Consumers beware: Common money scam tactics

Based on the findings of the Consumer Fraud Task Force explore the five most common tactics used to scam consumer's money.

On August 2, the Consumer Fraud Task Force, a coalition of local, state, and federal government agencies and non-profit business and consumer groups in Missouri and Illinois including the Better Business Bureau, issued a report describing the most common tactics used by thieves in an effort to scam your money.

The report specifically urged consumers to be on alert for the following five scams:

  1. Advance loan scam
    This scam targets consumers who either get a call offering them a loan or who apply on-line for a loan at what appears to be a legitimate lender. In either case, there really is no lender but rather a scammer, who after accepting an advance fee of some sort, vanishes.
  2. Sweepstakes scam
    In this scam, a consumer receives an announcement telling them that they have won a sweepstakes and that their winnings will be delivered to them once they pay, by Western Union, MoneyGram, Green Dot MoneyPak or other hard to trace money transfer method, the taxes and/or other fees that are due. The scammer may even send the “prize winner” a legitimate looking check to help pay the alleged taxes hoping that the recipient will deposit the fake check and then send the scammer a good check for the “taxes.”
  3. Secret shopping/Work-at-home scam
    In this scam, a person looking to make some extra money accepts a job as a “secret shopper” for what appears to be a legitimate company. The “secret shopper” is sent a legitimate looking check and instructed to keep part of it and to use the rest to “shop” various businesses including MoneyGram and Western Union by sending a significant portion of the check to an out-of-town recipient. The out-of-town recipient is, of course, the scammer who is hoping that the “secret shopper” deposits the fake check in their account and does their “shopping” with good funds.
  4. Craigslist scam
    This scam can take several forms but the most common involves a scammer who responds to someone’s Craigslist ad. The scammer sends a phony check for more than the item has been advertised for. The scammer then requests a refund for the difference through some hard to track method such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
  5. Romance scam

In this scheme, the scammer feigns an attraction for or friendship with someone who has met them on-line and then asks for money.

According to the Consumer Fraud Task Force, “The message should be loud and clear: never, ever send money to somebody you don’t know or somebody you’ve recently met on-line, regardless of the reason they give you. And never give your bank account information or a Green Dot MoneyPak access number to anyone unless you are absolutely sure you know exactly who you are dealing with and it’s for a legitimate transaction.”

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