Scam Types

Census Scams
Certificate of Deposit (CD) Scam
Credit Card Skimming Scan
Dating Service Photo Scam
Disaster Relief Scam
eBay Second Chance Scam
Estate Liquidation Scam
Economic Stimulus Scams
Employment Scam
Fake Check Scam
Fishing Scam
Foreclosure Rescue/Loan Modification Scam
Forensic Loan Audit Scam
Free Trial Scam
Funeral Scam
Grandparent Scam
H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu) Scam
Healthcare Reform Scam
Health/Medical Scam
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Scam
Jury Duty Scam
Lost Pet Scam
Lottery Scam
Memorabilia/Collectible Scam
Miracle Cookware Scam
Office Supplies Scams
Phishing/Spoofing Scam
Property Tax Reassessment Scam
Pyramid/Ponzi Scam
Rental Scam
Reshipping Scam
Scareware Scam
Scholarship Scam
Security Scan Scam
Sweepstakes Scam
Telemarketing Scam
Time-Share Resale Scam
Twitter-for-Money Scam
Unlicensed Contractor Scam
Vishing Scam

Census Scam

A scammer pretending to be a U.S. Census Bureau worker comes to your home and asks for personal information.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer comes to your home and pretends to be a U.S. Census worker. The scammer asks you for personal information, such as your social security, bank account, or credit card number, and then uses that information to steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!
Between May 2010 and July 2010, U.S. Census Bureau field representatives will knock on the door of every household that does not mail back a completed 2010 Census form.

A legitimate Census Bureau representative will:

  • Never contact you by e-mail;
  • Never solicit for donations;
  • Never ask for your social security, bank account, or credit card number.

The Census Bureau representative that comes to your door must:

  • Present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date;
  • Provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the Regional Office phone number for verification, if asked;
  • Will provide you with a letter of confidentiality from the Census Bureau;
  • May be carrying a laptop computer and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo

To report this scam, contact the U.S. Census Bureau at 301-763-INFO.

Certificate of Deposit (CD) Scam

A scammer sells you certificates of deposit (CD) that are not what they seem.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer offers to sell you certificates of deposit that earn interest at a far better rate than CDs currently being sold by banks and other financial institutions. The scammer claims that the CDs are federally-insured. The scammer turns out to be a representative of an insurance or financial services company, not a federally-insured financial institution. The CDs you buy are not insured.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that only deposits made in Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) member banks and financial institutions are guaranteed in any way.
  • Contact the FDIC to verify that the CD seller is a member bank or other legitimate financial institution.

To report this scam, contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at 1-877-ASKFDIC.

CREDIT CARD SKIMMING SCAM

A scammer uses a device to illegally retrieve information from your credit card.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer uses a device to steal your credit card information through an otherwise legitimate credit or debt card transaction. Credit card skimming devices are often placed on ATM machines, movie rental kiosks, or held in the hands of waiters and store employees. Scammers use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges or withdraw money from your account.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Learn what credit card skimmers look like.
  • Watch where you shop. Credit card skimming occurs most frequently in restaurants, bars, and gas stations.
  • Be aware that letting your credit card out of your sight puts you at risk.
  • Before using an ATM, make sure no unauthorized camera device is attached.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN number into an ATM or PIN machine.
  • If ATM keys seem difficult to push, eject your card and use a different machine.
  • Beware if someone offers to clean the magnetic strip on your credit card.
  • Monitor your checking and credit accounts carefully.
  • Report credit card skimming losses to your bank or credit card holder immediately.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

DATING SERVICE PHOTO SCAM

A scammer uses explicit messages and photos you've sent to extort money from you.

How this scam works
A scammer contacts you through an online dating site. The scammer gains your trust, gives you his/her cell phone number, and then coaxes you into sending sexually explicit messages and photos to that phone. The scammer then convinces you your messages and photos were actually sent to the phone of an underage relative and demands money in exchange for not reporting you to the police.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Remember, what an individual writes in an online dating profile may not be true;
  • Be wary of giving your home or work address; home, work, or cell number; place of employment; or other personal information to someone you don't know well;
  • Never post online or send electronically any messages or photos you wouldn't want world to see;
  • Contact law enforcement immediately if someone tries to intimidate, bully, or threaten you into given them money.

To report this scam, contact your local law enforcement authority.
To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Disaster Relief Scam

A scammer offers to help you collect "your share" of disaster relief funds or asks for a donation to help victims of a recent natural disaster, then disappears with the money.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer e-mails, calls, or sends a letter asking you to donate money to help victims of a recent fire, earthquake, flood or other natural disaster. The scammer asks you to send cash or asks you to give your bank, credit card or other personal information. The scammer disappears with your cash or uses your personal information to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Resist the pressure to act immediately.
  • Beware of appeals that are long on emotion and short on details.
  • Listen closely and beware of "copycat" names that sound like reputable charity organizations.
  • Don't donate in response to e-mail solicitations. Clicking on a Web site link in an e-mail may lead you to a site that looks real but was created by identity thieves.
  • Request that information be mailed to you before you donate.
  • Avoid sending cash or giving personal or financial information.
  • Verify that the charity is legitimate.
  • Seek out known organizations and give directly or the through the organization's official Web site.
  • Make checks payable to the charitable organization, not to the solicitor.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

eBay Second Chance Scam

A scammer offers losing eBay auction bidders a second chance to buy the merchandise they wanted.

