Top 10 List of Scams of 2016
There are many ways to measure the largest scams, but most measure them by the number of people affected and the total dollars scammed.
Our list focuses on the scams that you could avoid, those reported to the CFR, FTC, Fraud.org and BBB (Better Business Bureau). For detailed explanations of each scam, how to report a scammer and how to protect yourself, click on the blue titles below for more information! To see federal and select state top 10 scam lists, click here.
Internet merchandise scams
You purchase something online, but it is either never delivered or it is not what they claimed it was, or is defective.
Emails that pretend to be from a company, organization or government agency but ask you to enter or confirm
your personal information
Fake Prizes, Sweepstakes,
Free Gifts, Lottery
You receive an email claiming you won a prize, lottery or gift, and you only have to pay a "small fee" to claim it or cover "handling costs". These include scams which can go under the name of genuine lotteries like the UK National Lottery and the El Gordo Spanish lottery. Unsolicited email or telephone calls tell people they are being entered or have already been entered into a prize draw. Later, they receive a call congratulating them on winning a substantial prize in a national lottery. But before they can claim their prize, they are told they must send money to pay for administration fees and taxes. The prize, of course, does not exist. No genuine lottery asks for money to pay fees or notifies it's winners via email.
Fake check payments
You sell something online or through Craig's List Consumers and you're paid with phony checks, and instructed to
wire money back to buyer. The check looks real... but after you try to cash it, you find out it is a fake; and you're arrested for passing a counterfeit check! Read more about scam checks on this page and here about the EBay check scam.
A scammer contacts and claims you owe money on a debt or the scammer offers to recover money lost in a previous scam
Loans Scams / Credit Fixers
False promises of business or personal loans, even if credit is bad, for a fee upfront. Or a scam that promises to repair your credit for a fee.
Computer Performance Scams: Equipment and Software
Scammers claim to offer “technical support” for computer problems and charge a fee to fix nonexistent
Student Loan and Financial Aid scams
For a fee, a “search company” offers to conduct a customized search for scholarships or grants for students to apply for. Scammers take the money and run or provide a worthless list
Online Dating Scams
Fake profiles of scammers posing as attractive men and women, then claiming they need money to help in an emergency, typically when they claim to be out of the country on a business trip.
Fake Friend Scam - Did you ever get a Friend Request on
Facebook from someone you already thought was your Friend? If you hit
Accept, you may have just friended a scammer. Con artist nurtures an
builds trust, and convinces victim to send money.
And here are the next dozen most common scams:
- Click Bait Scam - This one takes many forms, but many people may recall seeing those using Robin Williams death or the Malaysian Airline plane that went missing (“click here for video”). Other click bait schemes use celebrity images, fake news, and other sensational stories to get you to unknowingly download malware.
- Fake bills and invoices - "Pro forma" invoicing: You get a bill that looks real, but either you never ordered the product or service, or they're not really the company you bought it from.
- Tech Support Scam: You get a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from Microsoft (or Norton, or Apple) about a problem on your computer. They say if you give “tech support” access to your hard drive, they can fix it. Instead, they install malware on your computer and start stealing your personal information.
Medical Alert Scam - This is a telemarketing scam that
promises a 'free' medical alert system, that scam targeted seniors and
caretakers. The robocalls claimed to be offering the medical alert devices
and system free of charge because a family member or friend had already
paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank
account or credit information to 'verify' their identity and, as a result,
were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system, of course, never
arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting
refunded. Easy rule of thumb - be wary of 'free' offers that require your
personal information upfront and always verify with the supposed friend or
family member that the caller says paid for the service.
/ Auction Reseller Scam - Scammers posing as buyers convice
sellers into shipping goods prior to receiving payment. Usually the fake
buyer claims it's an 'emergency' like a child's birthday and asks the
seller to ship the same day. The seller receives an email that appears as
though it came from PayPal for the payment, but emails like that are easy
for scammers to fake.
Warrant Scam - Scammers create a fake Caller ID, which
allows them to call you and appear to be calling from a local police, sheriff or other
law enforcement agency. They say there is a warrant out for your arrest,
but that you can pay a fine in order to avoid criminal charges. Of course,
these scammers don't take credit cards; only a Western Union Moneygram,
other wire transfer or pre-paid debit card will do.
Invisible Home Improvements - In addition to email, mail and
phone, scammers now just show up at your door. Scammers posing as home
improvement contractors come door-to-door sale and target seniors, those
who live alone, and victims of weather-related disasters are common
Casting Call Scam - Scammers pose as agents or talent scouts
looking for actors, singers, models, reality show contestants, etc., and
use phony audition notices to fool aspiring performers into paying to try
out for parts that don't exist.
Currency Scam - Investments in foreign currency can sound
like a great idea, and scammers frequently use real current events and
news stories to make their pitches even more appealing. They advertise an
easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase Iraqi
Dinar, Vietnamese Dong or, most recently, the Egyptian Pound. The plan is
that, when those governments revalue their currencies, increasing their
worth against the dollar, you just sell and cash in. Unlike previous
hoaxes, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that
they will be very difficult to sell, and it's extremely unlikely they will
ever significantly increase in value.
