Common Scams

The Person-in-Need Scam

Elderly relatives are often a target of scammers because they are always ready to help a person-in-need or family member. A person calls and claims to be a family member - a grandchild, for instance - who is in trouble and needs money immediately. This can be particularly confusing if you don't have a close relationship with all your relatives and can't accurately recognize their voices.

The scammers may also claim to be a friend often times in a foreign country, a police officer, or a lawyer who is with your family member. They then try to convince you to send money to bail your relative out of jail, pay a fine, or cover emergency car-repair expenses or medical bills. If you get this type of call, be suspicious.

One possible way to protect yourself is to ask questions only a relative would know the answers to. And don't be afraid to call a family member you know well to try to confirm the story. Above all, do NOT send money unless you are 100% sure the story is true.

Others times, this begins when a stranger quickly strikes up a close relationship with you or an elderly relative and then offers to manage your/their finances and assets. Or, you may suddenly begin to notice document signatures that do not resemble yours or an older family member. This is a fairly common financial abuse scam that is often targeted at older, retired individuals. These scammers may attempt to manipulate you or a loved one into turning over property and/or money - in some cases leaving you or them bankrupt.

Financial abuse scams take many forms including telemarketing fraud, identity theft, predatory lending, home improvement, and estate-planning scams. To be safe, it's best to avoid trusting your money with people you don't truly know.

To learn more, watch our video.

The Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam

Everyone wants to win money. And sometimes people do.  But that's what makes this type of scam so dangerously effective.

It usually begins with a phone call or a notice, by mail or email, telling you that you've won something. An indication that this may be a scam is when you are asked to send money to cover something like taxes or processing fees in order to claim your "valuable prize."

Be especially cautious if you do not remember entering any contests.  A legitimate sweepstakes or lottery win almost never requires you to send money to get money. That should stand as a serious "red flag." If someone asks you to do this, more than likely you did not win anything.

As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Perpetrators of this fraud are banking on the possibility that you are so excited about winning, you ignore the randomness of this good fortune and abandon logic to secure the prize.

Think before you send money to anyone.  Be skeptical, it could save you from getting fooled.

To learn more, watch our video.

Tips to Protect Yourself

  • Avoiding Money Transfer Fraud

    Companies that offer money transfers deliver a useful service, however, money transfer fraud, or wire transfer fraud, occurs when scammers convince consumers to send them money and then do not deliver goods services or value promised. According to the Washington State office of the Attorney General, U.S. Consumers lose millions of dollars each year due to money transfer, or wire transfer, scams.

  • Sending Money

    It's especially important to know who you are sending money to first. Money transfer is a useful, fast, and convenient way to send cash to friends and family.  Problems occur when you authorize the delivery of funds to individuals you don't know, or to organizations with questionable backgrounds.

    But there are risks: particularly when you don't know who you are sending the money to. Keep in mind, sending money is the same as sending cash. Once you send it, it's gone, and you can't get it back.

    Anyone can be at risk of money transfer fraud. Scammers target everyone. They look for people who appear to be vulnerable, are unfamiliar with the scheme, and are trusting of others.

  • Signs of Money Transfer Fraud

    Here are some common "red flags" that may indicate a scam - if someone you don't know asks you to wire money to them, asks you to deposit a check and send them back a portion of the money, pretends to be a friend or relative claiming to be in a crisis, and asks you to wire money to them right away, or tells you you've won a prize or contest that you don't remember entering, and asks you to wire money to pay fees, taxes, or customs to receive your prize.

  • Next Steps After Being Scammed

    Contact your local police immediately.

    You can also report suspected incidents of over-the-phone fraud or Internet fraud by submitting an online report to the National Consumers League's Fraud Center. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call toll free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

  • Scammed Online?

    File a report with your local police and contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICCC). The ICCC is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. Try to provide as much detail as you can, including dates, times, and names if available.