How this scam works
A scammer poses as an eBay auction seller and announces that the winning bid for an auction item fell through. The scammer then offers losing bidders another chance to purchase the merchandise by wiring money to an e-mail address not associated with eBay. The second chance bidder ends up paying for a product that will never arrive.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Make all of your eBay transactions through the official eBay Web site. Using the site affords you certain protections, like the eBay feedback system or the buyer protection program.
  • Don't wire money to a seller. Use a payment method specifically designed for Internet auction sites, like PayPal or BidPay.
  • Don't send money to anyone who contacts you and offers to sell you an item on which you unsuccessfully bid.
  • Report suspected fraudulent activity to eBay's customer support. This includes reporting anyone who asks you to buy or sell eBay items off-site.

To report this and other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

ESTATE LIQUIDATION SCAM

A scammer offers you a large sum of money to help handle the estate of a deceased person.

How this scam works
A scammer contacts you and offers you a large sum of money to help distribute money or property contained in the will of someone who has died. The scammer will sometimes claim to be too ill to complete the estate liquidation himself. Other times, the scammer claims the deceased shares the same name as you and may be related. The scammer then asks for money to cover legal fees or other bogus charges related to the phony estate liquidation transactions. The scammer may also ask for your personal or financial information and then use that information to steal your identity or access your bank account.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Don't open or respond to e-mails from strangers.
  • Remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Beware of appeals that are long on emotion and short on details.
  • Avoid sending cash or giving personal or financial information to someone you don't know.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Economic Stimulus Scams

Economic stimulus scams come in many forms. Here is how they work.

Online Ads
A scammer posts an online ad on many Internet sites, including social network sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. The ads promise money that is said to be part of the economic recovery stimulus. The scammer asks you to make a small payment using a credit card, then subjects that account to various or ongoing charges.

Stimulus Grant Web Sites
A scammer creates a Web site that promises free stimulus grant money. The site offer informative CDs and books on how to receive free stimulus and government grant money. The site operators charge the consumer a "shipping and handling" fee of between $1.00 and $4.00 to receive the information. Buried deeply in the "Terms and Service" is a re-occurring monthly charge of anywhere between $30.00 and $70.00 as well as enrollment in a trial period with other related Web sites. These sites charge an additional monthly fee if service is not canceled. Total monthly fees can exceed $100.00 a month for access to the Web site and grant information.

Stimulus Fund Emails
A scammer sends an email claiming that you qualify to receive stimulus money or directs you to a Web site to learn how to qualify. In both cases, you are urged to click on links to get additional information. When you begin clicking on the links, you are downloading spyware or software that can be used to steal your identity.

Stimulus Check Hold
A scammer contacts you, claims to be an IRS representative, and urges you to respond promptly with personal financial information or risk forfeiting your stimulus money. Once you provide the information requested, the scammer uses it to steal your identity.

Recovery Act: One Time Payment of $250
A scammer emails or calls a senior who receives federal benefits such as Social Security. The scammer claims to be from the IRS or Social Security Administration and asks for the senior's Social Security number, bank account information, or credit car number so that stimulus money can be deposited directly. The scammer then uses that money to steal the senior's identity.

Small Business Tax Rebate
A scammer contacts a small business, claims to be from the Small Business Administration, and states that the business might be eligible to receive a tax rebate under the stimulus plan. To determine eligibility, the company is asked to fill out an authorization form that includes, among other things, bank account information. The scammer then uses that bank information to access the account and steal money.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the stimulus package) will distribute money to eligible consumers in the form of tax credits, not cash.
  • Contact the U.S. government to learn more about how the stimulus package will affect you.
  • Learn how to spot and avoid stimulus scams.

To report this and other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Employment Scam

A scammer offers a job opportunity that involves little work and high pay.

How this scam works
A scammer offers you a work-at-home opportunity that promises high pay for easy work. These scams may involve vending machines, display racks, pay phones, medical billing, envelope stuffing, and Internet-related business opportunities.

The job and pay are not what the scammer presented to you. You discover that you must purchase expensive equipment or supplies needed to do business, you are paid with a check that bounces, or you are not paid at all.

Sometimes a scammer will pose as a representative of an employment agency and ask you for money for testing, training, a background check or application processing. The scammer then takes your money and provides nothing in return.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

To report this and other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Fake Check Scam

A scammer gets you to unknowingly deposit a bad check into your account and then cover it with your own funds.

