Overview of Common Scams: Part Three

man frustrated on laptop

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has investigators hard at work to identify scam artists and stop them before they can steal from others. There are many different types of scams currently out there, with fraudsters getting sneakier and trickier every day.

Identity Theft

How it works:

Someone gets your personal information and runs up bills in your name. They might use your Social Security or Medicare number, your credit card, or your medical insurance—along with your good name.

How would you know? You could get bills for things you didn’t buy or services you didn’t get. Your bank account might have withdrawals you didn’t make. You might not get bills you expect. Or, you could check your credit report and find accounts you never knew about.

What to do:

Protect your information. Put yourself in another person’s shoes. Where would they find your credit card or Social Security number? Protect your personal information by shredding documents before you throw them out, by giving your Social Security number only when you must, and by using strong passwords online.

Read your monthly statements and check your credit. When you get your account statements and explanations of benefits, read them for accuracy. You should recognize what’s there. Once a year, get your credit report for free from AnnualCreditReport.com or 1-877-322-8228. The law entitles you to one free report each year from each credit reporting company. If you see something you don’t recognize, you will be able to deal with it.

IRS Imposter Scams

How it works:

You get a call from someone who says she’s from the IRS. She says that you owe back taxes. She threatens to sue you, arrest or deport you, or revoke your license if you don’t pay right away. She tells you to put money on a prepaid debit card and give her the card numbers.

The caller may know some of your Social Security number. And your caller ID might show a Washington, DC area code. But is it really the IRS calling?

No. The real IRS won’t ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. They also won’t ask for a credit card over the phone. And when the IRS first contacts you about unpaid taxes, they do it by mail, not by phone. And caller IDs can be faked.

What to do:

Stop. Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card. Once you send it, the money is gone. If you have tax questions, go to irs.gov or call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

Work at Home Scams

How it works:

You see an ad saying you can earn big money at home. Or one that offers help starting an online business—with a proven system to make money online. Or maybe your resume is on a job search website and someone calls: they want your driver’s license and bank account numbers before they interview you.

What happens next? If you answer the ad to work from home, they’ll ask you for money for training or special access. But there’ll be no job. If you buy that “proven system,” you’ll get pressure to pay more for extra services. But you won’t get anything that really helps you start a business or make money. And if you give that caller your driver’s license and bank account numbers, they might steal your identity or your money.

What to do:

Stop. Check it out. Never pay money to earn money. And don’t share personal information until you’ve done your research. Search online for the company name and the words “review,” “scam” or “complaint.”

Online Dating Scams

How it works:

You meet someone special on a dating website. Soon he wants to move off the dating site to email or phone calls. He tells you he loves you, but he lives far away—maybe for business, or because he’s in the military.

Then he asks for money. He might say it’s for a plane ticket to visit you. Or emergency surgery. Or something else urgent.

Scammers, both male and female, make fake dating profiles, sometimes using photos of other people—even stolen pictures of real military personnel. They build relationships—some even fake wedding plans—before they disappear with your money.

What to do:

Stop. Don’t send money. Never wire money, put money on a prepaid debit card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.

Related: Is That Online Romance Actually a Scam?

Please Report Scams

Do you think someone is trying to scam you? Contact Fidelity Bank or your current bank to help monitor your account for suspicious activity. If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission so they can help other potential victims.

  • Call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261
  • Go online: ftc.gov/complaint

The Fidelity Bank team wants to help our customers keep their money safe. If you want to make a transfer of funds, we can help advise a safer way to move money instead of common scam methods like cryptocurrency, prepaid gift cards, cash or wire transfers. Contact us.

Discover other common scams that the FTC has seen reported.


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