Common Fraud Schemes
The following are some of the most common scams that the FBI encounters, as well as tips to help prevent you from being victimized. Visit the Bureau’s White-Collar Crime and Cyber Crime webpages for information on more fraud schemes.
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An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.
Business fraud consists of activities undertaken by an individual or company in a dishonest or illegal manner designed to be advantageous to the perpetrating person or establishment.
Counterfeit prescription drugs are illegal, fake medicines that may be hazardous to your health.
Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property.
Senior citizens should be especially aware of fraud schemes targeting their lifestyle and savings and follow a series of tips to protect themselves and their family members from fraud.
The Internet has given consumers widespread access to health and beauty products, including “anti-aging” products, that they do not know are fake.
Regulations for prepaid funeral services vary from state to state, providing a window of opportunity for unscrupulous operators to overcharge expenses and list themselves as beneficiaries.
The FBI is the primary investigative agency involved in the fight against health care fraud, with jurisdiction over both federal and private insurance programs.
Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act.
Consumers are strongly cautioned against entering into Internet auction transactions with subjects exhibiting irregular behavior or making odd payment requests.
Internet fraud is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them.
Investment fraud is an offer using false or fraudulent claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing for the purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.
Letters of credit frauds are often attempted against banks by providing false documentation to show that goods were shipped when, in fact, no goods or inferior goods were shipped.
This scheme—commonly referred to as a “pump and dump”—creates artificial buying pressure for a targeted security, generally a low-trading volume issuer in the over-the-counter securities market largely controlled by the fraud perpetrators.
Nigerian letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed, or e-mailed, from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.
Non-delivery of merchandise is a scheme most often linked to Internet auction fraud, but also can be considered a form of business fraud in certain cases.
The FBI warns consumers that criminal perpetrators may post fraudulent online classified advertisements offering vehicles for sale that are not, nor have ever been, in their possession.
“Ponzi” schemes promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments. Instead of investing the funds of victims, however, the con artist pays “dividends” to initial investors using the funds of subsequent investors.
The purpose of these frauds is generally to encourage the victim to send money to a foreign bank, where it is eventually transferred to an off-shore account in the control of the con artist. From there, the victim’s money is used for the perpetrator’s personal expenses or is laundered in an effort to make it disappear.
As in Ponzi schemes, the money collected from newer victims of pyramid schemes is paid to earlier victims to provide a veneer of legitimacy. In pyramid schemes, however, the victims themselves are induced to recruit further victims through the payment of recruitment commissions.
This scheme predominately uses fraudulent financial documents—often referred to as “bills of exchange,” “promissory bonds,” “indemnity bonds,” “offset bonds,” “sight drafts,” or “comptrollers warrants”—that appear to be legitimate.
Reverse mortgage scams are engineered by unscrupulous professionals in a multitude of real estate, financial services, and related companies to steal the equity from the property of unsuspecting senior citizens or to use these seniors to unwittingly aid the fraudsters in stealing equity from a flipped property.
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.
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