How this scam works
A scammer asks you to deposit a check into your account and then wire the money to someone else, often overseas. You make the transactions. When the bank discovers the fraud, the check bounces and the bank holds you responsible for the funds that were wired overseas.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Avoid accepting checks from anyone you don't know personally.
  • Understand that even bank tellers can be fooled by fake checks.
  • Know that even if your bank allows you to use money from the check you deposited, that does not mean the check is good.
  • Know that you are responsible for all checks you deposit.
  • Understand that there is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

FISHING SCAM

A scammer steals outgoing mail from your mailbox.

How this scam works
Unlike "phishing" in which a scammer tries to get you to reveal personal and financial information online, "fishing" involves a scammer stealing outgoing mail from your home or office mailbox. When the scammer finds checks you have written, he places tape over your signature, and then washes the check in a pan of chemicals. These chemicals wash away ink not protected by the tape. After drying, the scammer removes the tape and has a blank check, signed by you, as well as your bank account number to use fraudulently.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Don't leave outgoing mail in your box overnight.
  • Deposit mail containing checks in blue U.S. Postal Service drop boxes or take it directly to post office.
  • Use a "gel" pen to write checks. Many contain a special ink that is more resistant to check washing.

If you suspect a fishing ploy or have had mail stolen from your box, call the U.S. Postal Service toll-free at 1-877-876-2455 and choose Option 2. You'll get a voice prompt for a ZIP code, and a duty inspector will get on the phone.

Foreclosure Rescue/Loan Modification Scam

A scammer offers to help you avoid home foreclosure for a fee then disappears with your money and provides no service.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer offers to help you avoid foreclosure by renegotiating the terms of your existing home loan to either lower your monthly payment or lower your loan payoff amount. The scammer tells you not to contact your bank, loan servicer or lawyer. The scammer requires you to pay a fee before providing any service. The scammer may ask you to sign documents that unknowingly transfer title of your property to the scammer. The scammer disappears with your fee without doing any work on your behalf or takes legal ownership of your home.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • According to the California Department of Real Estate, if someone offers to 1) modify or negotiate your home loan, 2) help you arrange to have your lender refrain from collecting mortgage payments, and/or 3) help you convince your lender to abstain from foreclosing on your loan, and they ask your for, charge or collect money or fees up front, that is a violation of California law;
  • Contact your lender immediately if you are having trouble making your mortgage payments.
  • Don't ignore letters from your lender or loan servicer.
  • Don't transfer title or sell your home to a "foreclosure rescuer".
  • Don't pay mortgage payments to anyone other than your lender or loan servicer.
  • Don't sign any documents that you have not read or don't fully understand.
  • Don't sign anything containing blanks that you are told will be filled in later.
  • Contact a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for free assistance or call 888-995-HOPE.

If you have become a victim of this scam:

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

FORENSIC LOAN AUDIT Scam

A scammer offers to review your mortgage loan documents to ensure compliance with lending laws.

Here is how this scam works
In exchange for an up-front fee, a so-called forensic loan auditor, mortgage loan auditor, or foreclosure prevention auditor offers to review your mortgage loan documents to determine whether your lender complied with state and federal mortgage lending laws. The "auditors" say you can use the audit report to avoid foreclosure, accelerate the loan modification process, reduce your loan principal, or even cancel your loan. Scammers frequently target those who are in default on their mortgage loan or facing home foreclosure.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!
According to the California Department of Real Estate, the Federal Trade Commission and its law enforcement partners:

  • Understand that whether they call themselves Forensic Loan Auditors, Certified Forensic Loan Auditors, Mortgage Loan Auditors, Forensic Attorney-Backed Foreclosure Prevention Auditors or some other important-sounding title, most of these individuals and companies are unlicensed and some were previously engaged in illegal foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams.
  • There is no evidence that a forensic loan audit will help you get loan modification or foreclosure relief, even if conducted by a licensed and legitimate auditor, mortgage professional or lawyer;
  • Some laws allow you to sue your lender based on errors in your loan documents. But even if you sue and win, your lender is not required to modify your loan simply to make your payments more affordable;
  • If you cancel your loan, you will lose your home and you will have to return the money you borrowed to your lender.

If you are trying to save your home from foreclosure, avoid getting scammed by learning the business practices to avoid.
Find legitimate and free foreclosure prevention help by calling the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 1-888-995-HOPE.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

FREE TRIAL SCAM

A scammer offers the free trial of a product, service, or subscription that results in an unintentional purchase.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer offers you the opportunity to try a product or service without paying for a membership, subscription, or extended service contract. If you accept the offer and don't cancel on time or according to the stated policy, you may unintentionally agree to a contract to buy additional products and services. Sometimes a scammer will simply send unordered merchandise and bill you.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Get contact information for the company making the offer.
  • Read the terms and conditions of the offer carefully.
  • Look for information about how you can cancel future shipments of merchandise or service if you don't want them.
  • Don't agree to trial offer terms you don't understand.
  • If ordering online, beware of pre-checked boxes that bind you to terms and conditions you are not willing to accept.
  • Contact the merchant and try to resolve any problems that arise.
  • Monitor your credit and debt card statements carefully and look for charges you don't recognize or didn't authorize.
  • Notify your credit or debt card issuer promptly if you see any unusual or unauthorized charges.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

FUNERAL SCAM

A scammer tricks you into paying more for funeral and cemetery costs that is necessary.

