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10 common fraud schemes and how to protect your money

There are many ways criminals will attempt to take money from you. Some schemes may seem obvious; however, you can never be too careful. Here are 10 of the most common fraud schemes, often involving love, charity, greed or all of the above.

elderly woman looking at phone with text-grandma, grandpa, I need help

1. Romance

The Scheme: You are befriended by someone overseas who becomes your fiancée or significant other after a few exchanges. They claim to be military members, princes, rich widows, or any random station in life that sounds responsible. They would love to come and meet you but cannot come because of travel restrictions. To help them see you and marry you, you just need to send some money for a lawyer to work the system and pay for a plane ticket.

The Reality: The amount of money will slowly increase until you have no more. The requests are always urgent and always tell you not to tell the bank or family what is happening. They say they are the only one who knows and understands you. You are being scammed. Once you run out of money, you won’t hear from them again.

The Prevention: Be wary when meeting potential partners online. If the relationship escalates quickly from introduction to love, it’s probably a scam. Never send money to someone you have not met in person. If you think you are being scammed report them to the dating website you are using.

Infographic outlining common fraud schemes #1-5
2. Friendship

The Scheme: You are befriended by someone online and after a few exchanges, they confide in you how they need help. Their daughter needs surgery but the hospital and doctors need cash up front. They will die without your help.

The Reality: The surgery costs rise and the cure will never happen. This person isn’t really a friend, and they don’t really have a sick child.

The Prevention: Never send money to someone you have not met in person. If you think you are being scammed report them to the website you are using and block all further contact.

3. Facebook Friends

The Scheme: One of your many Facebook friends reaches out to you for help. You have known them since high school, so you send them money.

The Reality: Unfortunately, your friend’s Facebook account was taken over by a scammer and you sent money to a stranger.

The Prevention: Before you send money to a friend, always have a conversation over the phone or in person. If you know them well enough to send money, you know them well enough to call and say hi before you send any money to their home address.

4. Distraught Grandchildren

The Scheme: Your grandchild calls you out of the blue and says they are in trouble. They are in jail or the hospital or need to get married and do not want their parents to know. They want you to send some money to Canada to help.

The Reality: This is likely a scam and you will end up sending money to a stranger in a foreign country, not your grandchild.

The Prevention: Call your grandchild or their parents to verify the story. The grandchildren are almost always perfectly safe.

5. Prince or Government official

The Scheme: Someone contacts you and needs help. They have millions of dollars that they cannot get out of their home country. They need help with customs or taxes or bribes to get it out of the country. They ask you to send them money (or your bank account number) and some of their fortune will be yours.

The Reality: The requests for bribes, wires, attorney fees and funds will never end. If it sounds too good to be true, it always is. No one is going to give you free money.

The Prevention: Block the email address who sent you this request and report it as a phishing email to your email provider.

Infographic outlining common fraud schemes #6-10
6. Lottery or Sweepstakes You Never Entered

The Scheme: You won the Jamaican lottery. Just need to pay taxes to get the money through customs. The customs collectors need more money.

The Reality: This is a scam. Your fees will continue till you have borrowed money and the non-existent lottery funds from the non-existent lottery will still be stuck in Jamaica (or Canada or anywhere).

The Prevention: If you didn’t buy a Jamaican lottery ticket, you are not going to win the Jamaican lottery. Block the phone number or email who is trying to contact you about this.

7. Customs Clearance/Advance Fee

The Scheme: Someone you met needs help getting a very valuable item or cash through US Customs or out of another country. A simple customs fee will move the funds. There is even a very official looking email from Customs saying they need several thousand dollars to release the cargo or money.

The Reality: The official email is actually a scam (especially with so many spelling and grammatical errors) and the fees to clear customs will continue to increase until you have no more money to give.

The Prevention: Block the email address who sent you this request and report it as a phishing email to your email provider.

8. Internet Sale

The Scheme: You want to sell a car on the internet. Someone sends you a $15,000 cashier check for your $10,000 car. Just deposit the money and send the extra back.

The Reality: After the car is shipped and the extra cash is wired out, the check bounces. You are out a car and $5,000 more in cash.

The Prevention: If someone asks you to send money out of your account as part of a sale, you are being scammed. Report this person to the website you are using to sell your items and destroy the check you were sent.

9. Internet Loan

The Scheme: You need some money and your credit is not as good as you want. You apply to a website that appears legitimate and they send you a check for the loan. They want a small portion back to show good faith and that you will repay the full loan.

The Reality: The loan check bounces and you are out the “good faith” money. This scheme also works where you give them all your account information to direct deposit the loan funds. They now can steal your identity.

The Prevention: Instead of going online for a loan, talk to your banker. They may have a way to help clean up that credit and get you the loan you need.

10. Internet Job

The Scheme: You find a job as an assistant to an overseas business. You need to open a bank account for them and they will start sending you funds to distribute to customers in the US or other places. Wires/ACH/Checks start appearing and you are told where to send the money as part of your job.

The Reality: Soon after, you are told the funds you received were stolen and now you are responsible for the theft and missing money.

The Prevention: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Research the company beforehand. Chances are you won’t find any evidence they exist. If it does seem like a real company, contact them to make sure the employee and job opportunity actually exists.

Scammers hope you are too embarrassed to tell anyone that you fell for a scheme or too proud to admit you were tricked and keep sending money their way to show you were right all along. If you think you are being scammed check with someone you trust. A banker attorney can help you protect what you worked so hard to obtain.

We have seen hundreds of customers lose money through fraud and chasing instant riches, kindness, and love. We have never seen a single customer become instantly rich or married because of a random stranger’s generosity or love, so please be careful and consider this a warning.

The information provided in these articles is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as the opinion of Central Bancompany, Inc., and/or its affiliates and does not imply endorsement or support of any of the mentioned information, products, services, or providers. All information presented is without any representation, guaranty, or warranty regarding the accuracy, relevance, or completeness of the information.