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Fraud Types

While the internet has connected us to more information than ever, today’s digital age has made it easier for scammers to perpetrate their fraudulent activity. From faux social media postings to password phishing for financial accounts, scammers have found countless ways to get their hands on other peoples’ money. They use any means to contact victims—telephone, snail mail, email, and the Internet. They gain your trust and when they have you hooked, they ask you for money; then they take it and run. The scenarios they use to lure you in change, constantly. But you can protect yourself and your friends and family by arming yourself with knowledge of the most common types of fraud.


Types of Scams

Advanced Fee / Prepayment scam

Victim is asked to pay upfront fees for financial services which are never provided. Victims often send a succession of transactions for payment of various upfront fees. Common methods could include: credit card, grants, loans, inheritance, or investment.

Associated with: Taxes, Telemarketing, Immigration, Charity, Social Networking, Fake Check, Emergency, Grandparent

Video: Advanced Fee

Article: 4 ways to protect yourself against advanced fee and prepayment scams


Anti-Virus scam

Victim is contacted by someone claiming they are from a well-known computer or software company and a virus has been detected on the victim’s computer. The victim is advised that the virus can be removed and the computer protected for a small fee with a payment by either credit card or a money transfer. In reality, there was no virus on the computer and the victim has just lost the money they sent for the protection.

Associated with: Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Identity Theft, Phishing

Article: 5 Ways to protect yourself from tech scams


Charity scam

The victim is often contacted by email, mail or phone by someone asking for a donation to be sent by money transfer to an individual to help victims of a recent current event, such as a disaster or emergency (such as a flood, cyclone, or earthquake). Legitimate charity organizations will never ask for donations to be sent to an individual through a money transfer service.

Associated with: Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Phishing, SMS/Smishing

Article: Western Union and Better Business Bureau Warn of Charity Scams During Giving Season6 tips for avoiding charity scams


Emergency scam

Victim is led to believe that they are sending funds to assist a friend or loved one in urgent need. Victim sends the money with urgency as the victim’s natural concern for a loved one is exploited.

Associated with: Grandparent, Advanced Fee/Prepayment

Article: Western Union and Better Business Bureau Partner to Protect Consumers from Emergency Scam


Employment scam

Victim responds to a job posting and is hired for the fictitious job and sent a fake check for job related expenses. Check amount exceeds the victim’s expenses and victim sends remaining funds back using a money transfer. The check bounces and the victim is responsible for the full amount.

Associated with: Mystery Shopping, Fake Check

Video: Work at home

Article: 3 employment scams and tips to help avoid becoming a victim



Threats to life, arrest or other demands by scammers to unlawfully obtain money, property or services from a victim through coercion that they supposedly owe and threatens if they do not cooperate.

Associated with: Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Relationship, Immigration, Tax, Emergency, Anti-Virus, Phishing


Fake Check scam

Victims are often sent a check as a part of a scam and told to deposit the check and use the funds for employment expenses, internet purchases, mystery shopping, etc. The check is fake (counterfeit), and the victim is left responsible for any funds used from the check. Remember, funds from a check deposited into an account should not be used until the check officially clears which can take weeks.

Associated with: Advance Fee/Prepayment, Mystery Shopping, Employment, Overpayment, Internet Purchase, Lottery/Prize, Rental Property

Video: Advanced Fee

Article: How to avoid fake check scams


Grandparent scam

This scam is a variation on the Emergency scam. The victim is contacted by an individual pretending to be a grandchild in distress, or a person of authority such as a medical professional, law enforcement officer, or attorney. The fraudster describes an urgent situation or emergency (bail, medical expenses, emergency travel funds) involving the grandchild that requires a money transfer to be sent immediately. No emergency has occurred, and the victim who sent money to help their grandchild has lost their money.

Associated with: Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Emergency

Video: Grandparent

Article: 6 tips and insights to avoid the grandparent scam


Identity Theft

Identity thieves use personal information (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank account information and credit card numbers) to pose as another individual. This may include opening a credit account, draining an existing account, filing tax returns or obtaining medical coverage.

Associated with: Internet Purchase, Phishing, SMS/Smishing, Social Networking, Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Immigration, Taxes, Employment, Anti-Virus, Relationship


Immigration scam

Victim receives a call from someone claiming to be an immigration official saying there is a problem with the victim’s immigration record. Personal information and sensitive details related to the victim’s immigration status may be provided to make the story seem more legitimate. Immediate payment is demanded to fix any issues with the victim’s record and deportation or imprisonment may be threatened if payment is not made immediately by money transfer.

Associated with: Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Overpayment, Emergency

Article: 6 tips to protect yourself from an immigration scam


Internet Purchase scam

The victim sends money for the purchase of item ordered online (e.g. pets, cars). Items are often advertised on Craigslist, eBay, Alibaba, etc. After the money is sent, the victim never receives the merchandise.

