Scams & Schemes

Common Scams & Schemes

Incarcerated Relative Scam

The victim receives a phone call from someone claiming a relationship to them; usually grandchild, child or sibling. The caller will indicate that the "relative" has been involved in some type of law enforcement interaction such as a car crash or an arrest. The caller requests funds for bail, an attorney or perhaps insurance deductible fees.
Please verify the relationship with actual family members! Do not be pressured into wiring money with out verification. Wired transactions that are not halted within the first 15-30 minutes are usually non - reversible causing the victim to be out of pocket of any funds wired. The callers can be very convincing and often target older adults and senior citizens.
Verify, Verify, Verify. If you have inadvertently become a victim contact your local police department to file a fraud report or Click Here to visit our website for more on fraud. 

High School Diploma Scam

Thinking about getting your high school diploma? Many states have different options for getting your diploma, including new tests and programs. But scammers are setting up fake diploma sites to trick you into paying for their “diplomas.” Which turn out to be worthless.
For more on High School Diploma Scams click here or visit

Killer for Hire Scam
Email scammers are often looking for ways to exploit the unsuspecting recipient, and a recent scam proves just how much shock value they are willing to provide. The scammer will send an email to random recipients or to a legitimate email address often obtained from both legitimate and illegitimate sources. The email will provide details that your life has been "Paid For" and that you are now targeted for death. The scammer will provide minimal details but will often include that someone close to you or known to you has paid them to end your life. The scammer may possibly claim responsibility for recent acts of terror around the globe in an effort to legitimize their claims. The message will continue with instructions on how to avoid your fate for a sum of money. In recent cases the amounts have varied from $3,000 to $8,000 dollars. The recipient is directed to make contact and arrange for partial payment to stop the "hit" from occurring, while the scammer arranges for a meeting to provide the intended victim with a tape of evidence detailing the hit arrangement. The scammer will then allude that once payment is made in full, you the intended target will be free to pursue prosecution against the person(s) who were hired by the killer to act against them. Due to the nature of this it is advised that a basic police information report be filed as this could involve several levels of prosecution should a suspect(s) be developed or identified. These incidents are often difficult to follow up on and even harder to prosecute as the messages are most often bounced around multiple IP addresses and are almost always routed in layers to avoid detection. Please be aware of email messages from unknown senders, or sources. Do not routinely open message from unknown sources. Additionally make sure your SPAM or Junk filters settings are working properly to aid in screening from unknown or non-visible senders. As a failsafe check with your internet service provider or review the tools section of the email service that you are currently using.

Computer Repair / Microsoft Scam

Computer repair scams are on the increase, and unsuspecting citizens can fall prey to these slick talking sales pitches if they are uninformed. This scam occurs when someone gets an email or most often a phone call and the caller begins speaking very quickly about common computer issues that slow performance or even potential hacks to your system. The high pressure tactics are designed to convince you that they need immediate access to your PC to make urgent repairs to your operating system or to stop a hack already in progress. Some of these callers even claim to be from or affiliated with Microsoft in an effort to legitimize their scam. Microsoft currently does not use second or third party contractors for such services and they have specific protocol in place for assisting clients with service and software issues. A lot of times these scammers will charge a small initial fee only to bill you for larger amounts after the phone call is ended. Again pre- loaded cards, credit or debit cards are the preferred method of payment with money transfers always a suitable option for the scammer. See the links below for information on Microsoft Security and online privacy issues.

IRS Scam
This scam occurs when someone is contacted by email or most often by phone from a person alleging to be with the Internal Revenue Service. The caller will indicate that the “mark” has an outstanding tax bill and will pressure them to make quick same day payment to avoid further charges and interest. Additionally the caller will threaten arrest, deportation or other types of coercive language to convey their message. Most often these scams require a credit card, debit card or pre-loaded card or even a wire transfer of funds. Another way to spot these scams is when a reduced amount is readily accepted for a much larger amount due. Things to remember: The IRS does not call by phone to conduct inquiries or business, The IRS will not demand immediate payment, or involve local law enforcement to assist with tax collection.

Help Wanted - Employment 
This scam occurs when the unsuspecting victim answers a Help Wanted - Employment ad in a printed publication or from an on-line source. The phone calls, emails and texts messages will follow in quick succession eventually ending in a request for funds to process an application, bank information to verify good credit standing or the receipt of a check for the "victim" to deposit that includes a list of instructions on what to do with the funds. Additionally scammers are now turning to legitimate on line marketing tools such as social media, job search sites and advertising sites such as Facebook and Craig's List to name a few to lure in new victims.
In the event you are contacted after answering an advertisement and you feel there are concerns, take the time to VERIFY the potential employer and their status with the Better Business Bureau of their locality. The local Economic Development Office or  Chamber of Commerce can provide information on businesses in some areas.
Your local Police Department is also a great place to find out about the latest scams or schemes and in most cases they can refer you to other entities such as the Federal Trade Commission for tools and resources to better protect you, your identity and your loved ones.

