Scam and Scheme Protection

As you interact with others online and offline, it is important to keep an eye out for potential attempts to defraud you or misuse your personal information. 

The information below covers just a few common scams and schemes as well as tips for avoiding falling victim to these frauds.

For information or to file a complaint for Internet Crime, please visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.


Because many scams may begin online, it is very important to keep your personal information secure while you are using the internet. Phishing is a type of scam in which you are lured to a website where you may be asked to provide your personal information. To recognize a phishing threat and protect the safety of your identity and finances, here are some quick points to consider before you share your personal information.

  • Does the email ask you to go to a website and verify personal information? Legitimate companies won't ask you to verify your personal information in response to an email.
  • What is the tone of the mail? Most phish emails convey a sense of urgency by threatening discontinued service or information loss if you don't take immediate action.
  • What is the quality of the email? Many phish emails have misspellings, bad grammar or poor punctuation.
  • Are the links in the email valid? Deceptive links in phishing emails look like they are to a valid site, but deliver you to a fraudulent one. Many times you can see if the link is legitimate by just moving your mouse over the link.
  • Is the email personalized with your name and applicable account information? Many phish emails use generic salutations and generic information (e.g. "Dear Customer" or "Dear Account Holder") instead of your name.
  • What is the sender's email address? Many phish emails come from an email address that does not reflect the company represented in the email.
  • When in doubt, type it out. If you suspect an email to be phishing, don't click on any links in the email. Type the valid address directly into your web browser.

Advance Fee Scheme

An advance fee scheme occurs when you are asked for money in exchange for something of great value, such as a loan, contract, investment or gift, and then you receive little or nothing in return.

The variety of advance fee schemes is limited only by the imagination of the con artists who attempt them. They may involve the sale of products or services, the offering of investments, lottery winnings, "found money" or many other "opportunities."

Clever con artists will offer to find financing arrangements for their clients who pay a "finder's fee" in advance. They require their clients to sign contracts in which they agree to pay the fee when they are introduced to the financing source. Then, these clients (victims of the scheme) learn that they are ineligible for financing only after they have paid the "finder" according to the contract. Such agreements may be legal unless it can be shown that the "finder" never had the intention or the ability to provide financing for the victims.

To avoid falling victim to an advance fee scheme, follow the tips below: 

  • If the offer of an "opportunity" appears too good to be true, it probably is. Follow common business practice. For example, legitimate business is rarely conducted in cash on a street corner.
  • Know with whom you are dealing.
  • Be wary of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or mail drops and do not have a street address, or of dealing with persons who do not have a direct telephone line, who are never "in" when you call, but always return your call later.
  • Be wary of business deals that require you to sign non-disclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent you from independently verifying the bona fides of the people with whom you intend to do business. Con artists often use non-circumvention agreements to threaten their victims with civil suit if they report their losses to law enforcement.

Telemarketing Fraud

Telemarketing fraud occurs when you are deceived into giving personal or financial information to a false telemarketer. When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.

The following are some phrases that may signal a potential telemarketing fraud:

  • “You must act now or the offer won't be good.”
  • “You've won a free gift, vacation or prize, but you have to pay for postage and handling or other charges.”
  • “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” The caller may say this to you before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • “You don't need to check out the offer/company with anyone.” The caller may say that you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau or consumer protection agency.
  • “You don't need any written information about my company or the company’s references.”
  • “You can't afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer.”

If you hear these — or similar — messages from a telephone salesperson, just say "no thank you," and hang up the phone.