Here is how this scam works
A funeral scam can take a number of different forms.

  • Knowing that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three casket models they are shown, a funeral director introduces customers to their most expensive caskets first.
  • A funeral home offers a "deal" that reduces the price of their caskets, but makes up the difference by increasing other funeral-related fees by a comparable amount.
  • A casket is sold with a protective rubber gasket designed to delay the penetration of water into the casket. The gasket costs $20 to $20, but funeral homes typically charge $700 or more for casket models with gaskets than for those without. The gasket can not only have the opposite effect of what it is designed to do, it can even cause the casket to explode.
  • A funeral home takes advantage of a consumer's grief-stricken state and talks the consumer into buying products and services they don't need or want.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Grandparent Scam

A scammer claims to be a grandchild in trouble and gets you to send money.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer contacts an elderly person and claims to be a grandchild who needs cash because of a recent automobile accident, hospitalization, arrest, or other unfortunate event. The scammer often states that they are allowed only that one phone call. The elderly person is asked to wire, overnight mail or courier money immediately and to keep the call a secret from other family members to reduce embarrassment. The scammer pockets the money and disappears.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Verify the caller's identity by asking personal questions that a stranger could not answer.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately.
  • Call someone you know and trust to help verify the story.
  • If you can't verify the story, call your local police on the non-emergency line to help you sort things out.
  • Avoid sending money by immediate overnight service. The scammer will have your money before realize that you have been cheated.
  • Avoid giving your credit card or bank information to anyone you don't know personally.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

H1N1 Virus Scam

A scammer sells you worthless products to protect you from the H1N1 (swine flu) virus.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer strikes fear into you by telling you about the danger of catching the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. The scammer then sells you prevention products that do little or no good.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Contact the California Department of Public Health to learn the facts about the H1N1 virus, preventive measures you can take, and the vaccine that is available.
  • Purchase only FDA-approved products from licensed pharmacies located in the United States.
  • Contact your health professional if you have questions or concerns about medical products or personal protective equipment.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

HEALTHCARE REFORM SCAM

A scammer scares you into purchasing health care insurance.

How this scam works
A scammer calls, e-mails, or knocks on your door and tells you under the new health care reform laws you must have health insurance or go to jail. The scammer may identify himself/herself as a government official. The scammer may identify the policies being sold as ObamaCare insurance.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Remember, the requirement to have health insurance doesn't begin until 2014;
  • You will not be jailed for failing to have health insurance;
  • No real government official sells insurance;
  • There are no limited enrollment periods;
  • There is no such thing as ObamaCare insurance coverage;
  • Never agree to purchase an insurance policy without contacting the California Department of Insurance to make sure the policy is legitimate and the seller is licensed;
  • Never give your personal or financial information to someone you don't know.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Health/Medical Scam

A scammer sells products that cannot back their claim of being medically effective or beneficial to health.

How this scam works
A scammer sells medications, vitamin supplements, exercise equipment or other products that claim to help you lose weight, clear your skin, stop snoring, eliminate cellulite, or provide other health or medical benefits. These products have not been proven safe or effective. Besides providing no real benefit, these products can be detrimental to your health.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Talk to your doctor before using any new nonprescription medication, supplement or medical device.
  • Contact the Food and Drug Administration before you use any off-the-shelf health product and to learn about health fraud or call 1-888-463-6332.

Report problems with food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics or tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration at 1-800-332-1088.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Health Fraud Awareness Video

This U.S. Food and Drug Administration video helps consumers learn how to spot and avoid health fraud. Health Fraud Awareness (video) video camera icon

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Scam

A scammer claims to represent the IRS and gets you to reveal personal or financial information that is used to steal your identity.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer claiming to be a representative of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacts you by phone or by e-mail. The scammer asks you to give personal or financial information so that your tax status, recent filing, or other tax matters can be verified. The scammer then uses the information you give to steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that the IRS will not initiate contact by phone or by email.
  • Understand that the IRS will not ask you to reveal personal or financial information in this manner.
  • Avoid giving your personal or financial information to anyone you don't know personally.
  • More Info.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Jury Duty Scam

A scammer tells you that you missed jury duty and gets you to reveal personal or financial information.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer contacts you by phone or by e-mail and claims to be a court employee. The scammer tells you that you missed mandatory jury duty. The scammer may scare you by talking about possible fines and penalties for having failed to appear. The scammer asks you to give your social security number, date of birth and other personal information so they can verify that the jury duty notice was sent to you. The scammer then uses the personal information you give to steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that a court employee will not initiate contact by phone or by e-mail.
  • Avoid giving your personal information to anyone you don't know personally.
  • Call the court to ask whether you missed jury duty. The number can be found in the government listings of your local phone book.

