Easy Credit. Online or in the classifieds, these ads all promise that you can get a loan no matter how bad your credit rating. The catch? You have to pay a fee up front. Advance fee loans are illegal. Don’t send the money! This is not credit repair, it’s credit disaster.
Phishing. No matter what they say, when they call or email wanting you to give them your social security, credit card, or bank account number, DON’T DO IT. Not for any reason, no matter who they say they are or why they say they need it. They will steal your identity (and your money).
Counterfeit Cashier’s Checks. It looks like the real thing: a cashier’s check drawn on a familiar bank is as good as gold, right? Wrong. The counterfeits in circulation today are very high quality forgeries. They might even fool your bank at first. You don’t need to be in the business of cashing people’s cashier’s checks. Especially not the counterfeit kind.
A Dangerous Fraud
Counterfeit cashier’s checks are particularly damaging for several reasons. First, they are disarming, because it appears the scammer has actually produced the money, whereas with a scam, normally the victim is the one who writes the first check. Second, the counterfeits are so good that bank staff often accept them and may even reassure the victim that it is okay to write checks against the “deposit.” Third, the victim who deposits a counterfeit check could actually be charged with a crime. This happens.
Counterfeit cashier’s checks can be used in combination with lottery scams, Nigerian fraud, government grants, and other scams where the victim is skeptical that there really is a pot of money to be gained. Always beware of large cashier’s checks from strangers.
Bogus Debts. You may receive a threatening letter demanding payment on a debt you never heard of. Don’t pay it. There are scammers who will demand payment on totally fictitious debts in the hopes that a few people will be scared into paying. Any legitimate creditor will be able to produce proof that a debt exists in the first place. Of course, if the debt turns out to be real and you weren’t aware of it, you may be the victim of ID theft.
Government Grants. A scammer may contact you to say that you have been awarded, or can apply for, a government grant. The scammer may offer to help you get the grant. The grant could be for any purpose — to help you start a business, go to school, repair your home or whatever. The catch is that you have to pay a fee of some sort. Government grants are not awarded to people who have not applied for them, no one can apply for you, and there is never a fee.
Foreign Lotteries. You did not win the foreign lottery! Anytime you are asked to send money in order to collect your winnings in a lottery or sweepstakes, STOP. It is a scam called advance fee fraud. You do not have to pay an up-front fee to receive real lottery or sweepstakes winnings. Don’t be persuaded or bullied by a smooth operator on the phone.
Home Repair. Beware of unsolicited door-to-door home improvement offers. If it is a one-time offer, available only today, or a special deal on materials leftover from another job, be doubly cautious. If your home needs repairs, your best bet is to call more than one reputable roofing or driveway or other home repair company in your area and check their references.
Business Opportunities. Jobs or business opportunities that require you to pay up front for training, equipment, or “kits”; are highly suspect, especially if you found the offer on the Internet and have no independent information about the company involved. Legitimate employers hardly ever require new hires to pay to start the job. A tip-off: if the job is easy to get, pays extremely well, and requires very little work (in the comfort of your home, no less), be suspicious. It’s too good to be true.
Shopping Sprees. Telephone solicitations offer a $500 (or similar amount) “Shopping Spree,” supposedly sponsored by a known company or even governmental agency. The caller tries to get the consumer’s bank account number to collect a small fee, supposedly for the shipping and handling of vouchers. Never disclose financial information for any reason whatsoever to callers making unsolicited offers. Shopping spree promotions usually are total fabrications.