1. The fake check scam
The fake check scam arises from many different situations (for instance, you applied for a job, or you are selling something on a place like Craigslist, or someone wants to purchase goods or services from your business, or you were offered a job as a mystery shopper, you were asked to wrap your car with an advertisement, or you received a check in the mail for no reason), but the bottom line is always something like this:
The scammer sends you a very real looking, but fake, check. Sometimes they’ll call it a “cashier’s check”, a “certified check”, or a “verified check”.
You deposit the check into your bank account, and within a couple of days your bank makes some or all of the funds available to you. This makes you think that the check is real and the funds have cleared. However, the money appearing in your account is not the same as the check actually clearing. The bank must make the funds available to you before they have cleared the check because that is the law.
For various and often complicated reasons, depending on the specific story line of the scam, the scammer will ask you to send someone some of the money, using services like MoneyGram, Western Union, and Walmart-2-Walmart. Sometimes the scammer will ask for you to purchase gift cards (iTunes, Amazon, Steam, etc) and give them the codes to redeem the gift cards. Some scammers may also give you instructions on how to buy and send them bitcoins.
Within a couple of weeks, though it can take as long as a month, your bank will realize that the check you deposited was fake, and your bank will remove the funds that you deposited into your account and charge you a bounced check fee. If you withdrew any of the money from the fake check, that money will be gone and you will owe that money to the bank. Some posters have even had their bank accounts closed and have been blocked from having another account for 5 years using ChexSystems.
2. General fraudulent funds scams
If somebody is asking you to accept and send out money as a favour or as part of a job, it is a fraudulent funds scam. It does not matter how they pay you, any payment on any service can be fraudulent and will be reversed when it is discovered to be fraudulent.
3. Digital Wallet Scam
A variation of the fake check scam, the scammer sends you money through a digital wallet (i.e. Venmo, Apple Pay, Zelle, Cash App) along with a message claiming they’ve sent the money to the wrong person and a request to send the money back. Customer service for these digital wallets may even suggest that you send the money back. However, the money sent is from a stolen credit card and will be removed from your account after a few days. Your transfer is not reversed since it came from your own funds.
4. Phone verification code scams
Someone will ask you to receive a verification text and then tell you to give them the code. Usually the code will come from Google Voice, or from Craigslist. In the Google version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Google Voice account that the scammer will use to scam people with. In the Craigslist version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Craigslist posting that the scammer will use to scam people. There is also an account takeover version of this scam that will involve the scammer sending a password reset token to your phone number and asking you for it.
5. Bitcoin job scams
Bitcoin job scams involve some sort of fraudulent funds transfer, usually a fake check although a fraudulent bank transfer can be used as well. The scammer will send you the fraudulent money and ask you to purchase bitcoins. This is a scam, and you will have zero recourse after you send the scammer bitcoins.
6. Email flooding
If you suddenly receive hundreds or thousands of spam emails, usually subscription confirmations, it’s very likely that one of your online accounts has been taken over and is being used fraudulently. You should check any of your accounts that has a credit card linked to it, preferably from a computer other than the one you normally use. You should change all of your passwords to unique passwords and you should start using two factor authentication everywhere.
7. Cartel scam
You will be threatened by scammers who claim to be affiliated with a cartel. They may send you gory pictures and threaten your life and the lives of your family. Usually the victim will have attempted to contact an escort prior to the scam, but sometimes the scammers target people randomly. If you are targeted by a cartel scam all you need to do is ignore the scammers as their threats are clearly empty.
8. Boss/CEO scam
A scammer will impersonate your boss or someone who works at your company and will ask you to run an errand for them, which will usually be purchasing gift cards and sending them the code. Once the scammer has the code, you have no recourse.
9. The Skype sex scam
You’re on Facebook and you get a friend request from a cute girl you’ve never met. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. She’ll ask you to send pictures or videos or get on webcam where she can see you naked with your face in the picture.