If you have become the victim of this scam, contact the Office of the Attorney General.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

LOST PET SCAM

A scammer claims to have found your lost pet.

How this scam works
The lost pet scam can take a number of different forms-each designed to con you out of money.

  • A scammer sees an ad or flyer you posted about your lost pet and calls to say she has found your pet. The scammer uses the description contained in your ad to convince you that she has your pet. The scammer asks for the reward money before returning the pet, sometimes asking for more money than was offered. If you refuse to pay, the scammer may threaten to harm your animal. The scammer then collects the reward, but has no pet to return.
  • A scammer sees your lost pet ad. The scammer calls and claims to be a truck driver who found your injured animal while driving through the area. The scammer claims the animal needed veterinary care which he paid for. He asks you to wire reimbursement funds to him so he can send your pet back to you on the next truck heading your way. Once you wire the money, you never hear from the scammer again.
  • A scammer calls and tells you she has found your lost pet. The scammer describes your pet exactly and wants to return it for a reward. In reality, your pet was stolen by this person.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Make sure your pet is properly licensed.
  • Consider micro chipping your pet.
  • Attach a tag with your phone number to your pet's collar.
  • Keep your pet in the house, in a fenced yard, or on a leash at all times.

If your pet becomes lost:

  • Contact your local animal shelter or SPCA and give a description of your animal.
  • Ask neighbors to be on the lookout for your pet.
  • If you create a lost pet ad or flyer, use a different contact phone number than is on your pet's tag.
  • Avoid putting a full description of your animal in a lost pet ad. Ask callers for details about your pet that were not included in the ad.
  • Ask for the name, address, and phone number of the vet to which a caller claims to have taken your pet. Verify the vet exists and contact the vet directly.
  • Never wire money to someone you don't know.

To report a lost pet scam, contact your local law enforcement authority.

Lottery Scam

Lottery scams come in many forms. Here is how they work:

Lottery Scam
A scammer sends you an email or letter that says that you won the lottery. The correspondence may include the California Lottery, Super LOTTO Plus or MEGA Millions name and logo. The scammer claims that you must pay processing fees or taxes before you can collect your prize. The scammer may ask you to send money or direct you to a Web site to enter your bank account information so that the fees can be withdrawn from your account or your winnings can be deposited directly. The scammer then disappears with your money, uses your account information to steal your identity, and leaves you waiting for a prize that will not arrive.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that you cannot win a lottery that you did not enter.
  • Understand that there is no processing fee associated with a legitimate lottery.
  • Understand that only a government agency can collect taxes.
  • Beware of Web sites that sound legitimate. The California Lottery's only official Web site is www.calottery.com

Latin Lottery Scam
A scammer approaches you at a home improvement store, shopping mall, grocery store, hospital, parking lot or other public location. They tell you a sad story that is likely to include one or all of the following:

  • A claim that they cannot collect their lottery prize because they are not a U.S. citizen.
  • An offer to call the Lottery to verify theirs is the winning ticket.
  • A claim that they need money to collect the prize and an offer to share the prize with you if you help.
  • A claim that they need to return immediately to their country to deal with a family emergency.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to claim a California lottery prize.
  • Don't let them make the call to the Lottery using their phone. Use your own phone to make the call.
  • Understand that the California Lottery does not require any money up front to claim a prize.
  • Avoid emotional appeals and pleas for immediate help.

International Lottery Scam
A scammer promises a huge reward if you help get money that is rightfully his/hers out of their homeland, often Nigeria or some other foreign country. The scammer tells you that fees or taxes need to be paid so that the government will release the money. You are asked to pay the amounts owed and told that you will be reimbursed and be paid a large reward for having helped. The scammer often asks for your bank account number so that the money can be deposited directly into your account. The scammer then disappears with your money and uses the information you give to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Ask yourself why a complete stranger would contact you and ask for this kind of help.
  • Avoid appeals for money that are long on emotion and short on detail.
  • Do not agree to meet with someone who contacts you in this manner.
  • Avoid doing business on behalf of someone you don't know personally.
  • Avoid giving personal or financial information to someone you don't know personally.
  • If you have lost money to one of these scams, call your local Secret Service field office which is listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory.

Unclaimed Prize Scam
A scammer sends you an email regarding unclaimed funds or prizes from the California Lottery. The email may ask you to contact a designated person and give personal or bank account information so that your prize can be processed and the money can be transferred into your account. The information you give is then used to steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Be aware that these emails are not authorized, sanctioned, or in any way related to the operation of the California Lottery.
  • Understand the California Lottery never sends unsolicited emails, and never transacts business through email.
  • Understand that you cannot win a lottery that you did not enter.

