Web Safety and Scams

Scams are big business these days, accounting for $50 billion in lost and stolen money, according to the 2017 Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report. One surprising trend: More young people are falling victim to fraud and scams than older people.

If you are asked to make payment in the form of electronic codes from gift cards, reloadable credit cards or in any electronic format be wary!


If something sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam!

Examples of SCAMS include:

  • Email from supervisor compelling you to buy gift cards and send the codes
  • You receive a written check telling you to deposit it and return a portion of it for your troubles
  • A telephone call saying they are:
    • Police or Sheriff
    • Court Bailiff or attorney
    • IRS

Telling you that you have a warrant, missed a court date, failed to show up for Jury Duty or owe money. Remember they can spoof caller id.

  • Fake for rent listing where the person has you send a deposit or background check without ever meeting you
  • Family emergency where someone pretends to be related to you and says they just need money for bail or bus ticket or medical emergency
  • Vacation scams
  • Online purchases of pets, clothing, electronics, cosmetics or automobiles particularly if they offer a "free trial"

Phishing Scams:

Phishing scams use fake emails, text messages, or copycat websites to steal your information. Their goal is to get credit card, bank account information, debit card PINs, or account passwords. Scammers will often have you send information to their email, or to click on a link in their email. Scammers may also ask you to send your phone number, or another email to verify your identity. They may even contact you pretending to be a company or person you know.

Check Scams:

In a check scam, the person may ask you to deposit a check, that might look like a business or personal check, cashier's check, money orders, or a check delivered electronically. (Federal Trade Commission Website)

According to the Federal Trade Commission Website, there are several types of Fake Check Scams:

  • Mystery Shopping
    • Scammers pretend to hire people as mystery shoppers and tell them to evaluate a retailer that sells gift cards, money orders, or a money transfer service. The shopper gets a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account and wire it to someone else; but once the money is wired, the person on the other end can disappear.
  • Personal Assistant
    • People apply online and are hired as personal assistants. They get a check and are told to use the money to buy gift cards, or to buy equipment, supplies for their new client, or use the money as payment. Once the scammers get the gift card PIN numbers, they use them instantly, leaving the "personal assistant" without the money when the bank figures out the check is bad.
  • Sweepstakes "winners"
    • Sweepstakes "winners" are given checks and told to send money to cover taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees. But that is not how legitimate sweepstakes work.
  • Overpayments
    • People buying something from you online "accidentally" send a check for too much and asks you to refund the balance.

How to Avoid a Fake Check Scam:

  • Never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, or wire money to strangers or someone you just met.
    • Many scammers will ask you to buy gift cards and send them the PIN numbers. Once you give someone the gift card PINs, it is like giving someone cash.
  • Toss offers that ask you to pay for a prize. If it's free, you shouldn't have to pay to get it
  • Don't accept a check for more that was agreed, or for work that has not been completed.

What to do if you sent money to a scammer:

  • Gift cards are for gifts, not payment. If someone is asking for money through gift cards, it is almost always a scam. If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. When you contact the company, tell them the gift card was used in a scam. If you act quickly enough, the company might be able to get your money back. Also, tell the store where you bought the gift card as soon as possible.
  • If you wired money to a scammer, call the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. More information about reporting a scam can be found on the FTC website under "Where to Report Fraud"
Report an issue - Last updated: 12/17/2020