An online scammer will deceive and manipulate you. They’ll instill a sense of trust and fear in equal measure just to get to your wallet.
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During the Covid pandemic, scammers deviced new ways to make money from innocent internet users and more recently the Turkey earthquate disaster has also provided them with new opportunities to defraud victims.
The American FBI estimated that losses resulting from internet scams in the year 2022 were amounting to $10.2b. According to this report, losses have been steadily rising since 2018.
It seems that despite widespread warnings and popularity of this scam, the infamous Nigerian letter continues to defraud many victims in the United States.
This article with therefore highlight some common internet scams that are prevalent in the US, and if you’ve been victimized, please read this article to learn what you can do.
Fake charity or disaster relief scams
Disaster relief scams are fraudulent activities that take advantage of natural disasters, emergencies, or humanitarian crises to exploit people’s goodwill and desire to help those in need. These scams can occur both online and offline and typically involve the following tactics:
- Fake Charities: Scammers create fake charitable organizations or websites that claim to collect donations for disaster victims. They often use names similar to legitimate charities to deceive donors. However, the funds received are pocketed by the scammers instead of being used for relief efforts.
- Donation Fraud: Scammers may contact individuals via email, phone, or social media, pretending to represent legitimate relief organizations. They ask for monetary donations or personal information under the guise of providing assistance to disaster victims. However, the funds or information collected are misused for personal gain.
- Fake Government Assistance Programs: Scammers may pose as government officials or representatives of government agencies, claiming to offer special grants, loans, or financial assistance to disaster-affected individuals or businesses. They may request personal information or payment of fees to process these bogus benefits.
The Grandparent scam
The grandparent scam, also known as the grandchild scam, is a common type of fraud that specifically targets elderly individuals by exploiting their love and concern for their grandchildren. The scam typically unfolds as follows:
- Initial Contact: The scammer initiates contact with the target, often via phone call, pretending to be the grandchild or someone claiming to represent the grandchild. They may also gather information about the grandchild through social media or public directories to make the scam more convincing.
- Emergency Situation: The scammer creates a sense of urgency by claiming that the grandchild is in a distressing situation, such as being arrested, involved in an accident, or needing immediate financial assistance for medical treatment or legal fees. They play on the emotions of the grandparent, making them anxious and eager to help.
- Request for Money: The scammer requests the grandparent to send money quickly, typically through wire transfers, prepaid cards, or gift cards. They may provide specific instructions on how to send the funds while emphasizing the need for secrecy, claiming that they do not want other family members to find out.
- Continued Deception: To maintain the deception, scammers often impersonate other individuals, such as lawyers, police officers, or doctors, who corroborate the emergency situation and reinforce the urgency of sending money immediately.
419 Scam or Nigerian letter scam
419 fraud, also known as advance fee fraud or Nigerian Prince scam is a type of scam that originated in Nigeria but has spread to various parts of the world.
The FBI reported that over 11,000 people fell victim of 419 scams in 2022.
The term “419” refers to the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that addresses fraud-related offenses. This scam typically follows a similar pattern:
- Initial Contact: The scammer initiates contact with the victim through email, social media, or other communication channels. They often claim to be a wealthy individual, a government official, or a representative of a business or charity organization.
- Story and Request for Help: The scammer presents a compelling story that typically involves a large sum of money tied up in a legal or bureaucratic issue, such as an inheritance, lottery winnings, or a business opportunity. They claim to need the victim’s assistance in transferring the funds out of their country.
- Advance Fee Request: To entice the victim into participating, the scammer promises a significant portion of the funds as a reward. However, they explain that certain fees, such as legal fees, taxes, or bribes, must be paid upfront to facilitate the transaction. The victim is asked to provide personal financial information or send money to cover these fees.
- Escalating Demands: Once the victim has sent the initial payment, the scammer may continue to request additional fees or present unexpected obstacles, such as unforeseen taxes or administrative costs. They may claim that these additional payments are necessary to release the funds.
- Ghosting or Threats: After extracting as much money as possible, the scammer may disappear and cease all contact with the victim. In some cases, they may resort to threats or intimidation if the victim refuses to comply with their demands.
