Examples of Popular Scams that Attempt to Steal Your Personal Information and Identity
Card Cracking is a type of fraud where a fraudster promises quick, easy, free money in exchange for people to share their debit card, PIN, online banking credentials, etc.
Fraudsters usually solicit on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.
They use this information to deposit fraudulent checks at the ATM or through mobile banking and then withdraw the funds. They claim they will give you a portion of the funds from the fake deposit (quick cash).They also say you will not be held responsible if you file a fraudulent claim with your financial institution. This is NOT true. By doing this you could be held liable and/or labeled as a “co-conspirator” and be required to pay back the money.
Anytime a buyer offers you more money for an item you are selling, it is likely a scam.
The Buyer/Fraudster sends a check for more money and instructs you to send or wire out an amount to their “shipping agent” to arrange shipment of the item.
NEVER accept a check for payment, even if it’s an Official or Cashier’s Check.
Credit Card Interest Rate Reduction Scams
This particular scam is becoming more and more common and happens in a variety of ways:
- A robo caller or even a live person calls and claims they can lower your interest rate(s) with your existing credit card companies. They claim to have a special relationship with the credit card company or are authorized to act on their behalf. This person will ask you to verify your information (full card number, CVC code, etc.) and then say something like, for a nominal fee you can take advantage of the offer.
- A caller impersonates someone from the actual credit card company. These calls have been known to have “spoofed” phone numbers. In an example from one of our members, the phone number the call came from was not even a valid phone number! The scammer will likely impersonate larger companies such as Citi, Bank of America, etc. – they think the chances of getting someone that actually has that card is higher than a smaller company. Some even say they are calling from “Card Services” or “Cardholder Services”!
The primary purpose of this scam is to obtain personal and/or card information to defraud consumers and even commit Identity Theft. Some fraudsters may already have a “target list” where they have some information on someone but need more. The criminals attempt to gain this information when calling and offering the false promise to lower your interest rate.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has been targeting these boiler room operations and have even pursued legal action against the ones they’ve caught. The FTC highly recommends filing a complaint on their website if you have been targeted by this scam - even if you didn’t provide your personal information or suffered a monetary loss.
Fake Check Scams
Did you receive an unexpected check in the mail? Were you offered a job online, offered to participate as a Mystery/Secret Shopper or were sent a letter with a check letting you know you won a prize or the lottery? If you have been sent a check, asked to deposit it and then send some or all of the funds back to the same person, or someone else, you are likely being scammed.
Federal Trade Commission
Minnesota Attorney Generals Office
Fake IRS Calls
Generally more popular around tax time, however, scammers will call claiming to be the IRS and say you owe back taxes or are required to pay “federal student tax.” The IRS will never initiate contact by phone, email, text or social messaging demanding you to pay or asking to verify your information. If in doubt, hang up and contact the IRS directly – do not call the number you received the message/call from.
This was the number one reported scam to the Federal Trade Commission in 2018. Fraudsters will pretend to be a person or company that seems legitimate or that you trust such as the government, a relative, or online love interest. They’ll even go as far as impersonating your credit union or bank in an attempt to gain access to your funds and personal information.
As a reminder, SPIRE and legitimate companies you do business with will:
Never call, email, or text you asking to provide us with personal or account information.
Never ask you to provide us with a verification or authentication code that was emailed or sent via text.
Never provide your online login credentials, debit/credit card and/or PIN or other personal information to an unsolicited request.
For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission.
Job Solicitation Scams
Fraudsters often pose as a nanny/caregiver, dog sitter/walker, car wrap ad agencies, and work-from-home providers. They often request you to deposit a check into your account and wire the funds back to them since they are moving into town and need start-up supplies. They also ask to purchase gift cards, scratch off the security codes and read them back to you. If it sounds too good to be true - it is!