Fraudulent Ticket Scam
A scammer tries to get you to buy what appears to be a winning lottery ticket.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ask yourself why anyone would want to sell a winning ticket.
  • Know that these tickets have either been altered or purchased after the actual drawing.
  • Purchase tickets from only authorized California Lottery retailers.

To report scams involving the California Lottery, contact the California Lottery's Security Law Enforcement Division at 1-800-LOTTERY.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Memorabilia/Collectible Scam

A scammer rips you off when you buy memorabilia or collectible items.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer sells you sports, celebrity, political or other memorabilia or collectible item. The item turns out to be fraudulent, different than advertised, unsubstantiated as authentic, substantiated as authentic using a forged letter or fake certificate, or sold at a highly-inflated price.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Remember that if an offer or an item sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • Understand that fake memorabilia and collectible items are often recognizable to only the expert eye.
  • Know that anyone can forge a letter verifying an item's value.
  • Know that fake certificates of authenticity can be downloaded from the Internet.
  • Remember to check for negative feedback about the seller before making a purchase on an Internet auction site.

To report this scam, contact the online auction site and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or call 1-877-ASKFDIC.

MIRACLE COOKWARE SCAM

A scammer convinces you to buy overpriced cookware that reportedly prevents and cures disease.

How this scam works
A scammer claims Teflon-coated, aluminum, and iron cookware causes disease. The scammer further claims that exorbitantly-priced Rena Ware pots and pans are "health cookware systems" that cure cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. The scammer cons health-conscious and vulnerable consumers into paying as much as $4,500 for the "miracle”"cookware.  The scammer also fails to inform consumers the 2% interest rate is a monthly, not an annual rate.

Be smart, Be safe, Be heard!

  • Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is;
  • Research products being sold door-to-door, online, or over the phone before you buy;
  • Don't buy any product that claims to prevent or cure disease;
  • Remember, California law requires sellers to give consumers at least a 3-day right to cancel a door-to-door sale.

To report this scam, contact Esther Martinez at the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs at 213-974-9942 or emartinez@dca.lacounty.gov.
To report other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP

OFFICE SUPPLY SCAM

A scammer tricks your business into purchasing office supplies that it didn't order.

This scam can take a number of different forms.

  • A scam artist gets the name and address of an employee so your organization can be shipped and billed for unordered goods or services-often at 10 times what you would pay for the same goods from a legitimate supplier.
  • A scam artist who pretends to be your regular or previous supplier, a replacement, or an "authorized" supplier, tells you "the price is the same as last time," but doesn't quote a price.
  • A scam artist quotes a price that sounds reasonable for one carton but is actually for a single unit, such as "$19.95 in a carton of 10." Translation: The carton price is 10 times $19.95-or $199.50.
  • A scam artist misrepresents the quality, quantity, type, price, or brand name of the product being sold.
  • A scam artist uses high pressure tactics to rush your purchase decision and dodge questions about price, quantity, and brand name.
  • A scam artist falsely claims that prices are going up soon, someone was forced out of business, a warehouse is overstocked, or a limited inventory of government surplus is available.
  • A scam artist claims that a computer "glitch" delayed notification of a price increase, but, as a courtesy, an order has been reserved for you at the "regular" or "old" price.
  • A scam artist tricks an employee into accepting a promotional item after only a passing reference to merchandise. The scammer then ships and bills for the merchandise.

When an organization complains that it didn't order the merchandise or services or that the price is too high, the scam artist may:

  • Bully the organization into paying for the unordered merchandise, sometimes threatening court action;
  • Negotiate with the organization and agree to accept a lower price for the unordered merchandise;
  • Agree to allow the organization to return the merchandise, but charge a restocking fee often more than the goods are worth.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Know your rights. You may be able to consider unordered merchandise a gift.
  • Assign designated office supply buyers and document your purchases.
  • Check all purchase documentation before you pay bills.
  • Train staff.
  • Report fraud.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Phishing/Spoofing Scam

A scammer sends an e-mail to your computer that looks like it came from your bank ...

How this scam works
A scammer sends an e-mail that looks like it came from your bank, a government agency, or other entity with which you do business. The e-mail provides a link to a Web site. You are instructed to follow the link to the site and to validate or re-enter personal or financial information that was lost or compromised in some manner. Once you input your confidential information, it is in the hands of the scammer who uses it to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Don't click on Web site links included in unsolicited e-mails.
  • Remember that legitimate companies and government entities don't send unsolicited e-mails asking for confidential information.
  • Keep your computer's spam-blocking software up to date.
  • Don't give personal or financial information to anyone you don't personally know.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Property Tax Reassessment Scam

A scammer contacts you and promises a property tax reduction.