Pre-approved notice scams
Pre-approved notice scams are a type of fraud where individuals receive deceptive messages or notifications claiming they have been pre-approved for a loan, credit card, or other financial product. These scams typically involve the following elements:
- Unsolicited Contact: Scammers may send emails, text messages, or physical mail to individuals, stating that they have been pre-approved for a loan or credit card, often using enticing language to grab attention. The recipients of these messages may not have applied for such products or may not even be actively seeking them.
- False Sense of Legitimacy: The scammers try to create a sense of legitimacy by mimicking the branding, logos, and language of reputable financial institutions or lenders. They may use official-sounding terminology and claim to have access to special offers or exclusive deals.
- Request for Personal Information: To proceed with the supposed pre-approval process, the scammers ask the recipients to provide personal and financial information, such as their social security number, bank account details, or copies of identification documents. This information can be used for identity theft or other fraudulent activities. To learn how to deal with this problem, read this article.
- Upfront Fees: In some cases, scammers may request upfront fees or payments to secure the pre-approved offer. They may claim these fees are for processing, administrative costs, or credit checks. Once the victims send the money, the scammers disappear, and the promised loan or credit card never materializes.
Bad credit repair scams
Bad credit repair scams are fraudulent schemes that target individuals with poor credit histories, promising to improve their credit scores quickly and easily. These scams take advantage of individuals’ desire to improve their creditworthiness and often involve the following elements:
- False Promises: Scammers make false claims, guaranteeing that they can remove negative information from credit reports or create a new credit identity for the individual. They may promise to eliminate bankruptcies, late payments, or other derogatory marks, even if they are accurate.
- Upfront Fees: Scammers request upfront payments for their services, typically before any work has been done. They may justify these fees as administrative costs, credit report analysis, or processing fees. After receiving payment, the scammers often fail to deliver on their promises or provide minimal and ineffective assistance.
- Identity Theft: In some cases, bad credit repair scams involve identity theft. Scammers may ask individuals to provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account details, or other sensitive data, under the guise of credit repair. This information is then used for fraudulent activities, leading to further harm.
- Dispute Fraudulent Claims: Scammers may encourage individuals to submit false disputes to credit bureaus, disputing accurate negative information on their credit reports. This unethical practice can result in legal consequences and further damage to the individual’s creditworthiness.
Lottery scams are fraudulent schemes that target individuals by claiming that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, often involving a substantial cash prize. These scams aim to deceive victims into providing personal information, sending money, or engaging in other activities that benefit the scammers. Here’s how lottery scams typically operate:
- Notification of Winning: Scammers contact victims through phone calls, emails, text messages, or physical mail, informing them that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, even though the victim may not have entered any such contest. The notifications often use official-sounding language and may include fake documents, logos, or symbols to appear legitimate.
- Request for Personal Information: To claim the supposed prize, the scammers ask the victims to provide personal information such as full name, address, date of birth, bank account details, or even copies of identification documents. This information can be used for identity theft or other fraudulent purposes.
- Payment of Fees or Taxes: The scammers inform the victims that they must pay certain fees, taxes, or other expenses in order to receive the prize. They may claim these charges are necessary to cover processing fees, legal fees, customs fees, or bank transfer fees. Victims are typically asked to send money through wire transfers, prepaid cards, or other untraceable methods.
- Fake Checks or Money Orders: In some cases, scammers may send counterfeit checks or money orders to the victims, instructing them to deposit the funds and then send a portion back to cover taxes or fees. The initial deposit may initially appear successful, but it later bounces, leaving the victim responsible for the full amount.
- Continuous Demands: Scammers may continue to contact victims, claiming that there are additional fees or unforeseen circumstances that require immediate payment. They exploit victims’ hopes of receiving the prize to extract as much money as possible.