Employment Verification 
This scam usually occurs one of several ways. A fax, email, or letter will arrive unannounced to a company or organization. The letter will have an employee's name and date of birth and sometimes a partial Social Security Number. The request usually involves filling out one or two lines and a signature with title to verify the person’s employment with the organization. Legitimately these forms of documentation are in fact used; but they are prefaced with a phone call or the employee themselves will bring the form in for review and processing. These forms are often associated with the lending industry or other services that require employment verification as part of their approval process. In the event you receive one of these forms unannounced, ALWAYS VERIFY with the named employee and the requesting source. If either of these is unaware of the request then a scam is most likely in the works and all information should be kept confidential. 

Pigeon Drop
This scam usually involves two to three suspects working together to con you into believing they found money, diamonds, gold bars, etc. They want to share it with you, but someone must hold the found item for a while before splitting it. You are convinced to withdraw good faith money from your bank account to be combined with the suspects' good faith money in a bag or handkerchief. The suspects switch the bag or handkerchief and disappear, leaving you with nothing but cut-up paper.

Charity Switch
This scam is very similar to the Pigeon Drop, but with a slight variation. You're approached by a suspect who claims to have recently come to America with a large amount of cash to be delivered to a church, but no one is at the church. The suspect says he must leave the country soon and asks you and his friend (another suspect) to deliver the money later. You are asked to put up good faith money to show you are honest, but the suspects switch the money and disappear.

Bank Examiner

This suspect approaches you or may call you pretending to be a police officer investigating bank employees for embezzlement. You are asked to go to your bank and withdraw cash so the officer can watch the bank employees. You are told to give the money to a fake detective, who will return it to the bank for you. The suspects disappear with your money.

Sweetheart Swindle

This scam often involves an elderly man (70s or 80s) who is befriended by a young woman. She convinces him she truly cares about him and implies a romantic interest. She tells him she needs money for rent, food, furniture, her business, or surgery. She may swindle him out of his life savings, often causing him to file for bankruptcy.

Fortune Telling / Psychic Fraud

You may be approached at stores, hotels, restaurants, etc., or when you go to a psychic reader. The psychic convinces you that you have an evil curse or evil spirits that must be cleansed. Cleansing is an ongoing process that requires you to pay thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry, clothing, vehicles, etc.

Lost Pet or Property

You place an ad in a local newspaper about a lost pet or property. You then receive a call from a long-haul truck driver who found your missing item, but he is now hundreds of miles away. He will return your property (or advise you of the location of your pet) after you send a reward by Western Union.

Lost / Stolen Purse

A police officer calls to inform you he found your purse, often before you realize it is missing or have reported it. The fake officer needs your personal information for his report. Believing a police report is being taken, you provide your information and do not report the theft or cancel the accounts.

Mail Theft

Both incoming and outgoing mail may be taken from your mailbox. Your checks are washed to remove the payee and amount, and they are then altered so the suspect can cash them for more money. Your ATM and credit card numbers are picked up from your bills and used for purchases. Your credit card applications are taken and altered so the suspect receives a credit card in your name.

Home Repair

These suspects go door-to-door offering you a great deal on yard work, roof repair, chimney sweeping, house painting, driveway sealing, etc. They may have so-called extra supplies left over from their last job so they can save you money. At the completion of the work, they claim they used more supplies or there was more work than anticipated, so they demand more money from you. They can be very intimidating.

Distraction / Impostor Burglary

These suspects can include women with children. A suspect comes to your home and engages you in conversation while another unseen suspect sneaks in through another door and steals cash and property. Also, a suspect claiming to be from a City or County agency (such as water or power) may say he needs to come into your house to check for problems. He will distract you and take cash and valuables.

Lottery /  Sweepstakes

You receive a call from someone who says you have won a  sweepstakes,state lottery or even a foreign lottery, but you must pay processing fees before the winnings can be claimed. You are told to send a cashier's check, wire money via Western Union, or purchase and turn over a Visa gift card to start the claims process.
Click here for You've Won Alert Flyer

Purchase of Lottery Tickets

You receive mail or calls from a company representative that claims they will purchase lottery tickets in another state for you (usually Florida). They say they will send photocopies of the tickets, but they will keep the originals so they can claim the prize for you if you win. You may write them monthly checks, allow them to debit your checking account, or provide credit card numbers so they can purchase tickets for you.

Additional Resources

Click here for more information on tax scams from the IRS Consumer Alerts

Click here for more on Microsoft Security Issues
Click here for more on Scams to visit the Federal Trade Commission's website.
Click here for tips on Avoiding Identity Theft
Click here for tips on Money Wiring Scams