Internet and telephone scams are prevalent all over the U.S., though many originate outside of the U.S. These scams often include cashing a check or money order for several thousand dollars under the guise of winning the lottery or some other sweepstakes. According to this scam, to get your lottery or sweepstakes money, all you have to do after you deposit the fake check is wire money back to another location as a processing or service fee. If there is any left over money from the fake check, the scammer tells you to keep. By the time the fraudulent check or money order is discovered by the bank, the money for the wire transfer has already come out of your bank account.
Common online scams include vehicles being posted for sale online by a private seller through what may or may not be a legitimate website. Through email discussions, a price is negotiated and agreed upon. The seller then sends information about accepting payment, which could include Western Union, Money Gram, Google Checkout, or others. Google Checkout no longer exists; it’s now Google Wallet. Google Wallet is legit and currently only accepts payments through credit/debit cards, not Money Gram or Western Union. However, just because a website uses a reputable payment option, make sure everything else is legit before going through with the purchase.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Tips to Help Prevent Being Scammed
- Never give personal information over the telephone. Legitimate businesses, banks and Government offices will not ask for your personal information or bank account number.
- Never send or wire money to someone you don’t know. If you’re asked to, make sure to talk to a family member or friend for advice. Once you send the money, it’s very likely you will not get your money back.
- Be cautious if you’re told you’ve won the lottery, vacation, or other prize, especially if you haven’t entered it yourself. If you didn’t, it is very likely that the person you’re dealing with is not legitimate. Many times you’ll be told additional fees are needed to further process your “winnings” and then you’ll be asked to wire money or obtain a money order. Do not do this; it’s most likely a scam.
- Beware of checks mailed to you that you were not expecting, or checks written for over the amount of what they should have been. They are probably fake. Make sure the check is legitimate before you cash it.
- Beware of people who represent that they are foreign government officials. There are a lot of foreign scams targeting the United States. Fraudsters usually have a heavy accent and give you step-by-step instructions on what to do. Many times they will ask you not to tell anyone and may even make you feel bad if you question them. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured! It’s okay to tell them not to call back and hang up the phone. If needed, change your telephone number.
- Be cautious if you’re asked to send or receive packages. Most likely the items are stolen and/or you’re unknowingly participating in a scam. There is usually a victim somewhere and you may be helping the fraudster.
- If you get a call from a family member who is in trouble and needs money, tell another family member and verify that they really are where they say they are. Scammers take advantage of people who want to help out family in trouble.