Anyone can become a target for fraud. Learn more about how to spot scams related to:
Online auction sites have become a popular way to link sellers with buyers — but auction fraud has become one of the most common Internet-related schemes. The vast majority of transactions on Internet auction sites are legitimate. However, online sellers may take advantage of a buyer’s desire for a product by driving up bidding or making an offer appear better than it really is. And counterfeit goods are sometimes sold through online auctions.
The phrase “collection agency” often spurs consumers into settling their debts — and fraudsters love any scheme that will entice someone to pay money quickly. With collection fraud, the victim is coerced into paying a debt that he or she may not even owe — or even threatened with possible arrest if a payment is not made.
The idea of winning millions in a lottery can be exciting. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Legitimate lotteries never ask for money in exchange for a prize, but in most lottery scams, you are asked to pay taxes, bank fees and even shipping or storage charges. Many “lucky winners” have ended up losing thousands of dollars.
A scammer may send a counterfeit check and instruct the recipient to keep a portion of the amount but wire back the remainder. The victim ends up losing the wired amount and paying the bank’s insufficient funds fee after the check bounces. If you receive an unsolicited check or money order, be suspicious: Companies and individuals don’t send money out without reason.
This type of fraud is limited to time-share owners or those interested in purchasing a time-share. Experts say it can escalate during economic downturns. A disreputable company may offer to help buy, sell or upgrade a time-share for an upfront fee. After you pay the fee, however, the company vanishes without providing services.
These jobs often promise income of hundreds or even thousands of dollars a week for performing menial tasks from the comfort of your own home. They can sound too good to be true — and usually are. Most work-at-home jobs make money only for those who promote them.
Anyone who owns a computer or other electronic device connected to the Internet could be a target for this scam. Passwords and antivirus software can help protect your computer and the information that is stored there. But what if someone were able to enter your computer without your knowledge? To help prevent computer intrusion, always keep your virus detection software current.
Credit and Debit Card Fraud
Most of us likely can’t imagine life without a credit or debit card. But sometimes, what is convenient for us is also convenient for a thief. As a cardholder, always sign the back of your card. If you have a debit card, never give your PIN to anyone, and never write your PIN on your card. And always check your monthly statements to validate your activity.
The identity thief uses someone else’s reputation to obtain money, conceal his or her identity, receive services or secure employment. With synthetic identity theft, an imposter creates a new identity by altering the victim’s personal information so that credit bureaus create subfiles for the new accounts. If your identity is used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes, it can cost you time and money. Identity theft can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.
Phishing — pronounced “fishing” — is a high-tech scam that utilizes pop-ups, emails and fraudulent websites to try to “hook” you into divulging personal financial information. Once you’ve entered this information, the thief can do lasting damage to your financial accounts.
Some scam artists may prey on people’s good intentions, collecting donations that never make it to the intended recipients. If you have a bad feeling about donating to a particular charity, trust your instincts.
When a grandchild calls with an immediate need for cash, the grandparent often feels compelled to help. But make sure the voice on the other end of the line really is your grandchild. Scam artists have been known to impersonate loved ones over the telephone just to solicit fast cash from older adults. Be careful of what information you provide. A good way to confirm the caller’s identity is to ask questions that only your loved one could answer.
This scam often involves an overseas attorney searching for a beneficiary for his deceased client. Few people would turn down the unexpected financial windfall of a surprise inheritance — but these scams come with strings attached. You should never pay money in order to get money.
Long-distance Relationship Scam
Scammers often use email and other social media channels to ask for help. As the online relationship develops, so does your trust. At some point, the scammer will request money for an urgent need — and may claim “you are my last hope.” If you send a payment, inevitably more money will be needed. The scammer hopes to empty your accounts before you catch on.
If you’ve been victimized by a scam involving your Edward Jones account, contact your local Edward Jones advisor for further guidance.