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Frauds and Scams

Falling prey to a scam artist can be financially and emotionally devastating. Frauds are always evolving, but the signs of a scam tend to remain the same. Take a moment to get to know the red flags, learn how to protect yourself, and how to report a fraud.


Big red flags to watch for

No matter how they reach you, scammers can be very convincing. Be prepared for their persuasive tactics.

By phone

Fraudsters often call you:

  • pretending to be a family member (often a grandchild) in an emergency.
  • to tell you that you’ve won a vacation or other prize.
  • saying they have a hot new investment to sell.
  • asking you to transfer money or give them personal information.

In a text message

Scammers’ texts often sound official, but the real organizations they’re pretending to be will never text you for personal or financial information. Be aware of texts:

  • about job offers
  • about tax refunds
  • about utility company refunds
  • that offer a chance to be a mystery shopper
  • that seem to come from a government agency, bank, or other company, and ask for personal information

At your door

Common door-to-door scams include:

  • impersonating a charity
  • a fake investment opportunity
  • fake home repairs or maintenance offers

In the mail

Common scam letters to watch out for include ones that:

  • say you have received a huge inheritance
  • tell you you’ve won a lottery prize
  • offer you an investment opportunity  
  • are phony past-due invoices demanding payment for a service you never requested

In an email

Common red flags of scam email messages to watch out for include:

  • links to fake web pages that look like the real site they're pretending to be
  • spelling and grammar mistakes
  • general greetings such as “Dear Client” instead of your name
  • requests for personal or financial information through unsecure channels

Online scams

A common online scam involves convincing you to sign up for something without realizing it. This can lead to an unexpected bill in the mail. If you’re asked to provide credit card information to pay for a free trial shipping and handling, be careful. Other common red flags to watch out for include:

  • a website is full of jargon, with very little meaningful information about the offer
  • difficult-to-find contact information, or it is just a P.O. box
  • the deal seeming too good to be true (for example, an expensive product is being sold for much less than it is worth)

How to protect yourself

  • Above all, never give your money or personal information to strangers who contact you out of the blue.
  • Never invest, sign a contract, or buy a product that you don't understand.
  • Take a moment to calm down and think clearly.
  • Don’t make a payment using iTunes cards, Bitcoin or pre-paid credit cards.
  • Don’t rush a decision or be pressured to buy right away.
  • Think critically about what you’re being offered and recognize an unrealistic promise.
  • Seek the advice of a registered financial professional.
  • Monitor your investments and financial statements.
  • Never install any screen sharing software.
  • Avoid binary options. They are illegal and you will lose your money.
  • Finally, don't let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting financial fraud.

License and registration rules

Checking that individuals and firms who may play a role in your financial life have the required licence or registration is an important first step in protecting yourself from frauds and scams.