Online Scam Investigations & Online Scam Detective Services for Online Scam Victims
Credit & Loan Offers
Going into Business
Lottery & Sweepstakes
Attempts to gain your personal information
Scammers use all kinds of sneaky approaches to steal your personal details. Once obtained, they can use your identity to commit fraudulent activities such as using your credit card or opening a bank account.
Buying or selling
Buying or selling
Scammers prey on consumers and businesses that are buying or selling products and services. Not every transaction is legitimate.
Dating & romance
Dating & romance
Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.
Scammers impersonate genuine charities and ask for donations or contact you claiming to collect money after natural disasters or major events.
If you are looking for a fast way to make money, watch out – scammers have invented all sorts of fake money-making opportunities to prey on your enthusiasm and get hold of your cash.
Jobs & employment
Jobs & employment
Jobs and employment scams trick you into handing over your money by offering you a ‘guaranteed’ way to make fast money or a high-paying job for little effort.
Threats & extortion
Threats & extortion
Scammers will use any means possible to steal your identity or your money – including threatening your life or ‘hijacking’ your computer.
Scammers invent convincing and seemingly legitimate reasons to give you false hope about offers of money. There are no get-rich-quick schemes, so always think twice before handing over your details or dollars.
Don’t be lured by a surprise win. These scams try to trick you into giving money upfront or your personal information in order to receive a prize from a lottery or competition that you never entered.
For-Profit Colleges & Universities
Home Improvements & Repairs
Internet Fraud & Current Online Scams
Mortgage Complaints & Mortgage Help
National Do Not Call Registry
Online Legal Forms
Caller ID Spoofing
IRS Phone Scam
Tech Support Scam
Utility Phone Scams
Protecting Children Online
Right to Cancel
TV: Satellite and Cable Television Complaints
On This Page
Equifax Data Breach Telephone Scams
Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
Census Related Fraud
Government Grant Scams
Equifax Data Breach
Top 5 Scams
Online Purchase Scam
Internet Love Scam
Top 5 social media scams
Authored by a Symantec employee
We’re wired to be social creatures, and sites like Twitter and Facebook have capitalized on this to great success. According to its COO Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook draws 175 million logins every day.
5 tips for social media security and privacy
Your own accounts might seem too small to tempt scammers, but even with just a few followers your information is a valuable commodity. Read on for tips to stay safe on social networks.
But with this tremendous popularity comes a dark side as well. Virus writers and other cybercriminals go where the numbers are — and that includes popular social media sites. To help you avoid a con or viral infection, we’ve put together this list of the top five social media scams.
- Chain Letters
You’ve likely seen this one before — the dreaded chain letter has returned. It may appear in the form of, “Retweet this and Bill Gates will donate $5 million to charity!” But hold on, let’s think about this. Bill Gates already does a lot for charity. Why would he wait for something like this to take action? Answer: He wouldn’t. Both the cause and claim are fake.
So why would someone post this? Good question. It could be some prankster looking for a laugh, or a spammer needing “friends” to hit up later. Many well-meaning people pass these fake claims onto others. Break the chain and inform them of the likely ruse.
- Cash Grabs
By their very nature, social media sites make it easy for us to stay in touch with friends, while reaching out to meet new ones. But how well do you really know these new acquaintances? That person with the attractive profile picture who just friended you — and suddenly needs money — is probably some cybercriminal looking for easy cash. Think twice before acting. In fact, the same advice applies even if you know the person.
Picture this: You just received an urgent request from one of your real friends who “lost his wallet on vacation and needs some cash to get home.” So, being the helpful person you are, you send some money right away, per his instructions. But there’s a problem: Your friend never sent this request. In fact, he isn’t even aware of it. His malware-infected computer grabbed all of his contacts and forwarded the bogus email to everyone, waiting to see who would bite.
Again, think before acting. Call your friend. Inform him of the request and see if it’s true. Next, make sure your computer isn’t infected as well.
- Hidden Charges
“What type of STAR WARS character are you? Find out with our quiz! All of your friends have taken it!” Hmm, this sounds interesting, so you enter your info and cell number, as instructed. After a few minutes, a text turns up. It turns out you’re more Yoda than Darth Vader. Well, that’s interesting … but not as much as your next month’s cell bill will be.
You’ve also just unwittingly subscribed to some dubious service that charges $9.95 every month.
As it turns out, that “free, fun service” is neither. Be wary of these bait-and-switch games. They tend to thrive on social sites.
- Phishing Requests
“Somebody just put up these pictures of you drunk at this wild party! Check ’em out here!” Huh? Let me see that! Immediately, you click on the enclosed link, which takes you to your Twitter or Facebook login page. There, you enter your account info — and a cybercriminal now has your password, along with total control of your account.
How did this happen? Both the email and landing page were fake. That link you clicked took you to a page that only looked like your intended social site. It’s called phishing, and you’ve just been had. To prevent this, make sure your Internet security includes antiphishing defenses. Many freeware programs don’t include this essential protection.
- Hidden URLs
Beware of blindly clicking on shortened URLs. You’ll see them everywhere on Twitter, but you never know where you’re going to go since the URL (“Uniform Resource Locator,” the Web address) hides the full location. Clicking on such a link could direct you to your intended site, or one that installs all sorts of malware on your computer.