Lottery, Sweepstakes, and Prize Scams
Receiving an unexpected email or letter in the mail letting you know that you won the lottery or Publishers Clearing House is a sure sign of fraud. Most fraudsters send an official looking letter along with a check for several thousands of dollars instructing you to deposit the check and wire a portion or all of it back to pay for “taxes”. You will NEVER have to pay upfront to collect your winnings and if you actually did win big from the Publishers Clearing House they will be at your door with the Prize Patrol just like you see on TV.
A red flag is when the letter instructs you to remain quiet & keep it confidential and requests you to wire/send money.
Another red flag is when the "check" comes from a different company or address than the Publishers Clearing House.
Federal Trade Commission: Taxonomy
Federal Trade Commission: Prize Scams
Publishers Clearing House: Imposter Scam
Publishers Clearing House: Know the Facts
Some retailers hire Secret Shoppers to evaluate their products or services. Usually, if you are hired for the job you are instructed to make a small purchase and report on the experience. You will then be reimbursed for the purchase and usually can keep the product. If you receive a solicitation that offers to pay you to become a mystery shopper, sends you a large check and/or asks you to wire or send money back, it’s a scam!
Red flags include instructing you to keep it confidential, and/or send money back, grammatical errors, and remitter of the "check" and sender are different.
If an online love interest has asked you to send them money, it is likely a scam. Fraudsters scour online dating sites preying on unsuspecting consumers. They quickly want to build a relationship, profess their love rather fast, usually claim to work overseas and then say that an emergency has occurred and asks you to send money. These imposters use urgency and fear to pressure you. Some even make you feel bad or that “you don’t love them” if you do not send them money!
Trust your instinct and don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out to a family member or close friend and get their opinion – these fraudsters are good at what they do and will cloud your usually good sense of judgment.
Federal Trade Commission
Minnesota Attorney General
Social Media Scams
are tactics fraudsters will use on social media sites to either gain something of value or trick you into giving up your personal information. Ever heard of the “Secret Sister Gift Exchange?" That is technically an illegal pyramid scheme. The chances of getting that many gifts, let alone one, is low and you’ve just put your name and address on a list that will end up with a bunch of strangers.
“For the first time in Facebook history we are giving away…” or "X company will send everyone who shares this post a gift..." Fraudsters are relying on you to unknowingly spread the message of their scam and ask you to click on a link to enter your personal information. And the link could be a fraudulent website or malware.
Get Rich Quick/Money Flipping Scams
Fraudsters will claim that if you send $500, they guarantee the next day it will be flipped into $1,000. Problem is once you send the $500 to the person, you will never hear from them again or get your money back. Chances are your financial institution won’t be able to get your money back either because you voluntarily sent the money (doesn’t qualify as a valid debit card or credit fraud claim)
Quizzes & Surveys
Quizzes and Surveys on social media sites are also ways fraudsters collect personal information about you. Ever fill out the fun surveys that ask questions like your favorite color, street you grew up on, etc.? Those are also all answers to common secret questions that companies require you to set up as a security measure. Or what about the “Which Harry Potter character are you” quiz? It may be tempting to find out but most of those quizzes require access to your profile which you may have voluntarily given by clicking “allow access” in order to get the results of the quiz.
A skimming device attached over the card reader to collect the card data and a pinhole camera is placed somewhere on the ATM to collect the PIN.
- ALWAYS cover your hand when entering your PIN.
- Monitor your accounts frequently.
- Wiggle the card reader to see if it’s loose (skimmers are attached usually quickly and often with double-sided tape).
Gas Pump Skimming
A skimming device is attached on the card reader or sometimes inside the gas pump. Look to make sure the security tape isn't broken or tampered with before using the pump. Also, try to use gas pumps closest to the store.
Point of Sale (POS) Skimming
Handheld skimmers can easily be purchased online. If any retailer that needs to take your card to swipe it – don’t let your card leave your sight!
Skimmers can also be attached to POS terminals - usually in self-checkout lanes.
Spoof or Pharming Websites
“Spoof” or “Pharming” websites are fake websites created by fraudsters to try to get you to enter sensitive information such as your username and password, account number, and social security number. Often times they do a very good job of making the website look legitimate. The thieves then use this information to hack into your accounts or open new accounts in your name.