What are common scams and how do I spot them?
Offers that sound too good to be true, probably are: Most of us are careful if a stranger approaches on the street and offers a deal that’s just too good to be true. But we’re much less cautious online, putting us at risk.
Advance fee fraud: If you get an offer for free money, there’s probably a catch. Typically, fraudsters will ask you to send some smaller amount (for taxes, for legal documents, etc.) before they can send you the millions you’re promised, but which they never intend to send you.
How to avoid this scam: Don’t wire money to someone you don’t know.
A customer sends a PayPal payment that is more than the purchase price of the order, and then asks you to wire them the difference.
They may tell you that they accidentally overpaid you, the extra money is for the shipping costs, they’re giving you a bonus for your great service or the money is for the stress they’ve caused you.
They may even ask you to wire the shipping fees to their shipper.
This scammer may have paid with a stolen credit card, bank account number or checking account.
Just because a payment has been deposited into your account, doesn’t mean the money is yours to keep. If the legitimate account holder reports unauthorized activity, the money can be withdrawn from your account.
If that happens, you’ll lose the money you wired to the fraudster, the product you shipped, shipping costs and your payment.
How to avoid this scam:
- Don’t wire money to someone you don’t know. A legitimate buyer won’t overpay you for an order.
- If a customer overpays you and asks you to wire them the difference, consider canceling the order—it’s very likely to be fraudulent.
- Don’t wire money to the bogus shipping company—it’s part of their scam to get your money.
Messages asking you to pay a small handling fee to collect some fabulous prize are usually a scam. You send the handling fee and get nothing in return.
How to avoid this scam: Don’t send money to someone you don’t know. A legitimate prize won’t require you to pay in order to receive it.
High profit – no risk investments
These types of investments are usually scams and include messages insisting that you “Act Now!” for a great deal.
How to avoid this scam: Discontinue communication with this person/company.
Scammers use disasters to trick kind-hearted people into donating to fake charities. This usually happens when there is a refugee crisis, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster (like an earthquake, flooding or famine).
How to avoid this scam:
Thoroughly check the background of any charity to make sure your donation goes to real victims. Use resources to check out charities, like the ones below:
If a charity does not have a website, be cautious.
To learn more about common scams and how to avoid them, search online for advance fee fraud. You can also read the FBI’s material on common types of scams. Most importantly: be as cautious online as you would be in the real world.