Associated with: Overpayment, Rental Property, Fake Check

Video: Online Purchase

Article: Fraud alert: Internet puppy purchase scams rising, Tips to protect yourself from online shopping scams this holiday season


Lottery / Prize scam

Victim is told that they have won a lottery, prize or sweepstakes and that money must be sent to cover the taxes or fees on the winnings. The victim may receive a check for part of the winnings and once the check is deposited and money is sent, the check bounces.

Associated with: Advance Fee/Prepayment, Fake Check

Video: Lottery/Prize

Article: 7 tips to avoid lottery scams


Money-Flipping scam

Social media is being used to lure new victims into an old get-rich-quick scam where users are advertising ways to turn $100 into $1,000 by "flipping money". The pitch suggests investors can take advantage of quirks in the monetary system to leverage additional cash and turn a few hundred dollars into thousands. Once con artists have access to the cash, they often block the victim from contacting them via social media or phone number.

Associated with: Social Networking, Advanced Fee/Prepayment



Military service members are an appealing target for scammers for several reasons. They are abusing the wide-spread admiration for the military and posing as service men and women in order to trick people into sending them money.

Associated with: Relationship, Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Emergency, Charity, Employment

Article: Latest wrinkle on scams: Crooks pose as member of the military


Mystery Shopping scam

The fraudster contacts the victim through an employment website, or the victim responds to an ad about an employment opportunity to evaluate a money transfer service. The fraudster often sends the victim a check to deposit and instructs the victim to send a money transfer, keeping a portion of the check for their pay. The victim sends the money, the fraudster picks it up, and when the check bounces the victim is left responsible for the full amount.

Associated with: Fake Check, Employment, Advanced Fee/Prepayment

Video: Advanced Fee

Article: Why offers to become a mystery shopper require lots of scrutiny


Overpayment scam

The fraudster sends the victim a check that appears to be valid as payment for a service or product. Typically, the amount of the check exceeds what the victim expects to receive, and the fraudster tells the victim to send the excess back using a money transfer. When the check bounces, the victim is left responsible for the full amount.

Associated with: Internet Purchase, Fake Check, Advanced Fee/Prepayment

Video: Advanced Fee, Internet Purchase

Article: Watch your back: Payment scams common in online buying & selling



Communication impersonating a trustworthy entity, such as a bank or mortgage company, intended to mislead the victim into providing personal information or passwords. A Phish is a fraudulent attempt, usually made through email (although can also be made via phone or text), to steal your personal information or propagate malicious code or software onto your computer.

Associated with: Relationship, Extortion, Emergency, Social Networking, SMS/Smishing

Article: Know warning signs of a phishing scam


Relationship scam

Victim is led to believe that they have a personal relationship with someone they met online often by social media, in an online forum or on a dating website. The victim is often emotionally invested, often referring to the recipient as a fiancée.

Associated with: Social Networking, Military, Emergency, Extortion

Video: Romance

Article: Looking for love on the Internet in 2016


Rental Property scam

Victim sends money for deposit on a rental property and never receives access to the rental property or the victim may also be the property owner who is sent a check from the renter and asked to send a portion of the check back using a money transfer and the check bounces.

Associated with: Internet Purchase, Fake Check, Overpayment

Video: Advanced Fee

Article: Western Union and Better Business Bureau Fight Online Rental Scams, Consumer need to be on guard against common rental scams


Social Networking scam

If a cybercriminal gains access to your social media accounts, they also gain access to your close friends and family. Criminals and con artists can take advantage of how much personal information people share online, and then use this information to make skillful and highly targeted pitches to their friends and family, often involving requests for money.

Associated with: Phishing, Emergency, Grandparent, Military, SMS/Smishing, Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Relationship, Identity Theft

Article: Be safe while getting social to avoid social media scams



Beware of texts that spark urgency, asking you to click on a link, taking you to a compromised site, or get you to unwittingly divulge some personal information that could be used against you.

Associated with: Identity Theft, Phishing, Anti-Virus, Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Lottery/Prize


Tax scam

Victim is contacted by someone claiming to be from a governmental agency saying that money is owed for taxes, and it must be paid immediately to avoid arrest, deportation or suspension of driver’s license/passport. The victim is instructed to send a money transfer or purchase a pre-loaded debit card to pay the taxes. Government agencies will never demand immediate payment or call about taxes without first having mailed a bill.

Associated with: Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Overpayment

Article: Western Union Urges Consumers to Stay Alert for IRS Impersonation Phone ScamCash clever: Be too smart for these tax-time phone scams



Telemarketing broadly covers almost any commercial transaction that involves the use of a telephone to place or receive calls between a consumer and a telemarketer or seller for the transferring of funds, such as cash-to-cash money transfers or funds loaded onto a prepaid card, as payment for goods or services offered or sold through telemarketing, often relating to a promotion for a “free” or heavily discounted vacation, prize or sweepstakes scams, or the sale of “bargain” magazines.

Associated with: Charity, Advanced Fee/Prepayment, Rental Property, Lottery/Prize, Internet Purchase, Identity Theft


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