While scams vary widely, nearly 95% of all internet and phone scams can be classified into one of 30 general types. In no particular order, they are:
Advance Fee Loan Scams – In this scam, a loan is guaranteed but, once the victim pays upfront charges such as taxes or a processing fee, the loan never materializes.
Business E-mail Compromise – This financial fraud targets businesses engaged in international commerce. Scammers gain access to company e-mail and trick employees into sending money to a “supplier” or “business partner” overseas.
Charity Scams – Charity scams use deception to get money from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charities. This is particularly common in the wake of a natural disaster or other tragedy.
Counterfeit Products – Counterfeit goods mimic original merchandise, right down to the trademarked logo, but are typically of inferior quality. This can be a life-threatening health or safety hazard when the counterfeit item is medication or an auto part.
Credit Card Scams – This con typically involves impersonation of a bank or other credit card issuer. By verifying account information, con artists try to fool their targets into sharing credit card or banking information.
Credit Repair/Debt Relief Scams – Scammers posing as legitimate services collect payment in advance with promises of debt relief and repaired credit but provide little or nothing in return.
Debt Collection Scams – In this con, phony debt collectors harass their targets, trying to get them to pay debts they don’t owe.
Employment Scams – Victims of employment scams are led to believe they are applying or have just been hired for a promising new career while they have, in fact, given personal information or money to scammers for “training” or “equipment.” In another variation, the victim may be “overpaid” with a fake check and asked to wire back the difference.
Fake Checks and Money Orders – In this con, the victim deposits a phony check and then returns a portion by wire transfer to the scammer. The stories vary, but the victim is often told they are refunding an “accidental” overpayment. Scammers count on the fact that banks make funds available within days of a deposit, but can take weeks to detect a fake check.
Fake Invoice Scams – This scam targets businesses. Scammers attempt to fool employees into paying for products that the business did not order and that may not even exist. Fake invoices are often for office supplies, website or domain hosting services and directory listings.
Family/Friend Emergency Scams – This scheme involves the impersonation of a friend or family member in a fabricated urgent or dire situation. The “loved one” invariably pleads for money to be sent immediately. Aided by personal details provided on social media, imposters can offer very plausible stories to convince their targets.
Government Grant Scams – In this con, individuals are enticed by promises of free, guaranteed government grants. The only catch is a “processing fee.” Other fees follow, but the promised grant never materializes.
Health Care, Medicaid and Medicare Scams – These schemes run the gamut, with many attempting to defraud private or government health care programs. The con artist is often after the insured’s health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare information to submit fraudulent medical charges or for purposes of identity theft.
Home Improvement Scams – In this con, door-to-door solicitors offer quick, low-cost repairs and then either take payments without returning, do shoddy work or “find” issues that dramatically raise the price.
Identity Theft – Identity thieves use personal information (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank account information and credit card numbers) to pose as another individual. This may include opening a credit account, draining an existing account, filing tax returns or obtaining medical coverage.
Investment Scams – These scams take many forms, but all prey on the desire to make money without much risk or initial investment. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Moving Scams – These schemes involve rogue moving services offering discounted pricing to move household items. They may steal the items or hold them hostage, demanding additional funds to deliver them to the new location.
Foreign Money Exchange Scams – In this scam, the target receives an e-mail from a government official, member of royalty, or a business owner offering a huge sum for help getting money out of their country. The victim fronts costs for the transfer believing that they will be repaid.