Text Messages - It looks like a text alert from your bank,
asking you to confirm information or 'reactivate your debit card' by
following a link on your smart phone. But it is just a way to steal
Do Not Call Scams - The National Do Not Call Registry (U.S.)
or the National Do Not Call List (Canada) offer consumers a free way to
reduce telemarketing calls. Scammers call anyway, of course, and they've
even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government
official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation
on the Dot Not call list!
- Affordable Care Act Scams (ObamaCare) - Scammers love the Affordable Care Act ('Obamacare'), using it as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information.
Other common scams:
- Internet Auction Frauds
Auction frauds (commonly called Ebay or PayPal scams, after the two largest venues) is a misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale through an Internet auction site or the failure to deliver products purchased through an Internet auction site.
Nigerian Advance Fee Frauds
These frauds take the form of an offer, via letter, e-mail or fax, to share a huge sum of money in return for using the recipient's bank account to transfer of the money out of the country. The perpetrators will often then use the bank account details to empty their victim's bank account. Often, they convince the victim that money is needed up front, to pay fees or is needed to bribe officials.
Phishing and Pharming for Identity Theft
The victim receives an email that appears to be from a credible, real bank or credit card company, with links to a website and a request to update account information. But the website and email are fakes, made to look like the real website.
- "PASSIVE RESIDUAL INCOME" SCAMS
Get rich scheme and scam websites - Make $$$ in your spare time! It so EASY once you get their free book or cd and learn their secrets! Sure... These websites are themselves scams; claiming to offer you a good deal, when at best, their products are worthless, they have no real secrets, and worse, some are identity thieves!
What a scam this one is! The name of the website is freecreditreport.com, but you'll only get a credit report when you sign up for their paid service. And worst of all there IS a government mandated website where you CAN get a free credit report! Find out more here!
- Work At Home Scams
Work-at-home and business opportunity scams are often advertised as paid work from home. After the would-be worker applies, they are asked for money up-front to pay for materials and, after paying, they hear nothing back. A variation of this is, people are asked to invest in a business that has little chance of success.
- Matric and Multilevel Marketing
and Pyramid Schemes
"MAKE MONEY NOW!" scream their websites! And do it in your spare time! Earn big bucks for almost no work. If that isn't enough to tell you it is a scam, let us explain why it is. These schemes are promoted through websites offering expensive electronic gadgets as free gifts in return for spending about $25 on an inexpensive product, such as a mobile phone signal booster.
Consumers who buy the product then join a waiting list to receive their free gift. The person at the top of the list receives his/her gift only after a prescribed number of new members join up.
The majority of those on the list will never receive the item.
Pyramid schemes offer a return on a financial investment based on the number of new recruits to the scheme.
Investors are misled about the likely returns. There are simply not enough people to support the scheme indefinitely.
Property Investment Scams
Investors attend a free presentation, which aims to persuade them to hand over large amounts of money to enroll on a course promising to make them a successful property dealer, usually involving "no money down".
Schemes can involve the offer of buying yet-to-be built properties at a discount. Other variations include a buy-to-lease scheme where companies offer to source, renovate and manage properties, claiming good returns from rental income. The properties are generally near-derelict and the tenants non-existent.
900 Phone NumberScams
Postal notification of a win in a sweepstake or a holiday offer in this scam include instructions to ring a premium rate number. This is generally an 900 toll number. Calls to the number incur significant charges, the recorded message is lengthy, and the prize often does not exist. It is a scam that has been around a long time, but it is still in use.
Advance Fee Brokers.
Often these appear to be very professional operations with attractive websites and advertisements. However, it is illegal for a business to charge a fee prior to providing a loan. Typically, after wiring money to the scammer, the victim never receives the loan. These 'lenders' will use fake physical addresses or the addresses of real companies.
- Credit Repair Services with Advance Fees.
Consumers with bad credit ratings are particularly vulnerable to this scam. Everything a credit-repair operation offers an individual can do personally at little or no cost. Credit repair operations cannot ask for money in advance and they cannot automatically remove legitimate negative reports from your credit history.
Foreign Lottery Scams.
Any lottery from a foreign country is illegal in the United States. Stating a person can win or is a winner already provides a strong incentive; however, people should never send money to obtain lottery money. Scammers using fictitious addresses will request you send 'fees and taxes' to them through a wire service, take the cash and never provide any winnings because there are no winners.
- Office Supplies - Sale by Deceptive Telemarketing.
This scam features fake invoices for office supplies being sent to a business, often for only a couple hundred dollars. This relatively low amount makes it easier for company personnel to quickly sign off and feel it is not worth their time to check the invoice's validity, which would be done if it was for a larger amount.
- Debt Relief Services
(Non-Compliant with FTC rule). The Federal Trade Commission has established rules for debt relief services (for profit businesses that represent that they renegotiate, settle or alter the terms of payment for an unsecured debt). The FTC rule governs disclosures and representations that debt relief services can make and does not allow advance fees. There are legitimate debt relief companies that comply with the FTC rule and the Better Business Bureau is identifying only the non-compliant companies as scams.
And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive. We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!