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Common Scams and How to Spot Them

July 19, 2021

Common Scams At-A-Glance

  • Romance – How much does your love cost?
  • Secret Shopper – Are you cashing fake checks?
  • Advanced Fee – Did you win, or are you losing?
  • Elderly Abuse – Is your grandchild really in trouble?
  • Social Security/IRS/Government – Why would the IRS need a gift card?
  • Tech Support – These folks never call.

Taking an In-Depth Look

Romance Scams

Using fake online dating profiles with photos of other people to lure their victims, scammers often say they are from the U.S. but are temporarily traveling or working overseas—requesting money for reasons such as a plane ticket, other travel expenses, and custom fees—all needed to get back into the country. Once the money is wired they’re never heard from again. Other variations of romance scams can include fraudsters trying to acquire your online banking credentials or having you open bank accounts for them.

Secret Shopper Scams

This scam involves receiving a counterfeit cashier’s check ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. The victim is instructed to cash the check and purchase money orders and gift cards and send them to the scammers—keeping a percentage of the check for their efforts. The counterfeit check is subsequently returned unpaid and charged back to the member’s account.

Advanced Fee Scams

In an advanced fee scam, the scammer informs a victim that they have won a large award like a fake lottery or that they are entitled to a large inheritance from a deceased relative. But before the victim can receive the money, they must supposedly pay taxes and fees. As a result, the victim ends up wiring funds to the scammer but never hears from them again.

Elderly Scams

Just as they sound, elderly scams target seniors where the scammer will call a loved one, often a grandparent, pretending to be a grandchild or other relative in distress. They will often indicate they have been arrested and need bail money or are at the border and trying to get back into the country and they need money wired to them, usually by Western Union. The best way to beat this scam is to simply call the grandchild or another family member at a number of record to double check the facts. A variation of this scam can involve an “attorney” calling on behalf of the person in trouble.

Social Security / IRS / Government Scams

The Social Security Administration and Office of the Inspector General continue to receive reports of scammers impersonating SSA employees over the phone to request personal information or money. Imposters may threaten you and demand immediate payment to avoid arrest or legal action. Many scam calls “spoof” official government numbers, such as SSA’s National 800 Number, the Social Security Fraud Hotline, local Social Security field offices, or local police numbers. In addition, impostors may use legitimate names and phone numbers of SSA employees.

Similarly, you can get a call from someone who says they’re from the IRS. Additionally, the caller may know some of your SSN. They say that you owe back taxes, or you’re involved in money laundering, drugs, etc. They threaten to sue you, arrest / deport you, or revoke your SSN or license if you don’t pay right away. In order to avoid legal action, you asked for your account info or asked to send money in the form of gift cards, wire transfer or cash.

Tech Support Scams

This one is simple and even simpler to beat. A scammer will call you saying they are a computer technician and that your computer may have viruses or other malware. Maybe they say they are from Apple Support or Microsoft—won’t you give them remote access to your computer to help you fix the problem? The easy way to avoid this scam is to remember: computer tech support people will not call you. And now you’re good to go.