URL shorteners can be quite useful. Just be aware of their potential pitfalls and make sure you have real-time protection against spyware and viruses.
Bottom line: Sites that attract a significant number of visitors are going to lure in a criminal element, too. If you take security precautions ahead of time, such as using antivirus and anti-spyware protection, you can defend yourself against these dangers and surf with confidence.
The 419 – Advance Fee Scam
The 419, or “Nigerian Scam,” is one of the most common scams on the Internet, one you may have already seen in your own inbox. According to the FBI, this fraudulent scheme, named after the article of Nigerian Criminal Code that outlaws fraud, drew $12.7 billion into the pockets of fraudsters between 2013 and 2018.
The scammer usually claims to be a member of a wealthy Nigerian or another West African family, reaching out to you personally after the death of a loved one. He or she seeks to relocate a large fortune out of the country for safekeeping purposes and into your bank account. The catch? You must submit small payments for fees in return for a large chunk of their cash cache.
You should not respond to these requests, and, furthermore, you should never volunteer your bank details. Any correspondence should be sent directly to the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service or the Federal Trade Commission.
You receive a letter or an email declaring that you have been pre-approved for either a credit card or bank loan. Those experiencing financial strain may fall victim to this scam, which promises instant approval and appealing credit limits. The catch? You must pay a fee upfront and at the time of sign-up.
Keep in mind that though credit card companies do charge annual fees, you will never be asked to pay them at sign-up. Accredited banks won’t know your credit situation and pre-approve you unsolicited.
The Phishing Scam
You receive an email from a seemingly familiar enterprise you deem legitimate such as your bank, university or a retailer you frequent. The message directs you to a site – usually to verify personal information such as email addresses and passwords – that then steals your information and exposes your computer to attack by scammers. Phishing scams are some of the most common out there. It is widely believed the Target data breach, which reached millions of victims, started with a phishing email scam.
According to a 2018 CNBC report, phishing scams resulted in approximately $5.2 billion in losses between 2013 and 2016, with the average scam costing victims as much as $130,000.
You should never click the links provided in suspicious emails. Doing so will make your computer and personal information vulnerable to viruses and malware. Again, though the sender may seem legitimate – which is exactly what the scammer wants you to believe – no reputable institution will ask for your password or other key personal information online. Phishing emails will often contain typos or grammatical errors, and the sender’s email address often looks suspicious.
Disaster Relief Scams
When disaster strikes, so do fraudsters. Hiding behind the guise of an actual aid organization, scammers will use a tragedy or natural disaster to con you out of your money. By thinking you’re donating to an emergency relief fund, you unwittingly provide credit card or other e-payment information.
After Hurricane Florence in 2018, scammers began targeting various parts of the country, trying to get victims to divulge their personal information in order to commit fraud or identity theft. The Attorney General of Virginia issued a notice warning residents to be vigilant, telling them disaster relief officials would never ask for financial or other information over the phone.
Only give to established, legitimate organizations. Visit www.guidestar.org or www.charitynavigator.org to verify the validity of the charitable organization in question.
Scammers have added social media to their bag of tricks. By posting enticing photos on sites like Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook subsidiary Instagram, scammers have been known to dupe even the savviest of travelers. Upon clicking the image – which lures clicks through the promise of a free trip or plane tickets – you will be prompted to either complete a survey rife with personal information or open your computer up to secretly malicious software.
Make sure the social media page you’re on is an accredited account. All major airlines and travel sites will have their social media handles on their respective web pages. Don’t be fooled by a Twitter account that appears to be that of a major airline like JetBlue.
Debt Relief Scams
Individuals who are down on their luck can easily fall for an email claiming to relieve their debt. This scam makes the false promise of collaborating with creditors to either consolidate or settle debts. All you need to do? Pay an up-front fee for the services.
As with the credit card scam seen earlier, you should never volunteer your personal financial information to facilitate an up-front fee. This is especially dangerous if you’re already in a dire financial situation.
Congratulations! You’ve won the lottery or some other large amount of money! Except you haven’t. This bogus email comes to you out-of-the-blue –usually claiming to be a part of international sweepstakes – stressing you’ve won big and that you just need to send over a processing fee or get in touch with someone who can process your winnings.
Unless you have entered some legitimate lottery, chances are you haven’t won the jackpot. When you win the lottery, you contact the appropriate retailer – not the other way around.
Fake Check or Money Transfer
You list something on an auction-based website, and the winning bidder offers to pay you more than the offered purchase price via cashier’s, corporate or personal check. Upon receiving the scammer’s counterfeit check, you are conned into sending the difference back through bank wire. Then you have to pay the bank back in full once the fake check bounces.
Never accept payment for more than your selling price. Additionally, you should opt for a secure form of e-payment, such as PayPal or Google Wallet, to ward off scammers.
The Bottom Line
It’s safe to assume that if anyone is asking for your bank or personal information, you’re being taken for a scam. You should never give out personal information to anyone on the internet who contacts you directly. If you have to make a financial transaction online, make sure you’re doing so on a secure server and through a reputable site.
If for any reason you believe you’ve been scammed, you should immediately change all of your passwords and delete any malicious software you may have downloaded. And always remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, you should contact your local law enforcement authorities. You can also report the scam to the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Complaints can also be filed to your state attorney general’s office or the consumer protection agency.