Fake money transfer scams
Fake money transfer scams, also known as advance fee fraud or “419 scams,” involve scammers tricking victims into believing they will receive a large sum of money but instead convince them to send money or personal information. Here’s how these scams typically work:
- Initial Contact: Scammers initiate contact with victims through email, social media, online classifieds, or other communication channels. They may pose as a representative of a foreign government, a wealthy individual, a lottery organization, or a business seeking assistance with money transfers.
- Promising a Large Sum: The scammers entice victims by promising a significant amount of money, such as an inheritance, a lottery prize, or a business opportunity. They claim that due to legal, logistical, or administrative reasons, they need the victim’s assistance in transferring the funds.
- Request for Advance Fees: To facilitate the transaction, the scammers request that the victim pays upfront fees or expenses. These fees can include taxes, legal fees, transaction fees, customs fees, or bribes. They may also claim that the fees are necessary to demonstrate the victim’s financial commitment or to expedite the process.
- Fake Documentation: Scammers may provide victims with forged or fabricated documents, such as bank statements, legal contracts, or certificates, to create a false sense of legitimacy and increase trust.
- Escalating Demands: Once the victim has sent the initial payment, the scammers may continue to demand additional fees, citing unexpected obstacles or requirements. They may claim that these fees are necessary to unlock the funds or to overcome alleged legal or bureaucratic issues.
Weight loss scams
Weight loss scams are deceptive practices that exploit individuals’ desires to lose weight quickly and easily. These scams often make false claims, promote ineffective products, or employ misleading marketing tactics. Here are some common elements of weight loss scams:
- Unrealistic Claims: Scammers make exaggerated promises of rapid and effortless weight loss, such as losing a significant amount of weight in a short period without the need for exercise or dietary changes. These claims are often unsupported by scientific evidence.
- “Magic” Products: Scammers market and sell various products claiming to have miraculous weight loss properties. These can include diet pills, supplements, teas, patches, creams, or devices that supposedly burn fat or suppress appetite. The effectiveness and safety of such products are often unproven or exaggerated.
- Before-and-After Photos: Scammers use manipulated or stock photos to showcase dramatic before-and-after transformations to create the illusion of successful weight loss. These images may not reflect actual results achieved by using their products or programs.
- Hidden Costs: Scammers may offer a free trial or sample of their product but later enroll individuals into recurring subscription plans without their knowledge or consent. Victims may find it difficult to cancel the subscriptions or obtain refunds.
- False Endorsements: Scammers may fabricate testimonials or use celebrity endorsements to lend credibility to their products or programs. These endorsements are often misleading or entirely fabricated.
Investment scams such as Saqs investment are fraudulent schemes that aim to deceive individuals into making investments with false promises of high returns or low-risk opportunities. These scams often target unsuspecting investors who are seeking profitable investment opportunities. Here are some common types of investment scams:
- Ponzi Schemes: In a Ponzi scheme, the scammer promises high returns on investments and uses funds from new investors to pay returns to earlier investors. The scheme eventually collapses when there aren’t enough new investors to sustain the payouts, resulting in significant financial losses for those involved.
- Pyramid Schemes: Pyramid schemes involve recruiting investors who make payments to those above them in the pyramid structure. Participants are encouraged to recruit more investors to earn profits. Similar to Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes are unsustainable and eventually collapse, leaving most participants with losses.
- Advance Fee Fraud: Scammers may ask investors to pay upfront fees or charges before accessing an investment opportunity. They may claim these fees are for administrative costs, processing fees, or legal fees. Once the money is sent, the scammers disappear, and the promised investment opportunity does not materialize.
- Pump and Dump Schemes: Scammers artificially inflate the price of a low-value or thinly traded stock by spreading false or misleading information to attract investors. Once the price has been pumped up, the scammers sell their shares at a profit, causing the stock price to plummet and leaving other investors with significant losses.
- Offshore Investment Scams: These scams involve promoting investments in offshore companies or accounts to avoid taxes or regulations. Scammers may use complex financial structures and promise high returns while hiding the true nature of the investment, leading to financial losses for investors.
Fraudsters keep re-inventing their ways and by no means is this list of popular scams in the US exhaustive. We will therefore keep updating this page as soon as we come across new information.
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