Frauds & Scams

The Internet is a natural breeding ground for scam artists and criminals because it lends itself to anonymity. Perpetrators can hide very effectively by “spoofing” or quickly changing their email address, and/or by using offshore or “zombie” computers. A “zombie” is a computer with a Trojan-horse installed. The Trojan lets the Trojan owner access the computer remotely. Now it can be used as a staging ground for anonymous attacks on other computers. Email spam and bogus websites are often used to perpetrate fraud.

The following is a list of scams and fraud causing victims millions of dollars:

New Credit Card Phone Scam

By understanding how the VISA and MasterCard Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself. Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it.

The scam works like this: Person calling says, “This is (name), and I’m calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is (number). Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I’m calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in Arizona?” When you say “No,” the caller continues with, “Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?” You say “yes.” The caller continues - “I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. “Do you need me to read it again?”

Here’s the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says, “I need to verify you are in possession of your card.” He’ll ask you to “turn your card over and look for some numbers.” There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he’ll say, “That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?” After you say No, the caller then thanks you and states, “Don’t hesitate to call back if you do,” and hangs up. You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the Card number.

What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don’t give it to them. Instead, tell them you’ll call VISA or Master card directly for verification of their conversation. The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you’re receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you’ll see charges for purchases you didn’t make, and by then it’s almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.

809 Phone Scam

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has become aware of a long distance phone scam that may lead consumers to inadvertently ring up high charges on their phone bills.

Nigerian 419 Scam

Named after its Nigerian criminal code, the “419″ scam has circulated for years through snail mail, fax, and email. The U.S. Secret Service, who refers to it as the Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud, has dedicated an entire section on its Financial Crimes Division page. It calls the crime a growing epidemic. This hoax email, which has too many variants, all appear to have been sent by a deposed African official or a relative of one. The email messages ask its recipients for assistance in transferring or handling a sizable sum of money, offering a corresponding share for such service. 


Con artists phish by spamming the world with counterfeit email. Their message appears to come from a widely recognized business like Sprint, America Online, eBay, Yahoo!, American Express, etc. It may even incorporate copies of the company graphics. The objective of Phishing trips is to get into your account, or worse yet, steal your identity. These fake messages urgently request some personal information - your account number, date of birth, Mother’s maiden name, credit card expiration date, etc. View more examples.

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Read more on the Federal Trade Commission’s id theft website.

Online Auction Fraud

The single largest category of Internet-related complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel international database - 51,000 complaints in 2002, and officials expect even more in the coming years. 

Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams can be done through the following ways: Foreign Business Offers, Love Losses, Overpayments, Rental Schemes, Sudden Riches and Work-At-Home offers. 

Tips to avoid being a victim of fraud

  • If you receive an unexpected email saying your account will be shut down unless you confirm your billing information, such as a Social Security number, do not reply or click any links in the email body.
  • Before submitting financial information through a website, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar. It means your information is secure during transmission.
  • If you are uncertain about the information, contact the company through an address or telephone number you know to be genuine.
  • If you unknowingly supplied personal or financial information, contact your bank and credit card company immediately.
  • Monitor credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges.
  • Suspicious email can be forwarded by email to UCE and complaints should be filed with the state attorney general’s office or through the FTC.
  • Consumers should also report fraudulent or suspicious email to their Internet service provider.

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