special Power of Attorney, specifying that legal rights are given to manage funds assigned for investment to the perpetrator, a trustee, an attorney, an asset manager, or other title that sounds official and trustworthy. Once the rights are given, the perpetrator uses the funds for personal gain.
  • Recruitment scams - Fraudsters are recruiting unsuspecting people, often with the promise of making money, receiving a job, or some other personal benefit.  Learn more
  • Refund & recovery scams - If you’ve been scammed, you may be targeted by a refund or recovery scam. In these scams, someone says they can help get your money back or recover the prize or item you never got, but you need to pay them first. If you do, you’ll lose more money.  Learn more
  • Relative scam – The perpetrator calls the victim pretending to be a relative in distress and in need of cash, and asks that money be wired or transferred either into a financial institution account.  Learn more
  • Re-shipping scam - A reshipping scam is a fraudulent job that typically requires you to receive packages at your home and reship them to another address in exchange for payment. Learn more
  • Reverse mortgage scam – Fraudsters may target senior citizens who have accumulated a sizeable amount of equity in their home. While there is nothing illegal with reverse mortgage products, the process can be complex and homeowners must carefully review all of the terms and conditions (preferably with family members and an attorney) before signing anything. Unscrupulous estate planners may charge fees for information that is available at no charge from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or "mortgage consultants" may insist that unnecessary renovations must be done to the home in order to qualify for the loan and specify which contractor should be used to make these repairs.
  • Ride share scams - The most important first step you can take to ensure your ride is seamless and safe is to make sure you enter the right vehicle. Learn more
  • Roommate rental scam - This scam is one of many variations of fake check scams. The fraudster answers an ad claiming to be a potential roommate. Learn more
  • SBA loan programs - The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided a great opportunity for potential fraudsters to be very specific in their communications, making them appear even more legitimate.  Learn more
  • Social Security - Someone contacts you saying your Social Security number has been compromised or that you owe money and must act right away to straighten things out. Learn more
  • Student loan - Someone contacts you offering quick relief from your federal student loans or warning that the student loan forgiveness programs will end soon. To assist you, they may require that you pay an up-front fee, provide your Federal Student Aid ID and/or provide them permission to speak to your federal loan servicer on your behalf. Learn more
  • Sweetheart "Romance" scam – The perpetrator enters the victim’s life as a romantic interest in order to gain influence and eventual financial control. This type of scam often goes unreported due to the embarrassment and emotional impact on the victim. At times the victim knows they are being duped but they simply don’t want to be alone.  Learn more
  • Sweepstakes - ‘Contest’ claims a senior won a prize and needs to send in money to collect winnings.
  • Tech support - Someone contacts you saying there is a virus on your computer, or you have a software license that needs to be renewed and you need to act right away. Learn more
  • Telemarketing or charity scams – The victim is persuaded to buy a valueless or nonexistent product, donate to a bogus charity, or invest in a fictitious enterprise. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this type of fraud because they are often at home during the work day to answer the phone. Social isolation is also a factor where fraudsters prey on lonely seniors anxious for someone to talk to. They devise schemes that require multiple phone calls and development of a trusting relationship. Learn more
  • Timeshare resale - Someone contacts you saying they have a buyer who wants to purchase the expensive timeshare you no longer want; or you see an advertisement assuring they can sell it. They say all you need to do is send money to cover closing costs, taxes, and fees.
  • TV shopping trickery - As-Seen-On-T.V. products hide extra fees and charges in the fine print.
  • Vacation rental scams - That vacation rental listing could be a scam.  Learn more
  • Weight loss products -  Someone contacts you about a weight-loss product they guarantee will help you lose weight fast and still eat all you want.
  • Yourself - If your own phone number ever pops up on your phone screen, don’t answer. It may seem harmless in the moment, but this scam reportedly collects and classifies numbers of people who answer the phone as good numbers to target with other scams. It may be tempting to see who’s on the other end of the line — since it clearly isn’t you — but you may be signing yourself up for many more unwanted phone calls. Learn more

Behaviors that can make you a target for scammers

  • You respect authority.  Many common scams are perpetrated by crooks impersonating a police officer, an IRS or Social Security agent, or a court representative. Always remember this: Government offices rarely call citizens to conduct business — and they never demand quick payment. 
  • You like to please people.  No matter how trusting or kind you are, it is good practice to always be skeptical and aware that you may be a target of a scam.
  • You are confident.  If you've never been defrauded or believe you are immune to being cheated, think again. Scammers are professionals — and endlessly creative. 
  • You slipped up once.  If you have already been a victim of fraud, chances are good the fraud calls and attempts will increase. Fraudsters put your information on a “victim list” that gets sold to other scammers or criminal rings.
  • You’re friendly.  Many people get scammed on social media via a friend request. Try to limit social media contact to real friends and family, and turn down requests from people you don’t know. 
  • You are under stress.  People are often tricked into giving away personal info while dealing with an illness or another stressful event. People who have recently lost a loved one are also vulnerable, especially if the obituary reveals details that a crook can use as bait. Be especially vigilant during times of crisis.
  • You’re lonely.  Many scam victims report feeling lonely and isolated from family and friends. That makes them susceptible to the fake friendliness of professional thieves. 











eFraud Prevention™, LLC