The scam: There’s no girl. You’ve sent nudes to a guy pretending to be a girl. As soon as he has the pictures he’ll demand money and threaten to send the pictures to your friends and family. Sometimes the scammer will upload the video to a porn site or Youtube to show that they are serious.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: You cannot buy silence, you can only rent it. Paying the blackmailer will show them that the information they have is valuable and they will come after you for more money. Let your friends and family know that you were scammed and tell them to ignore friend requests or messages from people they don’t know. Also, make sure your privacy settings are locked down and consider deactivating your account.
10. The underage girl scam
You’re on a dating site or app and you get contacted by a cute girl. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. Eventually she stops communicating and you get a call from a pissed off guy claiming to be the girl’s father, or a police officer, or a private investigator, or something else along those lines. Turns out the girl you were sexting is underage, and her parents want some money for various reasons, such as to pay for a new phone, to pay for therapy, etc. There is, of course, no girl. You were communicating with a scammer.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: Stop picking up the phone when the scammers call. Do not pay them, or they will be after you for more money.
11. Employment certification scams
You will receive a job offer that is dependent on you completing a course or receiving a certification from a company the scammer tells you about. The scammer operates both websites and the job does not exist.
12. Craigslist fake payment scams
Scammers will ask you about your item that you have listed for sale on a site like Craigslist, and will ask to pay you via Paypal. They are scamming you, and the payment in most cases does not actually exist, the email you received was sent by the scammers. In cases where you have received a payment, the scammer can dispute the payment or the payment may be entirely fraudulent. The scammer will then either try to get you to send money to them using the fake funds that they did not send to you, or will ask you to ship the item, usually to a re-shipping facility or a parcel mule.
13. Pet scams
You are looking for a specific breed of puppy, bird, or other pet. You come across a nice-looking website that claims to be breeding them and has some available right now – they may even be on sale! The breeders are not local to your area (and may not even list a physical location) but they assure you they can safely ship the pet to you after a deposit or full payment. If you go through with the payment, you will likely be contacted by the “shipper” who will inform you about an unexpected shipping/customs/processing fee required to deliver your new pet. But there was never any pet, both the “breeder” and the “shipper” are scammers, typically operating out of Africa. These sites are rampant and account for a large percentage of online pet seller websites – they typically have a similar layout/template (screenshot – example)
If you are considering buying a pet online, some easy things to check are: (1) The registration date of the domain (if it was created recently it is likely a scam website) (2) Reverse image search the pictures of available pets – you will usually find other scam websites using the same photos. (3) Copy a sentence/section of the text from the “about us” page and put it into google (in quotes) – these scammers often copy large parts of their website’s text from other places. (4) Search for the domain name and look for entries on petscams.com or other scam-tracking sites. (5) Strongly consider buying/adopting your pet from a local shelter or breeder where you can see the animal in person before putting any money down.
14. The blackmail email scam
The exact wording of the emails varies, but there are generally four main parts. They claim to have placed software/malware on a porn/adult video site, they claim to have a video of you masturbating or watching porn, they threaten to release the video to your friends/family/loved ones/boss/dog, and they demand that you pay them in order for them to delete the video. Rest assured that this is a very common spam campaign and there is no truth behind the email or the threats. Here are some news articles about this scam.
15. Rental scams
Usually on local sites like Craigslist, scammers will steal photos from legitimate real estate listings and will list them for rent at or below market rate. They will generally be hesitant to tell you the address of the property for “safety reasons” and you will not be able to see the unit. They will then ask you to pay them a deposit and they claim they will ship you the keys. In reality, your money is gone and you will have no recourse.
16. Craigslist vehicle scams
A scammer will list a vehicle on Craigslist and will offer to ship you the car. In many cases they will also falsely claim to sell you the car through eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for a car on Craigslist and the seller says anything about shipping the car, having an agent, gives you a long story about why they are selling the car, or the listing price is far too low, you are talking to a scammer and you should ignore and move on.
17. Man in the middle scams
Man in the middle scams are very common and very hard to detect. The scammer will impersonate a company or person you are legitimately doing business with, and they will ask you to send the money to one of their own bank accounts or one controlled by a money mule. They have gained access to the legitimate persons email address, so there will be nothing suspicious about the email. To prevent this, make contact in a different way that lets you verify that the person you are talking to is the person you think you are talking to.