How this scam works
A scammer sends you an official-looking form that promises a property value reassessment and lower annual tax bill. The mailing urges you to act fast and claims there is a deadline to request reassessment and even a late fee for not responding on time. The form requests personal or financial information. When the scammer receives your form, the information it contains is used to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Avoid responding to official-looking forms that promise a property tax reduction.
  • Avoid responding to instructions to "act fast".
  • Do not pay someone for services the government provides for free.
  • Contact your County Assessor to learn more about property tax reassessment. You can find the phone number on your annual tax bill or in the county government listings in your local telephone directory.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Pyramid/Ponzi Scam

A scammer gets victims to invest money in a program that provides no product or service and cannot sustain itself.

How this scam works
A scammer gets participants to invest money in a program that will pay dividends when the investor recruits a certain number of new investors.; "Old" investors are paid using the investments made by "new" investors. When the scheme gets too big and there are too many investors to pay and not enough money with which to pay them, the program folds.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Beware of plans that claim you will make money based on the investors you recruit.
  • Avoid pressure to invest quickly.
  • Talk with a knowledgeable friend, accountant or lawyer before you invest.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to research the investment firm.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Rental Scam

Scammers accept your deposit on a home rental they do not own or manage.

How this scam works
A scammer finds listings of for-sale properties, gains access, and then poses as the property owner or landlord. When you respond to the scammers "for rent" advertisement, the scammer collects a security deposit or rent payment. The scammer may ask you to complete an application which asks for confidential information, and may even offer keys to a vacant home on which new locks have been installed. The scammer walks away with your money or uses the information you've given to access your account to steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Meet in person with prospective landlords or property managers and ask for identification.
  • Contact the County Assessor's office to verify the property owner before you pay a deposit or complete a rental application. The phone number can be found in the County government listings of your local phone directory.
  • Research comparable rents in the area and be suspicious of properties for which rent is unusually low.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Reshipping scam

A scammer offers you the opportunity to get paid for receiving shipment of merchandise at home and then reshipping the packages to another location.

How this scam works
A scammer offers you a job that involves high pay in exchange for little work, like receiving merchandise that is shipped to your home and then reshipping it to another location. The merchandise you ship has often been stolen or purchased using fraudulent credit cards.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that if a work-at-home opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many work-at-home offers are scams.
  • Understand that you could be charged as an accessory to a crime if it turns out you are shipping stolen merchandise.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

SCAREWARE SCAM

A scammer sends a virus alert pop-up notice to your computer.

How this scam works
A scammer sends a pop-up notice to your computer. The pop-up, known as "scareware," warns that your computer has had a security breech or contains malicious software, viruses, or pornography. The pop-up may look legitimate and even include icons or logos from reputable security software. When you click on the pop-up, you are lead to a form that encourages you to purchase fake security software using a credit card. Instead of eliminating viruses, the software may install malicious codes on your computer or steal your financial information and your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Periodically check to ensure that your computer's security software is active and current.
  • Avoid clicking on links within pop-ups.
  • If you receive a pop-up and suspect a problem, avoid the urge to click "No," "Cancel," or even the "X" at the top right corner of your computer screen. In some cases, clicking will activate the malicious program.
  • Shut down your computer. If you use Windows, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open your Task Manager, and click "End Task." If you use a Mac, press Command + Option + Q + Esc to "Force Quit."

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Scholarship Scam

A scammer offers to help you find educational grants or scholarships for a fee but provides no service.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer offers to help find educational grants and scholarships for which a student qualifies. The scammer may claim to represent the U.S. Department of Education. The scammer asks you to pay a fee before providing the service. The scammer may also ask you to provide credit card information so that the "processing" or "search" fee can be deducted from your account. The scammer fails to deliver the service promised, disappears with fees you've paid and/or uses the information you've given to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Avoid paying for services that are available for free.
  • Avoid giving personal or financial information to someone you don't know personally.
  • Research an unfamiliar organization that invites you to attend a financial aid "interview" or "seminar" to make sure they are legitimate before attending.
  • Don't believe someone who tells you the information they offer cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Check with your high school counselor or college financial aid officer to find legitimate scholarship sources.
  • Contact the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about financial aid and financial aid scams.

SECURITY SCAN SCAM

A scammer sends e-mails or pop-up ads to your computer offering free security products or services.

How this scam works
A scammer sends e-mails or pop-up ads to your computer:

  • claiming your security software is out-of-date and your computer is in immediate danger;
  • warning of security breeches, malicious software, or illegal pornography;
  • promising to delete viruses or spyware, protect privacy, improve computer function, remove harmful files, or clean your registry;
  • offering the opportunity to download free software that will perform a security scan or improve your system;

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Periodically check to ensure that your computer's security software is active and current.
  • Avoid clicking on links within pop-ups.
  • If you suspect a problem with a pop-up, avoid the urge to click "No," "Cancel," or even the "X" at the top right corner of your computer screen. In some cases, clicking will activate a malicious program.
  • Shut down your computer. If you use Windows, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open your Task Manager, and click "End Task." If you use a Mac, press Command + Option + Q + Esc to "Force Quit."
  • If you get an offer, check out the program by entering its name in a search engine. The results can help you determine if the program is on the up-and-up.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Sweepstakes Scam

A scammer offers a large cash prize but requires a fee for delivery.

