Common Financial Fraud Schemes

Financial fraud is nothing new, but as our technology changes, so do some of the methods thieves and scammers use to reach you. Here are three common scams used to steal your information and take your money through the Internet.

Phishing
The usernames, passwords and codes you use to access your various financial accounts are about the most important secrets you keep. Thieves will try anything to get this information out of you, including an email scheme called phishing. Phishing attempts appear to be electronic communications from your bank or other financial institution. They often tell you that there is a problem with your account or it in danger or that information must be confirmed in order to keep your account open. They tell you that you must log in to confirm your account. However, when you click the link contained in the e-mail, you will be redirected to a fake site that is set up to look like the legitimate website for your bank or financial institution. When you log in to this site, the thieves have obtained your user name and password and they can access your accounts. Always contact your bank directly, NOT using contact information in the email, and never, ever give out sensitive information like usernames and passwords via email.

419 fraud
Chances are, you’ve gotten at least one email from a foreign diplomat or other connected individual offering you a share of a multi-million dollar estate in exchange for helping to move money out of a foreign country. In the emails, you’re often asked to send a wire transfer by Moneygram or Western Union to cover taxes or fees that must be paid before the transfer takes place. In many countries, transfers like this are totally illegal. If you ever receive a request to wire money or send bank information with the promise of paying you back a greater amount, chalk these emails up to scammers and delete them immediately.

Claim your prize
When you win a prize, you are expected to pay taxes on it. Whether that prize is money, a new car or even free food. But you aren’t required to pay the prize-giver upfront before you receive the prize. While a big lottery win might result in some tax withholding, other prizes are taxed when you do your annual taxes. If someone tells you that you won a prize but have to pay to collect it, they’re likely trying to scam you.

There are hundreds of ways scammers try to get your money, and they come up with new methods every day. These are just three of the most common. To try and avoid becoming a victim, be aware of the following warning signs:

  • You receive an unsolicited email, letter, or phone call out of the blue promising you something exciting or valuable for a small upfront payment or fee.
  • The offer involves a transfer of money, especially by wire services such as Moneygram and Western Union.
  • The reward is much greater than the amount you must transfer.

If you ever suspect that you’ve been the victim of fraud or that you’ve been targeted, please contact your local law enforcement. For more information, please go to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network website, www.stopfraud.gov. If you have been a victim of a scam or theft through email, you should contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov