Here is a listing of most commonly encountered scams and schemes. Familiarize yourself and avoid falling prey to schemes!
Account verification or "phisher" scams: For several years, individuals have purchased domain names that are similar to those of legitimate companies. It may be in a form such as: abccompany-accounts.net. The real company is abccompany but it does not have a "-accounts" in its domain. These con artists then send out millions of emails asking consumers to verify account information and even SSN. Prior to agreeing to do this, check with the company directly and see if the email originally was sent from them. In almost all cases, you will be told that it is a scam.
Sign-in Rosters: There are some companies and governmental agencies (colleges, EDD, state-sponsored programs) that ask you to put your name and SSN on a sign-in roster. Please be aware that identity thieves may sign up toward the end of a page (purposely) so that they can copy and collect personal identifying information. If you encounter a sign-in roster like this, the best way to handle the situation is to write the following instead of your SSN - "will provide in person." You might also question a company/school representative about this practice and see if you can get it discontinued. It is dangerous and should be stopped. Some state laws will be addressing this in the next year or so. If this is a classroom situation and you do not need the credits, you may choose to leave the space for SSN either blank or filled in with 000-00-0000. Please do not make up a number. It might belong to another innocent person and hurt his or her credit.
"Help move money from my country," aka Nigerian 419 Scam: Everyone has received an email from a representative of a foreign government asking you to help move money from one account to another. This scan still nets $100 million annually so people are falling for it. Nigerian Money Offers now account for about 12 percent of the scam offers people have said they've received, according to a recent National Consumers League poll. However complaints about these offers increased 900 percent from 2000 to 2001. The latest versions of this scam include a dying woman, a soldier and emails other than from Nigeria.
Canadian/Netherlands Lottery: "You Have Won"- Unless you entered a lottery or bought a ticket to win a prize, these are scams. They originate from the Netherlands and other foreign countries. This scam can cost you more than $20,000. Many include: From: "Promotions Manager" : CONGRATULATIONS! WERKEN BIJ DE LOTTO, 41132, NL-1007 DB AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. NEW- Via US Mail there is a new scam about a "Spanish Lottery." Do not respond, turn it over to your local postal inspector.
"You have won a free gift" : You may receive either a phone call or email about a free gift or prize. You just need to send your credit card info to take care of shipping and handling. DON'T. Free means free, there should be no charge. Also, you must consider if this is a group sending out a cheap gift in exchange for finding a "live" phone number or email address. Responding may result in hundreds of spans or telemarketing calls.
Check Cashing Jobs Many people have been placing their resumes on various Internet sites provided job-finding services. They have been contacted by various companies that ultimately send checks to them to cash and return overage monies to the company at an overseas address. The checks are found to be counterfeit. Remember that there really are no businesses that cannot cash their own checks and sending them to you to cash for them should indicate that something is wrong.
Check Overpayment Scams "Check overpayment" scams target consumers selling cars or other valuable items through classified ads or online auction sites. Unsuspecting sellers get stuck with a big loss when scammers pass off bogus cashier's checks, corporate checks, or personal checks. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a new consumer alert, "Check Overpayment Scams: Seller Beware" that explains this scam and offers consumers tips on how to protect themselves and their pocketbooks.
According to the FTC, a check overpayment scam begins when a scam artist replies to the classified ad or auction posting and offers to purchase the item for sale with a check, then comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price for the item. The scammer asks the consumer to wire back the difference after the check is deposited. Later, the scammer’s check bounces, leaving the consumer liable for the entire amount. The FTC says the scam is able to progress because, though the checks are counterfeit, they may look good enough to fool bank tellers.
The FTC gives the following tips to avoid check overpayment scams:
In another version of the scam, a consumer is asked to pay taxes or fees on "foreign lottery winnings" When he or she goes to cash the "winnings" check, the sender claims to be trapped in a foreign country with no way to produce the cash. The FTC offers the following advice for consumers: throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or "free" gift; and do not enter foreign lotteries; most solicitations for them are fraudulent, and it is illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or by telephone.
If you think you've been targeted by a check overpayment scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). For more information on buying or selling via an Internet auction site, visit www.ftc.gov/onlineshopping.