How this scam works
A scammer advertises a sweepstakes with a large cash prize. The scammer may use contest entry information to send unrelated advertisements to sweepstakes entrants. In some cases, sweepstakes "winners" are told they have to pay a fee or taxes before claiming the prize. Once the fees or taxes are paid, no prize is ever delivered.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that legitimate sweepstakes never require a purchase to participate or a fee to receive a prize.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Telemarketing Scam

A scammer uses the telephone and false and misleading statements to get you to buy, donate, invest, or reveal confidential information.

How this scam works
A scammer calls poses as a foreign lottery official, charity worker, business person or family member. The scammer then makes false and misleading statements to get you to buy goods or services, donate funds to a charitable organization, invest in a business venture, or help a family member is distress.

The scammer may try to get you to reveal personal or confidential information that can then be used to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Time-Share Resale Scam

A scammer offers to sell your time-share property on your behalf.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer calls, e-mails or sends you promotional material claiming to be a time-share resale expert.  The scammer promises to sell your time share property for you and often claims they’ve got buyers already lined up.  The scammer may offer to list your property on a time-share Web site and ask for an upfront fee of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  The scammer does nothing to sell your property or vanishes once you’ve paid your money.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Never pay upfront fees;
  • Beware of a time-share reseller who promises to sell your property;
  • Beware of a time-share reseller who promises a big profit from the sale of your property. Time-share resale values are often very low;
  • Remember—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau and California Department of Real Estate before doing business with a time-share reseller;
  • Consult with your time-share resort about resale programs it offers;
  • Stick with established Web sites when listing your property for sale online.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Twitter-for-Money Scam

A scammer offers to pay you generating "tweets" from home and gets you to reveal personal or financial information.

Here is how this scam works
A scammer offers you the opportunity to earn money by "tweeting" from home. The scammer tells you that you must purchase informational material, a start up kit, or a membership. The scammer asks for your credit card information so that the fees can be deducted from your account. The scammer then uses the information you give to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Understand that if a job opportunity sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • Avoid work-at-home schemes that charge an up front or monthly fee.
  • Avoid giving personal or financial information anyone you don't personally know.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to learn more about this scam

To report this and other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Unlicensed Contractor Scam

Unlicensed contractor scams come in many forms.

How these scams work

Door-to-Door Solicitation
A dishonest or unlicensed contractor comes to your door and offers to do roofing, painting, paving, or other work at a reduced price. Once payment is made, little or no work is done and the project is abandoned.

The Fear Factor
A dishonest or unlicensed contractor offers to perform a free home inspection and then claims that faulty wiring, bad plumbing, a leaky roof or other problem puts you and your home in peril. The alarmed homeowner agrees to unnecessary work, overpriced work, or work that must be done by a licensed contractor.

Demand for cash
A dishonest or unlicensed contractor insists on cash payments for work to be performed. The scammer then takes the money and runs.

Illegally large down payments
A dishonest or unlicensed contractor takes more for a down payment than is allowed by law, claiming to need cash for supplies and to pay workers. The scammer may disappear without doing any work.

Verbal-Only agreements
A dishonest or unlicensed contractor states that a written contract isn't needed and promises to deliver work based on the verbal agreement between you. The scammer then uses substandard materials, performs shoddy work, or does no work at all.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Get and compare job estimates from at least three contractors.
  • Know that a contractor must be licensed if the job is valued at $500 or more (including labor and materials).
  • Contact the Contractors State License Board to verify the license of any contractor you consider hiring at 916-321-CSLB.
  • Don't sign a contract until you have read it and fully understand it.
  • Know that the law requires your down payment to be no more than 10 percent of the total project price or $1,000, whichever is less.

To report contractor scams, contact the Contractors State License Board at call 916-321-CSLB.

Vishing Scam

A scammer entices you to reveal confidential information that can be used to steal your identity and your money.

How this scam works
A scammer sends a recorded message, e-mail, or text message to your cell phone that looks like it came from your bank, a government agency, or other entity with which you do business. The message directs you to call a toll-free number then to use your phone's key pad to enter your credit card or other personal information, or to give your personal information to a live agent. Once you input or give your personal information, it is in the hands of the scammer who uses it to access your account or steal your identity.

Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Heard!

  • Don't respond to messages if you are unsure whether they are legitimate.
  • Remember that legitimate companies and government entities don't ask for confidential information by phone.
  • Join the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Don't give personal or financial information to anyone you don't personally know.

To report this or other scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.